I am both proudly British and proudly West African, but my son must find his own identity; By Gamal Fahnbulleh




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I have been thinking a lot about my identity late.

Life has changed recently as I have become a dad for first time and, as many new parents know, it can be a soul-searching moment.

This has closely coincided with Black Lives Matter movement and, as I think about my son and what future holds for him, it has prompted me to ask myself some searching questions.

What does it mean to me be black and British? What are my own personal connections with a country like Sierra Leone where many my family descend from? And what this mean for my boy Caleb as he grows ?

My family moved to UK from West Africa early ’80s when I was three. My mother’s siblings also emigrated around time heading to the US, Canada and Gambia but England was where my parents wanted their kids to grow .

So, from an early age I straddled two cultures and today can say I am both proudly British and proudly West African.

I was given a strong Sierra Leonean grounding at home through traditional food, music, language, and course large family gatherings. sat alongside a quintessentially British education the West Country – medieval history lessons the week, Saturday afternoons the Rugby pitch and roast dinners a Sunday at my best friend’s .

What we learn our early years both and outside the home shapes us, and it’s clear to me I am a product of those two cultures which sat so closely, and comfortably, alongside one another my early years.

I felt like I belonged at home and at school, despite being one of only a small handful of non-white kids. Yes, there were instances of racism which have stayed with me – the first cut is the deepest after all – but I can single out these moments as significant and certainly “the norm”.

For many black Britons however, it’s a different story.

This Black History month I filmed a documentary about my sense of belonging where I spoke to of my family and British Sierra Leoneans. Each shared their own unique experience of growing in the UK, and the varying levels of inclusivity and racism they have experienced.

What I have learned is identity is an entirely personal thing, shaped through our individual experiences and sense of belonging.

For me, what is important is that we have stories to pass to the next generation and the space to proudly embrace all parts of our history and culture. That is modern Britain.

As for my son, it be for him to determine his identity. my part, I am going to ensure he understands his West African and British heritage and that we celebrate both – there always be a space for Jollof Rice on the table for dinner, and we’ll be visiting Gramsy in Freetown school holidays. The rest I leave to him.

(Sky News)