Joe Ward

What is home to you? Where do you think your home is?

I think that it is an important question. Where home is..I think one of the most fundamental questions you can use to learn about yourself. When you ask where your home is, it is as much as about trying to understand…where you are from. In that sense, I like to carry it as part of myself…I think that home is a thing you can take with you. It is something you learn from and use to question yourself. I know people who have never felt at home and I think that is a tragedy because I always imagine the idea of looking into the window of a home because it is such a sensation that people are familiar with. And to me, I feel home when I can be who I need to be and you have to give yourself that permission. Home is not supposed to be efficient, it is not about how to do things the easy way or having to have everything done but rather that place where you can be rejuvenated and..fail comfortably. And in a world where as a person of colour, you are told you start with the precondition of failure, home is a place where that does not matter.

 

Do you feel at home here in the UK?

My Black side comes from the states. Am I Black British? So I am British and I am Black but I am not sure if I am the two together. Am I both? Is that part of the ridiculousness of it all? I prefer to use the term Black because I think it is a universal thing. I am diasporic definitely.. I see Britain as my home and I think I tried to reclaim as such despite everything. It is so topical now with Brexit…as a black person you recognise, if a British person does not want to see someone who is Polish walking down the street, they are not going to want you. They can’t tell the difference with a European walking down the street, but they can see you. We only started talking about Britishness when it became clear that Britishness was not white. It is such a racialised thing..I do not think that any black person was surprised by this doubling down on whiteness in this political climate. I grew up in Norwich, it was called the last white city for reason and it is better now. But I was indoctrinated into whiteness , it taught me a lot and but there was this irreconcilable rift, they were telling me about a world that did not exist. I remember this history class where I had to write about whether the British Empire was a force for good or not. And I don’t think I understood that it was racist. I think it is really hard for people who have not gone through that experience to understand, it is everyday single day. Everyday it chips away at the self you never knew existed. Then it breaks and for me, you become conscious of every rip and tear that institutional racism inflicts on us. In some ways, it is a really painful moment and it is an amazing moment of radical love of blackness that comes from this respect of restoring yourself.

 

What are experiences with racism here at universities?

The bar is set too high with racism, it has to be blackface or hate crimes. But the bar should be lower, endorsing racism, gas lighting black people about racism, one of the worst things someone can do is tell you are you sure that was racist? Yes I am sure and I think it is even embodying the rhetoric and knowledge used to demonise people in the past. Exclusion is not a new phenomena and you need to be willing to know that people do not want to be part of your structure and be with you if the price of entrance is giving up your consciousness and ability to live your own life.

Are there any ways that you are able to connect with your heritage?

It is something I have struggled with to be honest. I grew up thousands of miles away from my black family and trying to identify what it means to be black when no one can teach you that pride. It is a difficulty and you come to the point where it is not about your clothes or what you do for fun but rather a commitment to love other people. I think the way to connect is through loving others. But it is not easy, I don’t have the answers, it is not as easy as wearing something because so much was lost. That why I think so much of Black British and American culture is about trying to create new things, new traditions, trying to create joy.

 

Have you been able to learn about Black (British) History?

In class, I got about 2 hours of that, just Mary Seacole and the slave trade. I took it as an interest, I wanted to learn about it because it is also learning about me. I am not very clued through but it has been a personal journey, reading it and loving it and being influenced by my family several miles away.

As a black person heading into the workplace, what are you thinking about in terms of the limitations and opportunities you have?

I think that being a person of colour is a strength because it teaches you to exist on the sidelines. It gives you the boldness to let everyone else agree and you disagree…You will get a lot of terms like affirmative action thrown around but as I am concerned, you just have to prove that you have to be at the table as so many people of colour have done before us.

Interviewed by Kabejja

And to me, I feel home when I can be who I need to be and you have to give yourself that permission.

© Falmouth and Exeter Students' Union