2 weeks ago, I asked 31 people of West African or Caribbean heritage if they know a lot about their culture. 17 said yes and 14 said no. I said it was a problem for another article.
Here's that article.
First of all, what do I mean by the African and Caribbean diaspora. By this mean I people of West African descent who have ancestors from countries in West Africa or people who have ancestors from Caribbean countries (who are also of West African descent). If that makes sense.
Despite there being records of small black communities in the UK from the mid-18th century, the larger migration began on the 22nd June 1948, when the Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury after docking in Kingston, Jamaica bringing 802 migrants with it. From then on, the numbers of migrants from the Caribbean surged to 15,000 in 1951 to 172,000 in 1961.
From then on numbers continued to rise with an unsurprising reaction from the British Government, who in 1962, restricted entry of immigrants and by 1972, only those who held work permits or had parents or grandparents born in the UK could gain entry which stemmed most Caribbean immigration from then on.
But despite this you now had over 172,000 people of Caribbean descent living in the UK (a very large community), who were constantly racially abused and discriminated against horrifically for decades, and essentially (apart from communication) far away from the home of their recent ancestors. However, the first and second generations managed to retain their culture and traditions despite the challenges they faced.
Since the 1980s as well, people of African descent, mainly from Nigeria and Ghana, had immigrated as well and had quickly accustomed to British life with young Nigerians and Ghanaians achieving some of the highest GCSE and A-Level results. First and second generations have also managed to retain their culture quite well.
But hold on, then why do many young people today not know much about their culture? Many reasons could be mentioned.
The anglicization of traditional African names is the first one. While many people specifically of West African decent retain their surnames relating to their language, many have first names or even family nicknames that are not. Of course it would be judgemental to say this is wrong because it is up to the parents. But it would also be ignorant to not include it as a factor why people do not know about their culture.
Linked to this is the common trend of not teaching the next generation the language in which their ancestors spoke. Language is essentially the key to the diversification of cultures so it seems vital that it should be passed on. Well not for many.
What's worse however is the emotional cost on that people that do not know as much. Feelings of isolation from the people that do and your cultural origins are pretty common and this is what links the diaspora together. A sense of separation and togetherness.
A sense of distance and closeness.