Literary Diversity

Growing up in a developing country and a fine section of the British Commonwealth, Jamaica, I went to my mother one day with awe and wonder all over my face. You see I had caught myself ibn the mirror in my mid-teens and made a stark discovery. No, wait for it, you dirty-minded lot. It had nothing to do with avoirdupois nor metric systems measurement. It hit me that day that I was black. My dear mother, looked at me with deep compassion and said, ‘You too?’ In the multimedia world, multicultural world back then all images whether televised or printed were showed ‘White’ or ‘Caucasian’ aspirations being achieved by ‘good’ people while the ‘bad guys’ ended up in jail or Boot Hill. The thing was that even the bad guys were highly paid white guys made to look black. You could tell at the start of any movie that the man in black on the black horse was not going to make it and certainly would not get the girl.

Is it about perspective or blindness?

Being force-fed such images on screen and in literature was significant to any developing schema, colouring the self-image and had set me up for such a culture shock when I eventually started to travel away from my homeland and seek to forge relationships beyond Jamaica. It is difficult to say how this skewed view of the world affected those who would identify as ‘white’. Before I go on, I must confess that racist ideas were never a bother for me as I had been awakened to such things among people who found it necessary to distinguish between levels of blackness within black communities. Indeed, some of the most horrendous taunts I heard was from one black person addressing to another. Working in the City I recall a colleague with a Cockney accent being derided (behind his back) by a colleague using the Queen’s English (or it could have been his one, as I’m certain that the Queen would never do such a thing).

The rhymes, they are a-changin'!

I remain intrigued as to how all our perception, whether of ourselves or of others, have come brought us to where we are, if only to gain some understanding as to the path now find we are on. Equality, Diversity, Inclusion, EDI is not the watchword of organisations everywhere. When I started researching urban literature, book sellers looked embarrassed as I asked them to show me their collection of ‘black’ books. In one shop, I was lead from assistant to assistant and ended up finding it myself in a sub-basement, at the back, on the bottom two shelves. Well, two shelves. Not bad, was it? How things have changed, I thought recently, when I stood outside a popular book chain and scanned a display of black books across two windows. Then I discovered a book shop in Brighton dedicated to promoting black books and black writers as their main thrust . . . and they are popular with diverse readers!

Is this about being woke, then?

So, I carry no placard nor am I part of any anti- this-or-that movement. Instead, I celebrate that, at long last, the multimedia age has awoken to the abundance of creativity in society and unleashed myriad of short-stories, poems, plays and novels bursting from ethnic creators. What became an unstoppable force in the music world is now evident in literary arts, where readers may now choose from much widened spectrum of flavours as they seek to be thrilled, horrified, mystified or else lost in romance and drama. There is even black sci-fi!

Wait, just a cotton-pickin' minute...

I cannot conclude this blog with asking what took the gatekeepers so long to open the door? When I first enquired, they said it was your fault. Yes, you, the paying public. They told me that because you were not interested in buying such books then they were not going to stock them. Seemed fair to me at first, then I got to thinking, how would you ever choose to buy what you did not know existed? When I first saw melon ice-cream, I was very unsure until the nice lady said, would you like to taste first? Now, I just can’t get enough. The media does have a lot to answer for, havubng the power to embed ideas and disperse philosophies with the power to impact groups and individuals is diverse ways. Today, we hear the outcry for regulation, in particular as some young persons have take their lives as a result of their social media activities. Oh dear, will regulation mean more gatekeepers?