I recall feeling the excitement of getting on a plane for the first time ever to a country outside Eritrea. To step into unknown waters, unknown language but knowing the televised British culture.
24th of December 2007, 6 am, London, I made a point to my 10-year-old self to recall this day. Amazed to finally be able to see what 6 am looks like and also amazed that it could be so dark in the morning.
I look up at my mamma and she looks down on me and says “This is our new home, now you say nothing”.
So many emotions ran through, confused to a culture that I didn’t know, sad because I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends, unsafe because we did not know anyone at all. Although my family had always consisted of my mamma and my brother Daniel, I felt truly alone.
It is funny trying to recollect the memories of immigrating here to the UK as an adult, as a child you’re partly oblivious to what is shaping your environment.
What I thought was a waiting room in an airport as a 10-year-old, was in fact a room where my family and many others were detained without an explanation. One TV placed ridiculously high on the wall, and massive windows disguised as mirrors as if we were under interrogation on an episode of CSI.
I remember being driven in a white van by stern-looking men in uniforms from London to Liverpool, where we were housed temporarily in the most depressing motel, my brother and I the only kids there.
Our room had a single bed, somehow my mamma managed to communicate with no English the need for another bed for a single mother and two children. I cried every single night for the next 3 months, wishing that all this was a nightmare, a dream I could wake up from to be able to find myself home again. Home the place I knew to be familiar, not whatever this was.
After Liverpool, we were placed in Blackburn with Darwen, Lancashire. We had a house with a living room, a kitchen, separate bedrooms, of course, I asserted my privileges of being the elder sister and got the bigger room, and a garden, my eyes gleamed as we have never had a garden, it was something out of a Christmas film.
Blackburn was magical, we went to school nearby, we went to the library all the time and borrowed books I could not yet understand but I loved the idea that one day I’d be able to read them. I had a best friend again, she was of a completely different culture, Pakistani Muslim. I learned a lot about the South Asian community in this town and of varying culture outside of my Catholic-Orthodox upbringing.
As much as my brother and I loved this town, my mamma still wasn’t satisfied, she needed a strong sense of Eritrean culture and so in the summer of 2008, we moved to London.
That was a huge change for us, London was big and scary and so busy, I’d never been around anything like it before. The three of us had moved into a studio flat with a family friend in south London, we spent all summer signing up to secondary schools for me and primary school for Daniel. We managed to find open spots considering how last minute this was and ever since we’ve lived here, for the past 11 years. Moved from the studio flat to a one-bedroom apartment, my mamma brought two other beautiful brothers into this world, then finally after many years the council had given us a house that would actually accommodate us (in size).
London has had a fundamental play in who I see myself to be, I feel very privileged to have had my primitive years spent in the most culturally diverse place I know, there’s a lot you can learn here as well as access, that may have been more difficult to do so in other parts of the UK. So shout to my mamma for making this executive decision, brap brap.
I have found myself to be a very creative person. I always was, as a child, I use to attend dance schools and perform for big audiences back home.
Currently, I find myself to be very interested in Film and Documentary making, I am trying to learn as much as I can behind the scenes as well as being in front of the camera. As you can see I enjoy talking, a lot, my mamma always said I’d be a journalist or presenter. Last year at the end of 2018, I began a podcast, named Now & Gone, speaking on my polyamorous experiences as a Black Queer Woman. I am also currently in the process of making a documentary on the Black Queer experience/identity in London, with a production team I joined early this year.
London is definitely home, so I do identify myself as a Londoner, not British (although I did just gain my long-awaited citizenship) but I never forget my roots, I am Eritrean.
I am so many things, and I revel in being able to identify with so many communities, it’s great to know that I have families outside of my bloodline, we are three-dimensional beings, it only hurts you to box yourself with one identity.