I was the youngest of two daughters born to immigrant parents in Hackney, East London. My mum, Josie, was born in Ireland and my dad, Archie was born in Montserrat, West Indies. They came to London in the 1950s when rented room signs saying 'No Black, No Dogs, No Irish' hung in many windows. We lived in a big rented house with many Irish relatives living or visiting and my dad's dad lived with us for a long time too. London Fields was a working class neighbourhood with West Indian, Irish, Jewish, Polish and Asian immigrants living alongside white East Enders. London Fields now is a very different place - gentrified beyond belief.
I had a brilliant childhood full of love and laughter. I do remember what we called a 'tramp' back in the day when we were playing too closely curious to him holding a knife up to a group of us black and brown kids and shouting at us to 'go back to your own (bleep!) country'. I guess that was my earliest memory of racism. Along my journey of growing up as a mixed heritage female Londoner I have felt included and excluded because of my skin tone. I have been asked too many times - 'what are you'?
The answer is: I am a Londoner through and through!
I came to University of East London in 2000 as a divorced single mum of four Black children. I was an undergraduate in Psychosocial Studies where I came to theories of 'race' and could finally theorise my experiences.
I wrote a poem:
Of not being-longing
You look at me and say “oi! ‘alf-caste, get lost!”
I already am. I don’t belong.
You look at me and say “yo! half-breed, red skin g’yal come ‘ere nuh!”.
Why? I don’t belong.
You look, and try to name me.
You look, and try to shame me.
You look, and try to re-arrange me.
I don’t belong.
Have a look at your history my friends, my brothers and sisters.
Then look at me again.
They were there, and now you are here.
The reason that I trouble you, is that you know you don’t belong either………….
Lurraine Jones is the Acting Head of Social Sciences