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Six things to expect when announcing your unplanned pregnancy to your Afro-Caribbean parents

Just over a year ago, I sat my parents down and told them I was going to have a baby. Although everything is fine now, (just about!) it was most certainly one of the most memorable nights of my life. Here are six you should know if you find yourself in a similar situation to me.

  1. Do NOT expect a ‘congratulations’ – If your parents are very traditional, from either Africa or the Caribbean (mine are from both), they WILL NOT want to hear about an ‘illegitimate grandchild’. They will not even pretend to be happy for you or for themselves. They will not pretend to ‘have your back’ especially if they have never heard from or about the father. I would say to start talking about your partner as often as possible before telling them. Maybe even a week before start a conversation about how you’ve met a guy and you think he’s the one. That should peak their interest. Haha!
  2. Do not take what they say in the first instance literally – you know black people have no chill with their tongue, they WILL NOT hold back with their thoughts and feelings!!! I am still trying to recover from what they said to me when I first told them and things they said throughout my pregnancy. Also, if you’re a parent reading this, might I advise that you take a few breaths before you go off on one at your daughter? Those words are hard to heal from, especially from you.
  3. Make sure you have a well thought out plan to present to them – think presentations you’ve had to do for school or work – heck you might as well prepare a Power Point!! Explain to them that you have fully thought it through. Tell them that you know how you will cope, you know what to expect and if worse comes to worse how you can do this on your own. I really failed at this, I don’t think I said anything when asked, although in my head I knew that I have a budding career as a teacher, I also have a few skills that can be turned into side businesses if need be. That should have relaxed their mind.
  4. Embrace yourself for the ‘alone’ feeling – during my pregnancy I really felt isolated. I felt alone a lot of the time, even though I knew Jesus was always by my side. My situation is not a very conventional one in that the father of my child lives in a different country so even he was unable (sometimes unwilling) to just be there how I wanted or needed him to be. I definitely could not lean on my parents for support at this time, it just didn’t work out, even when I tried.
  5. Keep calm! My parents are my biggest triggers; they know the right thing to say to get to me. But the best thing to do is to remain calm, it’s almost as if you need to be the bigger person or better said you should just be humble. They have a right to be angry and upset, after all you have not lived up to their expectations. It’s totally understandable.
  6. Trust and believe that everything will be okay once their grandchild arrives. When I gave birth to my daughter, they fell instantly in love. My mother actually helped deliver her but that is a story I will save for another time. Babies are such blessings and they truly bring such joy to the family.

How did you reveal your pregnancy to your parents? Was it planned or unplanned? How did you take the news if you are the grandparent reading this? Share in the comments below. xx

8 weeks in the womb
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The Miseducation of Black Children in the UK

‘Put your hair away or you can’t have lunch!’ I remember being yelled at by my German teacher as I came down into the lunch room with my Afro out. Me being me, a person full of query,
did not put it away because, well first of all, how does one put their hair away?
I asked her about Lauren, and why was Lauren allowed to have her hair out, with no hairband or braids and have lunch but I couldn’t. The questioning and refusal to comply (I couldn’t comply anyway, I didn’t have a hair band and was not about to braid my hair) gained me some ‘thinking time’ outside the headteacher’s office.
Now one could argue that I deserved isolation and punishment for not following instructions and that was 16 years ago, times have changed! Fast forward to 2014 and my sister gets sent home for wearing her Afro out and being told by the head teacher himself that she should ‘do something with that mess’. Again, one could say that this was six years ago, but only a couple of years ago, I had a young man in my tutor group who was sent to isolation for having the ‘wrong haircut’. All of these incidents led to loss of learning time, which I’ve heard so many schools say are paramount to pupil progress. You could argue and say ‘why didn’t you just wear your hair in an appropriate style?’ Putting the onus on the child, but instead why not ask why is our natural hair not appropriate?
I’ve been hearing recently that our MPs think the UK is not racist and in fact it is one of the best places to be if you’re black; if this is so, why is it that a school with mostly black students says in their handbook ‘your Afro must not be higher than 2 inches’? It seems to me that just as limits have been placed on our children’s hair, so too has there been on their holistic development in schools. As a teacher, I stand by my profession and all the hard work that we put in; we are changing lives and influencing the next generation! This is why I think it’s so important to address the issue of systemic racism in our schools.
Let’s look at some positives, black students are doing better than they have before, they’re doing harder subjects, they’re going to university, taken from the lips of our PM, and I believe he is right due to the hard work some black teachers and parents have been doing behind the scenes to fight for our babies to get an equal footing in the human right of education! However, they are still one of the worst performing groups academically and when it comes to employment, they are less likely to get jobs regardless of their qualifications. Black students need to work ‘twice as hard’, a message that is ingrained in them from the home, yet they are fighting and working against some teachers who look at them as ‘thugs’, ‘intimidating’, having an ‘attitude’, ‘wild’ ‘unruly’, ‘arrogant’ and these are just adjectives used to their faces. Let’s not go into what is said behind their backs. There are so many reports out there highlighting the unequal and unfair treatment of Black students, and it being justified by some saying that we should not expect anything less from black students just because they’re black, this headteacher was obviously missing the point. Black boys in particular get harsher punishments for minor incidences, they’re most likely to be excluded or ‘managed moved’ which is a clever way schools have come up with to keep their exclusion numbers down. Black students are more likely to be sent to isolation or given detention for issues that could be better resolved with a conversation. I’ve seen teachers size up to black boys simply because their ego was bruised, they may be big and have deep voices, but they are still children! They need love, nurturing and care more so than they need punishment. They’re still growing, despite them sounding grown or trying to act grown, they don’t know better. Now I’m not saying that black kids are perfect and innocent, I know my buttons have certainly been pushed as a teacher, but I have found that trying to understand my students as individuals works way better than being the authoritarian punisher. The world is tough enough, I don’t want to be an additional cause for trauma they have to heal from later on down the line.
As a new mum I now look at my students in an even brighter light, I think about how I’d want teachers to talk to my child, how I’d want her to be uplifted, encouraged and inspired at all times and try to implement this towards my students.
Words are powerful and if you’re going to constantly be telling children that they are thugs, gangsters and should be lucky to be living in a country that has working computers; of course these words are going to affect their performance and overall experience in school.
Some teachers have never interacted with black people before they got into teaching and now they’re faced with essentially raising these black ‘wild’ kids, they go off of what they see on the news or shows and project those stereotypes on the kids.
To the black parents reading this, do take that into consideration and armour your kids with self belief, self confidence, self love and self respect, for if you respect yourself you should automatically respect others. Teach your children to stick up for themselves in an assertive manner and have an open dialogue so you know exactly what is going on in those six or seven hours when they are not with you. As much as MPs and school leaders say they’ve put this policy and that policy in place to ensure equality, teachers are still human and they have failings, stereotypes and prejudice just like the rest of us. The danger is that they are in the field shaping the next generation.
I know so many successful black people from the millennial generation, and we have to be mindful and active to ensure this success grows and flourishes in the generation and generations to come.

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Raising Black Kids in the Wild White West

Our parents or grandparents came here for a ‘better life’, if only they knew they were already in paradise. If only paradise could have been governed better, then there’d be no reason to come here. I remember having a conversation with my nan about whether she ever wanted to move back to Jamaica; she told me that was the intention for her and Grandad. They would work here for 5 years and be gone. Over 50 years later they were both still here. My grandad passed away 10 years ago and as he was buried here in the UK, Nan nan told me she wanted to be buried with him when the time came. They’re both now resting in peace and never did make it ‘back home’. They lived a good life here in the UK and from them a whole army of grandchildren and great grandchildren (and counting!) came about. Upon arrival, they were told that they would be able to make money in 3-5 years and go ‘back home’; they were sold a dream that involved streets in London being paved with gold and there being ample opportunities for them to give themselves, and future generations a much better life. The reality was that the streets were rubble and needed fixing and the citizens themselves did not want to do the dirty work. They also did not want these foreigners in their land and had posted up signs saying ‘no blacks, no dogs and no Irish.’ Despite all of that they still thrived.

My mum first came here when she was 10, roughly 10 years later and was told by students in her class that they were not to play with her because her skin was ‘dirty’. She was taunted in the playground by her peers because they wanted to see her ‘tail’. She was told by her white teachers that she will never amount to anything. She went back to live in Nigeria for some time before coming back to London as a young adult to study then go back to Nigeria and live there. My mum and her siblings also faced the same ugly face of racism when they came back here approximately 10 years after her first arrival. Love disrupted her plans and after over 30 years, she’s still here. Also side note to that teacher: she did pretty alright for herself!

There have been many things that happened in the UK in regards to race and the way white people have treated black people but I’m not going to give you an in depth history lesson.

Fast forward to my school years and although there were no signs up saying ‘no blacks…’ I never really felt that England was my home. I have always identified as Nigerian and Jamaican

and as much as there is a lot about the British culture that I have adopted, this sense of going ‘back home’ has always been within me. During my teenage years, as I’m sure many teens do, I struggled with identity and self confidence concerning my looks, it never dawned on me that not being represented in the media could affect me in such a big way. Now I’m not saying that was the only reason for my insecurities but looking back in hindsight, it does play its part in how many young girls see themselves. Being of mixed cultures, embracing both and the country in which I was born plus all the other things that teenagers have to deal with was, looking back at it, quite a lot! I found that my secondary school years, although harsh (inner city all girls school!) really helped solidify all what my mum instilled in me as a child. To be Black and to be proud. Some of our teachers were definitely racist, when I look back and think of some of the things that were said to us as a whole and individually, they definitely made racial slurs back then! Also, I don’t know if this is a pattern amongst some teachers but I remember my German teacher telling me not to aim so high because I’ll be disappointed. She also has been proven WRONG!

I’ve always had a real sense of pride being black, however, going out into the world of work is where I learned that we were not the majority and dominant race how we were in school; I remember getting feedback from a job interview and the woman telling me I was too ‘aggressive’, I really had to sit and think, is it true? Me? Now if you know me, you would literally laugh out loud at that statement. I can write a whole blog piece about the ridiculous things I’ve endured at the hands of white people in the workplace but I will leave it there.

Visiting my countries of origin definitely reinforced what my parents taught me, that I am a lot more than what the white man may label me as. My mother especially, although she can be really harsh with her words (typical African mum), she taught us to love who we are regardless of what others tell you. Always.

With my own daughter, I plan on doing the same. I believe confidence is key, I’ve heard many a people chat the upmost BS but because they’re speaking in a confident manner, they get the results they’re looking for.

The fact that #BlackLivesMatter is a movement 4 generations on from my grandma (I know it’s even longer but looking at my family specifically) is really heartbreaking. The thought of my daughter experiencing even a pinch of racism really pierces my soul. I do believe that there is so much to be done, so many institutions to be torn apart, frameworks, legislations and handbooks to be ripped apart and put back together with black people having a true voice this time. I think a lot of these major institutions haven’t accepted the fact that black people are in fact people, they are here to stay and have every single right to be wherever they wish to be. They should be treated with respect automatically, not because they’re a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher, the way I was addressed during my pregnancy and birth always changed when they heard I was a teacher, but I’ll save that for another piece.

With all that said, steps we could take with our own kids:

Raise them to be super confident.

Raise them to absolutely love themselves.

Raise them to respect their race and culture.

Raise them to be empathetic to others.

Raise them to respect all people from all walks of life.

Raise them with this sense of awareness that some people may not like you – but do you know what that’s ok! Their loss!

Raise them to not seek approval from the white man – I really hate when I hear black people say ‘white people do it like this so we should too.’ We come from such rich culture and it’s time to really start embracing it!

Read our children black books – from as young as 6 months or so, Tori reacts so differently when the characters in the book are black, I really do not think that’s a coincidence.

Tell them about their history, knowing what my Nigerian grandparents used to do, for example, most definitely pushed me to strive for the best for myself.

Surround them with successful people.

Start saving for them as early as possible and be disciplined with it – no matter how tough times get (God forbid!) make sure money is going in there every month!

Take them ‘back home’ regularly or for a long period of time if possible (don’t leave them there unless you absolutely trust where they’ll be staying). I think it is so important for young black kids to spend time growing up where they are not labelled as a minority, I actually detest that word with my whole being. Black people worldwide are not the minority race.

Don’t leave their holistic education solely to their school. You need to put in as much work as you can when it comes to their education because trust me from an insider’s point of view, the system is not built for our kids to win. I will be addressing British education and black students in a whole separate piece.

Teach them about diversity. Not everyone is the same and these differences should be celebrated, not ignored or shoved under the carpet of ‘everyone is equal’. It’s okay to be different and still accept and love others for their differences. It adds to the spice and variety of this beautiful God given creation! After all we are all human beings who feel, bleed, cry, laugh, get angry and can be filled with joy; and that should be a strong enough commonality to work together hand build a better future for generations to come.

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Who Am I?

Who am I?

Whilst figuring out the direction I wanted to go with relaunching this blog, I battled with this idea of revealing who I am. In fact I battled with it for so long that it put a holt on the whole process. 

I’ve always stood by the life rule of ‘keeping it real’.

However, The older I got and the more rejection I faced, the less I was able to follow my own mantra. I became a hollow shell of my former self whilst still desperately trying to hold on to keeping it 100!

I began floating in life instead of steering my own ship, my prayers became very generic, ‘thanks for the day, thanks for the gift of friendship’ etc as I was tired of praying and working and things not going how I wanted them to. As much as I loved being in God’s presence; I wasn’t really leaning on Him how He asks us to. I wasn’t satisfied with His Divine Will for my life at the time. I was no longer spending time delving deeper into our relationship how I used to. I was forcing myself to be ‘positive’, only sharing positive stories and always saying ‘I’m great!’ When asked how I was doing. I was seeing myself with an external lens instead of an internal one. 

I recently heard that rejection is God’s protection over you. That struck several cords within my soul and as I looked back in reflection, I saw this to be true. 

Becoming a mother has really forced me to gear up my healing process; it’s forced me to again look at my life and to evaluate not only where I am and where I’m going, but who I am too. What kind of woman do I want my daughter to see me as? This question struck great fear but great hope within my heart. I’ve always known the type of woman I wanted to be when growing up, that vision was heavily influenced by my heritage. 

Growing up in an African and Caribbean household taught me a lot about being strong, being bold, being firm, not sharing your feelings and of course; working hard. I value all of these traits and they have definitely contributed in making me who I am today. My mother’s powerful parenting has definitely made me the woman I am today – not half bad! As with everything however, there is always room for improvement. For instance, I can count the amount of times I’ve heard my mother tell me she loves me, and not saying that she doesn’t because I can see now how much she does, but those words sometimes really soothes the soul. I remember when I was younger and hearing the aunties and uncles discuss how we (the children) were ‘soft’, too influenced by the British culture. They were right; but there are definitely positives that comes with embracing your ‘softer’ side. As a graduate of Psychology, I’ve always been interested in human behaviour and how the mind develops and works. This road I took many years ago still influences my actions and thoughts today, especially when it comes to interacting with others. Who said you don’t use your degree? 

Now that I have my own child, I embrace all of these elements of my being. All of my experiences has been building me up to this point. The responsibility of parenthood can sometimes be an overwhelming thought. 

I have been through ups and downs, made choices to my detriment and to my success. My history has moulded me into the woman I am today, yet there is so much I am yet to discover about myself and the world around me. 

I am a complex being embracing all that life has to give, giving back where I can and continuously learning about the wonders of God and His creation. 

Now being gifted with the task of motherhood, a new sense of purpose and reminded me of who I am. 

I am a God fearing mother; raising my daughter in the Way, the Truth and the Life, teaching her to always shine her light and let love rule her heart. 

I am a black mother; strong in all ways, creative and talented, soft yet firm, compassionate and loving, fun but serious. I am an African and a Caribbean with a touch of British mother. 

I am woman. 

I am Tori’s mum. 

7 months pregnant in Negril, Jamaica
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A Brief Insight into Unplanned Pregnancy

It has taken me three months to gather up the courage to begin exposing my daughter to the outside world; I still meet people who ask in shock ‘whose baby is this?’ when I tell them it’s mine, they look at me in even more shock and exclaim they did not even know I was pregnant! 

When I fully gave my life to Christ, I thought I would never look back lest I turn into a pillar of salt. I thought that I would be on the straight and narrow path to heaven and never fall for the temptation of the forbidden fruit again. The year before last, I met a guy who truly challenged that thought. 

I know that God’s greatest gift is new life, but when it comes unexpectedly it can either be a miraculous joy, or a terrifying nightmare, my experience was the latter.

It’s March 2018 and I wait for that dreaded time of the month – the time I get a little crazy, a tad snappy, more emotional and what I consider as one of the worst pains in the world to overtake my entire being rendering me useless – almost. 

This time does not come – now as a new teacher in a tough school, I put it down to stress, plus this guy I’m seeing – well he pulled out didn’t he? So it cannot be the big P!

As the days go by, I begin to feel very different, I find that I am lot more tired; I swear I felt myself falling asleep whilst standing and teaching once! I can tell something’s not right. RE isn’t that boring! I rack my brain in between planning lessons, marking books and trying to uphold the demands of a demanding mentor, wondering why it seems as if my health is deteriorating. I go a little harder at the gym, I become more conscious of the food I consume but there is still no difference.

Hello April! No period and I begin to feel very sick, so I do it. I take THE test. I am literally shaking as I await the results. I stare at the stick as the two lines get thicker and thicker, no misreading this one! Is this actually happening? I am NOT ready for a baby, plus this relationship is extremely fresh, I instantly regret breaking my years of celibacy. Even deeper still was a tiny ounce of joy – yay! I am about  to be a mummy! 

I run out of the house and jump in the car – where am I going? I can’t run away from this! I’m still shaking; I don’t know whether to be excited or devastated. The baby will be gorgeous – there’s a certain positive. I call my best mate – how do I tell her? She’s shocked of course – ‘know Cee – that if you do this – you will be doing it on your own.’ She saves her congratulations. 

I stay in the car for at least twenty minutes. When I go back into the house, I summon the courage to tell my baby sister, I must admit the shame I felt going to her and telling her that her unmarried big sister is knocked up. Her reaction was not what I expected in the slightest, she shows much excitement, gives me a massive hug and says ‘congratulations!’ I would soon learn that the elated reaction from others shocked me more than the devastated, disappointed ones. I put this down to how I felt about the situation myself. I was overjoyed at the thought of being a mother before thirty as it has always been one of my life’s dreams, but not like this! I wanted the perfect home, with the perfect husband first! People plan – God laughs. Being what I would describe as a devout Catholic, I was very disappointed in myself for having fallen for temptation, but why not take a risk for love? I knew my mind hadn’t been focused on my faith for a while, but that’s a tale for another time. As a youth leader and a catechist in my church, and a teacher of RE who funnily enough just finished teaching about family traditions in the Catholic Church, it was also difficult to accept this situation, my situation. Unmarried and knocked up after only knowing my partner for a few months, even worse he’s from the Caribbean, and those of you who know, they do not have the greatest reputation when it comes to relationships and fatherhood. Deep down in my gut, although I dabbled with the idea of an abortion, I knew I would not be able to live with myself if I got rid of this baby. Plus I am pro-life, as a good Catholic should be, but at this point what do I know about being a good Catholic? This got me thinking about the issue with pro-lifers, I may be wrong but I know I felt very alone in the beginning. I felt as though I had done something truly bad when in the wider scheme of things getting pregnant is firstly not as easy as one thinks and secondly not a crime, I haven’t stolen, killed, lied etc. so why does it hold the same weight as all these other sins? I had to constantly tell myself that I am a grown woman, with a good job/career, granted I was still at home but that is more out of choice than anything else.  If I had an abortion the judgement of ‘you had sex before marriage!’ would not be on my head. I think that judgement needs to be eliminated and mercy and compassion needs to be adopted instead. 

I was surprised at how much I cared about what others thought of me, I usually don’t but I suppose it’s the stigma of being a ‘tarnished woman’ in the eyes of society that was getting to me. Luckily it was the minority, but a couple in the minority were the people that mattered most.   

From then on I noticed that I never said the words ‘I’m pregnant’ I would let other people tell me or say ‘I’m going to have a baby’. It was a bittersweet situation. I couldn’t help but think that if I were married, I would have felt a lot more joy about this gift of life. 

I made the decision to keep my baby and a year on I do not regret a thing. She is the most perfect thing I have ever participated in creating. She is truly a gift from God, my angel and my purpose. It has been the wildest journey of my life and through these mini posts; I would love to share it with the world.  

There were many factors that I had to take into consideration for example; survival of a long distance relationship, keeping my job, which was at stake, not losing my reputation of this perfect role model for the youths of today, and I prayed earnestly that none of them would make an appearance or take an effect on me. But our faith must be tested… I will go into more detail with each of these as the weeks go on.   

Stay tuned for some more of the story!