Growing up in the UK as a kid of African & Caribbean heritage exposed me to the tensions between the 2 communities
July 19, 2018
By Kofi Gyamfi, AFROPUNK Contributor
“Spearchukker” “go back to your mud hut” “you’re not a real Ghanaian” just some of the many discriminatory things said me growing up. Being black in the UK alone is tough with discrimination in workplaces, lack of opportunities, the risk of police brutality and your far right neighbors always on your case. It’s, even more, stressing when you’re facing discrimination from people who look like you.
Growing up in Manchester being of Ghanaian- Saint Lucian Descent I was always a target especially from kids of Jamaican Descent. Despite hailing their national heroes such as Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey who only recognized themselves as Africans, passing on messages for future generations. It seemed that these messages weren’t reciprocated properly. fellow children would often make fun of my exotic name (causing me to hate my name until I was 8) claiming that I was inferior because my surname wasn’t Ebanks, Blake or Campbell even though those names were handed down to them from their ancestors’ owners. As my surname is Gyamfi (pronounced jam-fee) i was often called peanut butter and jam.
Dealing with my dad’s side of the family was not a joy either at every wedding and funeral. people were quick to give the cold shoulder as the elders thought of me my mother and siblings as lesser, dirty “Jamaicans” (even though we were Saint Lucian. Even with my generation, the Ghanaian community does not understand the concept of being mixed heritage, as they tend to marry their own more than Caribbeans do, whenever I explain my heritage they some even end up calling me mixed race as if Caribbeans aren’t black too. To be honest a lot of people from Manchester’s African community don’t even know how Afro-Caribbean’s got to the islands in the first place.
Growing up in the noughties was a difficult time from an African British perspective as this was the time UK Garage was going into decline and the sound of black British music was still very Jamaican dominated and had still had very Jamaican influences and it still wasn’t cool to be African.
Although we had Grime Artists such as Dizzie Rascal and Lethal Bizzle (both of Ghanaian descent) growing in popularity at the time, it wasn’t until the late noughties when the Funkyhouse genre was at its peak and Donaeo dropped “party hard” was when things started to change whenever people like me heard the rigorous African drumming fused with the hi-hats we got a sense of “home” an “ancestral feeling.” Donaeo is of Ghanaian and Guyanese descent so it makes sense that he found the perfect blend of both West African and Caribbean sounds in his music.
Today African and Caribbean fusion music is everywhere in UK music with artists such as JHus and Kojo Funds, birthing a genre called afroswing fusing Afrobeats with dancehall. The African children who were once ridiculed as “spearchuckers” and “freshies” were now respected by those who tormented them who now all of a sudden want to claim roots, even more so when Black Panther was released in the cinemas.
It was a shock to the system how times had changed. The same Jamaicans I grew up with who would adamantly deny their Africaness and claim their Indian, Welsh and Irish ancestries were now doing the Azonto (a West African dance) in nightclubs.
I myself didn’t discover Afrobeats until I was 16, but was familiar with African sounds from listening to my dads old High-life records as a kid, seeing how things have changed gives me both elation and closure
I wish there was a happy ending in regards of Ghanaians discriminating against the Caribbean, but most of those who partake in this behavior will no longer be with us in a few years and I am confident this mentality will soon die alongside them.