Letters from a Travelling Negro Part II: London
The capital city of the once triumphant British Empire. A terrible fire burned much of this city in 1666. They have a huge monument to it. It is quite epic, though for my American sensibilities, just a tad morbid. Imagine, if you will, a monument to Hurricane Katrina. A glorious column 202 feet tall, dedicated to the memory of the thousands dead or displaced due to terrible emergency response, bad levies, and George W. Bush. Weird right? Anyways, I digress.
My impressions of London in a brief word association string:
Large, Diverse, Fried Food, Expensive, Good-looking Suits, Girls with Bad Hair.
Really folks. This was the style of hair on women I saw most often. Beige girls, Black girls, everyone. Actually, it looked even worse on the Black women. Chalk it up to my American sensibilities, but dammit, this shit is as ugly as sin on a Black woman.
Another thing that struck me about London is just how FEW people of color I saw in the Central London area. Now I know there are some cities in the U.S. that are like this. Hell, I’m sure if I go to Salt Lake City I’ll stick out like George Clinton at a Chanel fashion show.
Either way, I still thought London was the New York City of Europe. It ain’t. What I discovered after asking a Black woman at a club I was in was that Central London is notoriously devoid of Black folk. I am talking in noticeable numbers. After visiting the East end of London however, I realized that was where the Black people were. Nigerians mostly. Oddly enough, one of the most prolonged discussions I had was with a Nigerian Brit, in an Afro-Brazilian dance hall (that played reggae), in which the majority of dancers were white. I know, I know. After talking to her for a while (she was fine, so I was trying to lay down the mack) we eventually got to the topic of being Black in Britain (I have been assured that this will be Soledad’s next CNN special). What she essentially told me was that she felt British as well as Nigerian, or Black. What was even more curious was that she felt that I should be extra proud of being an African-American because of the many successes we have in the United States. What or whom, you might ask, was her quintessential case study of this: Barack Obama, NO Colin Powell, NO Dave Chappelle, NO . . .
Ya’ll, this girl IDOLIZED Jigga. She saw him as the pinnacle of success for a Black person in America. That’s when I realized that in America, we Black people often forget the plight of the diaspora in other countries. We also don’t understand truly how pervasive hip-hop is across the world. Bookmark this in your mind, as it will be a recurring theme in my upcoming posts. Hip-hop is so pervasive that HOV was what she thought of when she spoke of Black success in America. I mean, he is rich as hell – many people think he is a part of some cabal of powerful entertainers that worships the devil – but all this girl could think of was the fact that he was a prime example of how Black folk have overcome in America and how Britain doesn’t necessarily have an analogue.