Where do you call home?
I am originally from Sudan. But I grew up in London, specifically in Battersea, Wandsworth area. But in terms of home, home is … I don’t know … my mom says home is where the heart is. I give credit to London for everything I am now. I have gone through all my experiences, my friends, my education in London. I give credit to London that is where I would call home. But you can never deny where you are originally from, that’s where family is. If everything crumbles and you’re kicked out of England and immigration comes … I am going back to Sudan.
Do you feel at home here in Cornwall?
As someone who is African but was brought up in an Arabic culture and experienced not fitting in at school and attended an international school, it was easy to adapt to living in Cornwall. Not that I would call it home. I know what home feel like. It is where I am comfortable.
How do you maintain a connection to your heritage?
At university, it is harder. At home, my mum would make me, and my siblings go to Sudan every summer to see our family. Also, my mum only spoke Arabic in the house, so we were forced to learn the language and I am happy about that because now I know the language and I can speak it fluently. I used to be a shy person but then as I have grown, I feel that it is important to network. So, when I go to Sudan, I reach out to my cousins and ask them to take me places. I keep proactive about it in that sense and I keep connected.
What is your experience being the only/first Black person in a place?
You know, the whole idea that if you are a black person you’re going to stand out and have more attention paid to you, that way of thinking makes you more paranoid than you need to be sometimes. Are you paying attention to me because you want to or because I am black? This is something that I keep on thinking about. I had an experience during a team-building exercise at Penmere Castle recently, where no one was really listening to me but the instructor kept on trying to encourage me to speak a lot. It was good because he was supporting me but it did start to feel patronising as it went on. But maybe I am being paranoid.
Have you ever been taught any Black History?
Majority of my black history education came from my family. I was not really taught it in school. I remember that during Black History month in primary school, we were assigned a person to cover. However, when I did the International Baccalaureate, there was an option to cover African history. But as Africans at my international school in Sudan, we just decided to cover something else. But it was good we had that option. Overall though it does feel like African/Black History is being undermined … I don’t know as much as I should. I need to make time to give it attention.
What are your future plans?
At first, it was just superficial as I am good at history and English, I may as well do law. Then really the last two years have been significant for me because being in Sudan, the whole dictatorship, corruption, I was getting the lived experience of these things. After experiencing and seeing the poor legal system, the protests, there was a lot that I faced that now is really important to me. In the future, I see myself returning to Sudan or another country in a similar situation and helping people within the legal system. That is why I do law, Business is such a flexible thing, it opens a lot of opportunities. Maybe, I can open my own corporation and help out somehow. It will always be a good asset.
How are you feeling right now with this political climate?
I think that it is inevitable that anyone who is not actually British by origin is vulnerable. But it is not clear for so many people. I know what Brexit means to them. Honestly I am scared, I don’t know what is going to happen. Everything is more right wing extremist and that impacts minorities. But I know so many Black people here, and my friends in other places, are studying the things that are going to drive us into the future. I think that’s hope. I hope that the new generation of the workforce will be filled with black people. We need a voice.
Interviewed by Kabejja