INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA

My father first walked the earth in Warri
His feet sinking into the hot mud of Nigeria’s Delta State
Then one day, as other men launched fishing boats
He sailed far away.
Why, I don’t know,
He never told me,
I never asked.
Africa and Manchester did not offer life parallels
So we never had that conversation

My father never talked of the past
I never asked
What did you do in the war dad?
What was your home like?
Do I look like your people?
Can you see your mother in my eyes?
The way I walk, argue
I’m built a female version of you
Am I the same height as your father?
Words never spoken
Only got silent responses.

My father never said
When the white man came:
But I know he knew.
Summers we would visit his old master
Exchanging our terrace house
For a large white detached in Richmond Surrey
Where my father cleaned;
A servitude repayment for our visit.
While I was forbidden to
Touch, speak, play,
Do anything without first asking permission.
Strange white people I thought.
‘Snobby bastards,’ said my mother when I returned home
‘Where do they think this is?
It’s not bloody Africa.’
Her temper causing her cheeks to flame red
Matching the copper of her hair
‘Andi,’ she’d say
‘Slavery is over;
Get over it.’
What did she mean?
But I never asked
And she never explained.

Schools for my father
Were glorious European opportunities
So he spared nothing to buy
My uniform, my shoes
A too large briefcase.
Copies of the same books that teachers
Distributed daily in class.
Strange, that I had to leave the classroom
To begin my education;
Tutored via overheard conversations
Documentaries, radical articles
And orators from Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X.
Even though neither had a penchant for white people.
But no matter how I broadened my knowledge,
I still loved my mother
Nothing was going to change that.
Now my mouth was full
Of words my brain had memorised
Colonialism, lynchings, detention
Apartheid, segregation
Civil Rights, Black Power
And always
Slavery.

What did my father know?
That the Yoruba’s were favoured for their strength
But whipped long to curb their independence
That the Ibos though stolen in their thousands
Also found an inner power to walk-on water
And the ijaw from Warri
Who speaks of them?
Not, certainly my father.
Except sometimes,
When the silence was so loud my ears would ache
I would turn to him
And he looking far into the distance
Seemed oblivious to the tears
Washing his cheeks
Flowing under his chin
Then water falling towards his heart.

In that moment my father
Was no longer the man I knew
The man I didn’t know.
He was in that moment,
A body filed with the spirits of all his ancestors.
My family from my grandfather
To generations who never imagined life beyond the Forçados River
Conquered, shackled, bartered
Sold, abused, demonised, throttled, burnt, flogged
Criminalised, imprisoned,
Executed by the law under the law.

The trauma of the new
The wicked the evil
Filled my father
So that he could not speak
And I never asked why.
Why,
Before he died
Was he called Thomas

Under my right eye
I have an indentation
It is in the exact same place
As my father’s peoples’ ritual scarring
Some days when I look at it
It seems more prominent
Like it really is a scar
But I can barely make it out
Through my tears

SuAndi Bio PhotosmallSuAndi OBE

Manchester, England

Acclaimed International Artist – Writer, Performance Poet, Lecturer

Cultural Director of National Black Arts Alliance

Honorary Degree Lancaster University, UK

BB King

BB King has quite rightly received numerous obituaries detailing his life as a great musician and a kind man. Here is mine. I first met him as queued for his autograph in 1985 he was touring and also playing for Live Aid. As I waited I noted how he gave everyone time and was interested in all they said. He asked me where my friend and I were going. “To the Grapes I said, “Why don’t you join us” I added mischievously. I never expected him to turn up so I was totally blown away when the DJ asked the girl who was at the BB King concert to take a call. BB rang to say they had an early departure for Live Aid and could not come along. He asked for my address. That Christmas and for every year afterwards he sent me a card and small BB King token. Much I expect like most of his fans. I became a regular at his concerts. Often gathering afterwards with him and one or two of his band for a drink. He was kind, and generous. On one return performance at the Apollo his tour manager said there were fans waiting outside in the rain. BB Asked “Do you think they would mind coming in and waiting while I just sort some stuff out”.

I am not claiming that he and I were great friends. But he always remembered my name, signed his cards personally with the note “Keep on living poetically.” And always his music made me cry tears of sadness and laughter.

SuAndi Bio PhotosmallSuAndi OBE

Manchester, England

Acclaimed International Artist – Writer, Performance Poet, Lecturer

Cultural Director of National Black Arts Alliance

Honorary Degree Lancaster University, UK

Page 2 of 212