Cadent Histories: Jade Lester

So, where are you REALLY from? 

By Jade Mona Lester 

Listen to the poem

“So, where are you from Jade?”
A question I am asked from day to day. 

Sutton Coldfield in Birmingham, is what I usually say. 
To be honest, I thought my accent was a dead giveaway!

“No, I mean where are you REALLY from?”
The question that invariably comes next. 
Really? I sigh, recognising the subtext:

They’ve seen my brown skin 
and want to put me in context 
But don’t know how to ask 
without becoming perplexed.

I’m from England I respond, with a bit of a grin.
If this is a game, I’m determined to win!

“Sorry, I mean, where’s your FAMILY from?”
They implore once again 
Well, that story’s quite long,
Take a seat, I’ll explain...

I tell them that we’re British,
And from a lot of different places,
Our eclectic heritage reflected
in the smiles across our faces:

The Caribbean, Ireland, Cyprus, Korea, 
and of course, the UK.
You know most of us were born Here,
and not thousands of miles away. 

We’re black, white, brown, and every shade in between. 
The most spectacular spectrum of family, that’s ever been seen. 

“Yes, yes, but where are YOU from, Jade?”
My word, they’re relentless!
You’d think their life depended 
on whatever I said next! 

I don’t mean to be a bore, 
but I’ve answered this question twice before.
Yet they still want more!
So, let me settle the score
Once and for all...

My parents met at school
and had children quite young,
Back when interracial dating
was considered as “wrong”. 

So, I’m Jamaican, I’m English, 
I’m White and I’m Black. 
I embody multiple ethnicities 
and I’m very proud of that. 

I love the colour of my skin and all it signifies:
Two fingers up to racists, bigots, and their lies! 
I am the living proof 
of what can be achieved
When people stand up 
for what they believe. 

“So, what’s the problem with the question?”
Some people will wonder
“Why does it cause so much tension?”
Some others will ponder...

If truth be told, it’s the way that it’s phrased 
and the underlying prejudice that it conveys:

It implies I’m not from “Here”
and I’m some kind of “Other.”
Just because my complexion shows 
I have a Jamaican mother.
Doesn’t mean I can’t REALLY
call England my home,
Or that the Birmingham streets I grew up on
are not my OWN. 

So, if you want to know my background,
can I make a suggestion? 
Share YOUR history first, 
then ask a much better question;

Ask me about my HERITAGE 
and say something nice. 
I’m a sucker for a compliment, 
you won’t need to ask me twice!


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