Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Time of Realization, Discomfort, and the Battle to Complete my Identity Abroad.

August 26, 2009 · 1 Comment

DSC00236These past few days have been filled with city wide tours, organized chaos, big lights, beautiful sights, and people moving at their own paces. My London experience has been both interesting and refreshing. I have been opened up to a history that I knew little to nothing about, and again I am astonished that my current reality resides in London. A truly beautiful city, with a rich and distinct culture, and symbols to provide the people of the world, it’s story. As I describe my experiences over the past few days, please do not take my tone as pessimistic or ungrateful, because of all the students on this trip I know what it is like to come from nothing, and to finally be not only in college, but abroad, is something remarkable for me. And yet, I find it troubling to appreciate the city and revel in its beauty without having reservations about how my culture and identity are represented.

Yesterday after we parted from class, I with a couple of friends ventured off to the suggested concert at Saint Martin’s in the Field. As I entered the theatre the white ceiling made me stare in awe as I viewed the monumental structures created hundreds of years ago. As we were seated I panned the audience to see the types of people gathered to listen as a musical masterpiece would be played for our entertainment. The range of people was homogenous, being predominately white. I found myself being more reserved than I was comfortable with, but for the setting of the event it was necessary.  

As the music filled Saint Martin’s Cathedral the expressions on the faces of people varied in pleasure, awe, and appreciation for a work that was well deserved. The artist was successful in instilling an emotion in his audience, which I could not help but appreciate. As he played numerous pieces from Phantom of the opera I sat in my chair trying to contain my restlessness. Although the piece of music was beautifully structured in its entirety, it was a bit long for my liking, but nonetheless appreciated. After the first piece of music was preformed various areas of the Cathedral began to empty out as people headed to prior engagements, however, I stayed for the performances entirety.

Once the concert had finished a group of use headed to the National Art Gallery located literally across the street. Myself along with the rest of the group grew anxious as we realized what we were about to see. As we climbed the steps of the museum our minds raced with the artist and the pieces of work that lye just beyond the doors that we were about to enter. The realization that we were privileged enough to see the art from the some of the most famous painters that had ever lived. Once inside we all parted heading to our own favorite pieces and exhibits spread across the vast gallery.

DSC00246I viewed countless pieces of art, created by Van Gough, Davinci, and Anthony Von Dyck. There was no doubt in my mind that these works were marvelous, and their very essence made my spirit soar. But as it all sunk in the reality of the history of these artist and their ways and own personal beliefs, suddenly made me uncomfortable. The realization, that this history was filled with racism, sexism, and countless other prejudices  did not make me de-value their art, but rather gave me more of an incentive not to glorify it, as some of the other people might have. My culture and my history something that would have made me feel inspired, was not present in the entire gallery, not once, at least not in its entirety.   

The next day we all woke up bright an early as we headed toward the West Minster Abbey for a tour only fit for royalty, or as our tour guide put it, “a class above the riff raff.” Once we were out of the Underground, we quickened our pace to make it in time for our 9:30 tour. Once we arrived we were greeted by probably the most energetic and experienced “Blue Pin” tour guide, which only made our experience that much better. If I could try to describe the beauty of the architecture that stood before me, I would not be able to find a word befitting enough. It was remarkable beyond words.  Once inside the sound of the busy city, was quickly silenced as if we were subconsciously remembering the people of the past who were buried this massive Abbey.

DSC00285Inside West Minster Abbey lye the tombs of 3000, kings, queens, writers, and various other of what  I assumed wealthy people. Each one was given an astoundingly large monument of their own in their memory. As we past it seemed as if they were competing from beyond the dead at whose was the biggest and the best as they displayed their wealth from beyond the grave. Although its beauty could not be denied I once again felt a sense from my lack of comfort. In my eyes these were just people who were glorified based upon their wealth and status in their country. I could have thought of countless other areas in the world in which this same amount of money that was put into these monuments and tombs could be used to aid starving children and homeless people around the globe. The American Studies scholar in me could help but question the dominant hegemonic apparatuses that were in power, and how much emphasis they put on class, money, race, and power, made my skin crawl with discomfort. I could not help but realize that I along with two other classmates was the only people of color on the entire tour, during the time we spent inside. I was so used to having the comfort of others like me around all the time, and to literally be the minority among the hundreds of people touring gave me the realization that I was not at home.

DSC00308Among this during the entire trip I have had to become more of a reserved in the way I express my mannerisms. Being an American and from the area I come from I am used to being free to express myself in whatever way I see fit. But I am constantly being reminded that I must assimilate to a culture in order to not become an object of judgment in any given area. This among very few other things had made my time at London unexpected.  

However, after thinking about my roots and my ancestry I realized that I am not just black. My grandmother is from whales, and has red hair and white skin lighter than some of the people on this trip. I am not simply a black man alone in London. But because of my skin color and how I have been taught to identify I sometimes forget my entire heritage. I learned today, that I can no longer view London through the eyes of a single raced person, because that is not who I am. I am a culmination of a mixture of races whose heritage I am starting to learn. My only wish is that I could go to a place where the heritage of my complete bloodline was present. In London I have had the privilege to learn about my European ancestor’s but I am not blind to the fact that my African ancestors were also brought here. I am trying to be patient, and delve myself into the history where both parts if me can exist. I just wish I could visually see a place where this dream was a reality.DSC00305

Categories: Anthony

1 response so far ↓

  •   tejadaf // Aug 28th 2009 at 11:55

    Love it! We’ve already had a discussion about this and you already know how I feel…
    I am excited for you to discover a part of London that ties you to the parts of yourself that you want to be connected to. (You may be able to respond to your own feelings in your research project.)

    Thank you for sharing your feelings with us.

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