What is your ethnicity?
I am Ghanaian.
What was it like growing up?
I grew up in Southwest London, in the borough of Lambeth. You know, the usual primary school, secondary school; it was nothing special, like just normal state school, I didn’t go to any private school or anything like that. I was a bit troublesome in secondary school, like I was nice in primary school, but in secondary school I messed around quite a bit. When I got to sixth form that’s when I got serious. I said I wanted to go to Edinburgh and as usual, teachers were like: “You know that’s really hard”, like a teacher of mine that had wanted to go to Edinburgh got rejected, and kept telling me, “You know Elizabeth, it’s really hard to get into, are you serious? Do you know the type of people that go there?” I got into the University of Edinburgh anyways!
I’m from a working class family, my mother was a postwoman for 15/16 good years and between the ages of 5 and 11, my dad has had 2 strokes, so I was a young carer. Like, the man has really fought. My own personal mental health; I can’t say that I’ve seen someone, and someone has diagnosed me, but I’ve known I’ve had problems because I been close to certain situations. So, its been a fight, but when people see me, because I have energy, because I’m passionate or I’m loud, and I express myself and I use school as a way to feel free and be happy, it doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled. I mean, everyone’s got a story, do you get me? I embrace my story because I still overcame it and I’m here. People never would have thought my sister made it where she did, she went to Oxford, and people assumed I would never make it to Edinburgh, but I did!
What is the best thing about your culture?
The best part of Ghanaian culture, for me, is the history and the music. There’s a lot about being Ghanaian that I love, but I’d say specifically the history. Just the story of how we found our leader Kwame Nkrumah and how he found independence, the process, and the hearts of Ghanaian people. It’s still a religious country, it’s quite Christian, and it’s just a place where I feel comfortable.
When did you become aware of your blackness? Is it something that affects you on a day to day basis?
I didn’t really start noticing or thinking about my blackness until I got to secondary school, and I a period where I hung around with predominantly white kids, like, the whole rock, ‘turn around and die’ as people would say. And I started to realise, people would laugh, people would make jokes, and some people would say “I’m blacker than you”. Now going to University, where we’re definitely the minority, (less than 5% or 10%), I realized that my mannerisms are different, and im trying to embrace it. It’s not something I’m going to change to make you feel more comfortable. I’m just going to be myself. So yeah, I think it is something that I have been made aware of, there have been jokes and stuff like that made at uni, but yeah that’s it. Simple thing like assumptions that black girls have curvier bodies, and sometimes I’ll be looking at my body or I’ll be asking myself “is my hair long enough?” But it’s not really a thing I’m upset about, it’s more me analyzing myself.
How do you think people see you? Do you care?
I think about how people see me a lot because, well, I guess I do want to go into industries that would put me in the public eye, so I’m trying to understand how people of different groups understand me, see me and if they would like me, which I feel is very important. From past experiences and stuff like that, I don’t want to say the word “negative”, but because of how I’ve been, I think people see me as loud and over passionate, which can take people aback quite a lot. So people might see me as “a bit much”, that’s how I see it. However, I think I’m just passionate, and I hope as I grow and develop as a university student, and develop as a person in general, people begin to understand that there is reason behind my passion, and that’s what’s made me a strong worker, that’s what got me where I am, that’s what’s helped me through hard situations with family, and yeah, I’m going to continue to use that passion no matter how people see it. But I just hope that I can portray it in a way that makes people appreciate it.
Do you have any hobbies/pursuits?
I had an event called “Get Lyrical”, which was an opportunity for first year university students to get together to talk about their first year experience, just to socialize and network. It was lovely to meet people from different universities, and people going to university talking about what there feared and what they hoped for. I currently work at the British Youth Council as the Communications Assistant, so contacting people about what we do, ensure the presentation and representation of the charity is good, contacting media and stuff like that. I’m a fan of music, very big fan of music. I love the 60s, the 80s so I listen to a lot of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, I really, really enjoy music. I hope to start a few campaigns, that will be coming soon, including ones that are to do with British Sign Language. I believe that it should be compulsory to teach sign language in schools. It’s important to be able to communicate with people that are sitting right next to you. We put so much emphasis on learning foreign languages like French, and that’s great, but the deaf child next to you cant communicate with you, why don’t’ you work closer to home first? And I just want to take over the world! Basically! (laughs). And the thing is I tell people, so it’s not going to be a surprise when I do, because I work hard!
What are your hopes for the future for yourself?
I hope to help create places where young people, no matter what colour or ethnicity or social class, can express themselves, can feel like they can be themselves, talk about what they’re passionate about. There’s things that aren’t taught in schools or that children don’t get the opportunity to talk about when they know so much about it. For example, someone can be a massive Liverpool fan and can give you facts, and stats and the history of the club, but wouldn’t have an opportunity to talk about that. So I hope to create some sort of forum when young people in general can talk about whatever the hell they want and have people to listen.
...And for the black community?
The black community, more needs to be done to appreciate different groups within the black community. I hope for a bit more unity, it sounds generic, but a bit more unity and a bit more appreciation for the different angles that people are coming from in the black community. I hope the black community progresses, like, yeah I just want us to do well but everyone doing well not just certain types. Giving everyone a chance. With the black community there just needs to be a lot more support, like I never felt like a part of the black community based on anything apart from the fact that my skin colour is black. My interests, the way I maneouvre, sometimes the way I speak…makes me the awkard black girl. That why I like Issa Rae and Insecure, like that’s me. I love it! But ultimately it’s a bit of a struggle.