© 2017 by The Black Narrative, London, UK

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“Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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TOREN, 19 - Jamaican and Ghanaian

What is your ethnicity?

I’m half Jamaican, half Ghanaian. 

 

What was it like growing up?

To be honest, I grew up mostly in a Caribbean household, because I don’t have much of a relationship with my dad. So, it was more me being used to the Jamaican side more than the Ghanaian side. I think as I got older, I got used to having a lot of, not just Ghanaian friends, but African friends in general, that’s when I got more in touch with that side. But I think from a young age, I’ve always kind of been more used to the Caribbean side, because of my upbringing and due to the fact that I had a single parent that was the Caribbean parent. 

 

When did you become aware of your blackness?

I think definitely it was at a late stage. Because I think, growing up in an area like Tottenham, it’s very multicultural, there’s a lot of black people around you, for example, when I went to primary school, I think there were only about 2 or 3 people in my class, that weren’t black. So I think in primary school, I was like, in a little bubble; I didn’t know anything different than being around Africans and Caribbeans. Secondary school, I think it was quite similar as well, but I think around then, I realized as well that I was black, due to kind of being more exposed to the media, and seeing representations of young black youth, especially from this area as well.

 

So when I was in I think year 8, that’s when the London Riots occurred, and that was obviously here, just around the corner. So I think those media representations and also going outside of London. I was doing a lot of travelling when I was 15/16 going to different countries. I think my first kind of, experience of racial prejudice was when I went to Scotland to play football and that’s when I actually felt like, when you’re in London, you’re used to everything, it’s multicultural. I’m not saying that racial prejudice or racism doesn’t exist within London, but it not as prevalent as when you go outside of London. Then, you actually realise, “Oh yeah, I’m actually black”. I think definitely, in my teenage years is when I realized.

 

What is the best thing about your culture?

There are a lot of things that are good about Jamaican culture, I won’t lie. But probably the food, definitely. Most people would say the food for their culture, but food is definitely one thing. You can see a lot of, in the area and in London in general, a lot of Jamaican cuisines, restaurants, takeaways and stuff like that. And not just people from Jamaican eating the food, but lots of people, from Europe, African people buy Caribbean, and more specifically, Jamaican food. I think just the culture in general, the liveliness, the personality of most Jamaicans. I’ve been there twice, and I would definitely say the people are so easy going, they’re just relaxed about things and I think that’s one of the good things. So, definitely the people, the food, and just the way of life I guess. I love being Jamaican.

 

How do you think people see you? Do you care?

I think, a lot of people say I like to live my life, I’m always here and there, like, I’m never in one spot; I’m always trying to do something, so even if one friend doesn’t want to do something, I’ll get another friend and be like “Let’s go and do this, let’s go and do that”.  Because especially from a young age, like I said, from about 12/13 is when I started travelling, going to New York, Jamaica, Spain…and I think travelling is definitely important when you come from a background where you’re not really exposed to those kinds of things.

 

I think a lot of young people that are exposed to deprivation, crime etc. if they were given the opportunity to travel and see things beyond the things that they are used to, it would open their eyes up to a lot of things. So I think that’s one thing that I always praise my secondary school for. They were always willing to take us on trips, take us to different countries, experience different things. Back to the original question of how people see me, I think that’s one way people see me, like, literally just out there all the time, living my life. Does it affect me how people see me? No, I’m just going to live my life anyways.

 

Talk about any hobbies/pursuits

The hat line; that’s something that has been in the works for a long time, everything is timing, I didn’t want to rush anything. So, I’ve kind of had it in my mind for a while. The name of the line is 99 Piece, and the idea behind the name of the line, was the fact that each hat that I bring out, there will be only 99 of each one, so I didn’t want it to be kind of homeogenous, with a lot of the same hat. I just wanted it to be specific, so once this comes out, and it’s gone, that’s it, it’s not coming back. So once that idea, that concept came to mind, it was down to making the design.

 

And I wanted the design to represent the name as well, as well as being unique compared to everything else that I’ve seen. So I made the logo, the name etc. Because I was in my first year of university, I wanted to focus on that first. As exams finished and I came back to London, then I had time to focus and everything just kind of came together, and I got the design of the hats sent off, got the first photoshoot out of the way, and the website is up; there a just a few logistics I have to sort out in terms of delivery, pricing and stuff, and from there it will all be ready really.

 

What are your hopes for the future for your self...

Success! Success is just like, something that has to come to me. I wouldn’t say I work too hard to not be successful, but I want, I need success. And not just kind of, the life, but just to be able to say, yeah I worked this hard to be able to get to this level. So, that’s one thing I look forward to. Another thing

I look forward to is just making a change, in society. I think a lot of people underestimate how much of a change they can make, whether it’s just to one person, or a group of people. When I grow older, and make changes upon people’s lives, that’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to, especially when I come out of university. I don’t know whether I’m going to get a full-time job, obviously, I’ve just started this line (99 Piece Headwear) so I don’t know where that’s going to go, but I think definitely just being successful and making an impact upon people’s lives. 

 

...And for the black community?

My hope for the black community is success, not just for myself but for as many people within the black community as possible. I hope that people…I think that people are definitely starting to become more aware of their blackness, especially in light of recent events, protests within America, but this has been going on for a long time. I think just more awareness of yourself as a black person, as a young black person, an old black person. More appreciation amongst and towards other black people in the community, and just definitely more, within the public and private sector, more black people filling roles that are important within society; making a change in the sense that negative representations can be replaced with positive representations. 

 

I think social change is definitely a driving force for me; at university I study Sociology and that’s something that I’ve been studying from secondary school, so year 10 all the way up until degree level now. And I think I want to study that specifically because I’ve always wanted to, not just do local work but do civil work in general. I feel within higher positions of power in society, it’s improving now, but there’s not really much representation of ethnic minorities, and these people are the ones that make laws and regulations that people live by, but don’t actually experience the things that these ethnic minorities experience. It’s not really beneficial to those ethnic minorities and no one represents them. So I think definitely social change is important, and making sure that everyone within society, specifically the ethnic minorities, has a voice. So that’s really important to me, definitely.

 

 

 

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August 11, 2017

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