Young, British and Black, is a series exploring what it’s like being a young black person in Britain today.
Our Founder and Director Banseka Kayembe sat down virtually with university student Tré, to get an insight into his experiences, his hopes and aspirations for the future and what brings him joy.
Banseka: Hi Tré! 2020 has been a mad year for black people. How are you feeling?
Tré: This year has been so crazy, I’ve had to take a step back and just breathe. I’ve almost let other people take over. When it was the middle of the pandemic, I felt like I should have been protesting with Black Lives Matter, but chose not to in the end due to the pandemic and also because it’s so emotionally draining. Plus I also had exams, and I was like I’m not going to put pressure on myself or other black people to have to protest- it’s almost unfair to put that on black people to have to do things.
Support us by contributing as little as £1 so we can continue to give young people a voice and a platform they deserve.
It’s been great to see black and white people joining in on the protests and with BHM it’s great to see organisations and companies speaking more about systemic racism, but I’m almost standing from the sides as I’m trying to protect my emotional wellbeing.
Banseka: Of course, manty Black people feel very fragile. There were people calling out the influencer Ovie from Love Island for not saying anything, and it was like let the man rest, he’s probably upset.
Tré: Yeah, it’s a lot. We’re all people and we should be ok with Black people being in control of how we contribute. For most of us, fighting racism isn’t our jobs and we’re not getting paid. We have to protect ourselves as well.
Banseka: Do you feel you’ve experienced stereotypes, as a black man?
Tré: Throughout school I was mostly the only black person in my year group, right up till sixth form when there were a few more but not many. I was the most vocal around black issues- but I felt like I never really experienced overt racism aside from a couple of incidents. But I remember people telling me saying the N word in a song was fine- and being viewed as an aggressive black person for challenging them. I know if i went to a school with more black people that wouldn’t happen.
I also had issues at school with my teachers- when I moved to secondary school after SATs my results got lost and I was automatically put in the bottom set for everything which didn’t make sense as I’d done really in school. It took me a year to work my way up the sets by doing tests. I don’t feel like if I was white that would have happened.
Banseka: You mentioned to me that you identify as gay- intersectionality is of increasing importance. James Baldwin the American civil right activist who was both Black and gay and felt seen first and foremost as a Black man, before being gay. How do you feel about being both Black and gay in terms of your identity.
Tré: I’m actually doing my dissertation on whether queer and Black trans matter within the BLM movement; exploring if they have their own movements within the broader movement. I’d agree that I’m a Black person before before I am gay, you can see my Blackness whereas you can’t always see queerness always in the same way. I think I suffered overt homophobia before racism, but that’s not to say one is more impactful than the other. When I apply for jobs, recruiters see my name is Tré, not that I‘m gay. Or if I go into a shop and I’m being followed around, that will be because I am Black.
Banseka: Some black people talk about experiencing prejudice in both black and queer spaces. Does this match up with your experience?
I think in many LGBT spaces it’s so white. There’s not many spaces for Black queer people. I was meant to go to Black Pride for the first time this year, but obviously it was all online this year due to Covid. I think there’s increasingly some spaces online, but mainstream Pride is very white. Manchester Pride is majority white- so when you do see Black people in those spaces it’s nice.
Banseka: How do you identify in terms of your class background and do you think it impacts how you experience being black?
Tré: My parents have well paid jobs, although they grew up in poor households, but we’ve never struggled. Going to the school I went to, there were lots of middle class people with huge houses. I think that I haven’t really experienced poverty. So I’ve been able to be heard a bit more.
People want to listen to people’s perceived view of articulacy. But then in my school people had parents who were dentists and lawyers and making lots more money than my parents. Because I was Black and not as wealthy as them, in some ways not taken as seriously particularly by my teachers.
Banseka: Do you feel like in terms of wider representation, Black queerness is represented? Is British Black queerness particularly well represented?
Tré: I hope to see more of this! Michaela Cole’s series “I May Destroy You” was great, but they are often quite middle class experiences. There was also Euphoria which was a bit more representative. The dating app Bumble are doing a series on Black Love which includes queer relationships which is really nice to see. But historically there hasn’t been enough representation.
Banseka: Britain’s past has come to the fore a lot more recently; is Britain due a reckoning with it’s exploitative past of African and Caribbean countries?
Tré: Yes for sure, we need to have more nuanced conversations. A lot of the time it’s a five minute debate on Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and it’s like, this isn’t helpful. With the whole statue thing in Bristol it felt refreshing; things like that generate conversation. You can walk past it and not know what it was, and now people can be more aware of the historical legacy of some of these statues and names of buildings that are from slave traders.
Banseka: Do you feel like this is something that needs to be more embedded in our curriculum? I learned a lot about American slavery but not so much about British colonialism and slavery.
Tré: Yeah- in year seven we just watched a video of the film Roots and filled out some question sheets. Colonialism is glorified a bit in the curriculum and the truth ultimately needs to be told.
Banseka:So much of that feeds into racism today, people don’t know how much they’ve gained from our loss.
Tré: Yeah because we’re not taught it, it’s easy for people to think that it was ages ago and doesn’t matter. It’s deep rooted and there’s so many structural issues to do with racism. And there’s a huge amount of politics involved in how racism is maintained.
Banseka: What policies would you love to see as a young Black queer person?
Tré: Making sex education inclusive of the queer community, as I learned nothing to do with me or my sexuality at school. I also think workplaces and the training around tackling racism needs to be improved; it should be more than just a tick box exercise.
Banseka: As Black people we’re often spoken about in ways that can be quite morbid, or as statistics or as part of BAME. I think there’s a lot of joy alongside the struggle in being Black. What brings you joy?
Tré: I really enjoy music, Black music and also listening to Black podcasts. I love the humour in Black podcasts and the culture. Things that get you through the day.
*Motions to his wall with framed albums*
I wake up to all my favourite albums on the wall, like Frank Ocean, Beyonce. I wake up and think about what mood I’m in and decide what I want to listen to. That brings me loads of joy.
Thanks for reading our article! We know young people’s opinions matter and really appreciate everyone who reads us. Give us a follow on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with what young people think.