I was born in Zambia; I moved to England when I was five. I’m from Peterborough, like South-East Midlands. It’s a small city but it’s actually quite diverse, you’ve got people from so many different areas and some people commuting to and from London. Even moving to Manchester for uni, I know a lot of people found it quite difficult and a bit weird going from one place to another with a different demographic but I’m used to seeing a range of people so it was quite easy for me to come up here.
More recently, I headed up the ACS Mental Health Week centred around BME communities and the whole point of that was just to firstly start a conversation about mental health, which very rarely happens within the black community because of stigma related to religion, the culture of struggling and being strong and always overcoming. And generally making people feel comfortable. Uni is a bubble, but it can also be really hard and I don’t see why anyone should have to struggle alone, and feel like they can’t live this life anymore which to me is the worst thing. Happiness is not simple but It can definitely be achieved through being self aware and talking to your friends and family.
Friendship wise, Peterborough was cool, luckily I found loads of friends there and there were some good times. I was one of those people that kind of floated everywhere, I made friends with most people. It was still a predominantly white school, so you knew where your black people were and we kind of had our little black African girls group but, I also had friends from my classes, like my best friends Emma and Megan were my rocks. They were my friends on an academic level, but also they ways we lived life were very similar. It was nice to have people on the same wavelength as you. I also had white friends that I had grown up with since year seven, and it was just a range really. Being from Zambia there’s also a little Zambian community in Peterborough, like all our parents were friends from like nursing school and our dads worked at the same bank, and slowly each family kept moving, and obviously you go where you know people are so we have our little community there, so I have my group of Zambian friends that I chill with as well.
I think definitely I’ve always been conscious of my blackness, because its linked to my African roots and being Zambian and being in England and being Zambian; not wanting to lose that part of my cultutre and my language and things like that. Obviously, it’s made me more aware of the fact that I’m different to my white counterparts, who are in the country that speaks their language, like,there’s no extra struggle for them to fit in or make it work, so that’s always been a thing that I realized. My experience of things has been different because of the lens I see it through, you’re understading it from two different cultural perspectives. Whether my blackness has a day to day impact, depends on who I’m with. I feel like when I’m surrounded by other black people and I know I fit in and I feel comfortable, and these people understand the things I have to go through, it makes life more enjoyable for me. I love being black, definitely, its so much much, so lit obviously sometimes the racism and micro-aggressions aren’t cute, but its part of the experience, I still wouldn’t exchange any of that to be anything else, so I guess in that sense, it does have an impact.
Firstly, I don’t care what people think. I think the most important thing is how you see yourself and how you understand yourself, because really and truly all you have in this life is you. You’ve got your family, you’ve got your friends, but at the end of the day your one job is to look after you and that starts with being able to see yourself in a positive light. I think generally I try to be very positive,very optimistic and have fun with life, because it can be so long and theres no time to dwell on things. Because of that some people might see me as..not dismissive but not having time for things. If anything is negatively impacting me or my energy, I’m not having it, I’m not allowing myself to sit in that negative bubble, so when things do happen, or if my friends come to me about something, I’m like “move on! Just dead it!”. So sometimes people might think im being rude or a bit too blunt with that. I think I’m seen as someone who can have fun, but be serious when its time to be.
In terms of my favourite part of being Zambian, I’ve always said we’re just calm people; we just chill and go how life goes, we keep to ourselves, I like how we’re always so happy (and we like to drink quite a bit). Even within our language, there aren’t many words to like insult people or be negative. I don’t know if that actually impacts how you are, but we are calm people, and just mind our own business.
I definitely hope that I continue to grow and be self-critical but continue to love myself and do that in different ways, personally. I hope I survive uni and find a job or a role I genuinely love, but that also links to my fear of not being in a position where just because life is expensive, that I’m doing something that I don’t see myself thriving in or making a difference. I just want to be comfy and happy. It’s a simple ask, but it’s difficult to establish. I want people to learn to enjoy life and live your best life, and that links to my involvement with Mental Health; especially for black people because we have been through so much, that sometimes its easy to get bogged down in the struggle and I just want people to be who they are and prosper in that.