‘An extraordinary life’ – Gloria Cameron

So with Black History Month around the corner (sidestepping the issue of whether we need one / should have one etc) there were lots of things that I could post about right now set to happen all over the UK.

Despite the arguments for and against the month itself, I must admit that I do think it is generally well supported, and obviously it is a great chance for us to tell our own story which, as you know, is a passion of mine and part of the inspiration for this website.

Anyway, while looking at the myriad of celebrations going on in London I was sent a newsletter from my own council Hounslow, which has quite a sizeable Black community, and is putting on a few events including performances and workshops etc.

One of the activities that caught my eye is a book reading taking place at Hounslow Library on Thursday October 20th (unfortunately I am working so won’t be able to go).

It’s by Gloria Cameron, a Jamaican woman who moved to the UK when she was 25 and created a successful career as a Justice of the Peace. She was awarded an MBE from the Queen in 1980 for services to the community and had a business opened by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Copyright: Gloria Cameron

Copyright: Gloria Cameron

The book is called ‘Case dismissed! An ordinary Jamaican woman; An extraordinary life’ and it chronicles her childhood in Jamaica before she moved to the UK, where she gained national recognition for her community work.

Gloria herself says the reason she has written the book is because she felt it was important for the next generation to know what black people faced when they came to the UK in larger numbers in the 1960s and 1970s.

She told the Voice newspaper: “A lot of young people now have no idea what their parents and their grandparents encountered coming [to the UK]… I don’t think you can blame them, because I don’t think enough books have been written. People of past generations have not written enough books to educate them. This is why I wanted to write this book.”

She added: “I was also conscious that my life story can contribute to preserving our visual and oral history for the next generation. I really hope my story resonates with people everywhere and inspires them to pursue their passion and to become successful individuals.”

I really wish more of our older generation would share what they went through growing up ‘back home’ and when they came to start a new life in England. It is so important for all of us to know their stories, however small, so that we know how much sacrifice has been made to ‘get us a seat at the table’ and therefore do not squander it or take it for granted.

I have previously shared the story of my mum on this blog, who came to England when she was 19 and worked for 40 years in the NHS facing racism and discrimination, but successfully raised two children on her own who have hopefully made her proud.

I encourage everyone to ask their parents and grandparents about their journey – we need to know these stories of heroism and perseverance which demonstrate that there is so much more to us than what we sometimes see in the media.

We must speak up and speak out!

Jamaica’s Booker Prize winner

So I’m a bit behind on this one as it happened in October however it’s definitely worth mentioning on this blog so forgive me if you know already, but the Man Booker prize winner for 2015 is a Jamaican author – Marlon James.

Man Booker Prize

Man Booker Prize

James is not only the first Jamaican to win one of the most prestigious International prizes for writing, which is an amazing achievement, but his book ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings‘ is all about Jamaica and its political history interwoven with a mythical plot to assassinate legendary reggae singer Bob Marley and told from seven different perspectives.

Marlon is only the second Caribbean writer to win the Booker Prize in its 47-year history – Trinidadian-born V.S. Naipaul claimed the honour in 1971 with his book ‘In a Free State‘.

Currently living in the US, James was born in 1970 in Kingston, and ‘A Brief History…’ is his third novel. The book had already won two other awards before the Booker Prize and was also a finalist in 2014 for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Marlon James (@MarlonJames5)

Marlon James (@MarlonJames5)

Michael Wood, Chair of the Booker Prize judges, said: ‘This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami.

‘It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times.’

'A Brief History of Seven Killings'

‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’

Marlon now lives in Minnesota after being offered a teaching job at Malacaster University. His decision to live in America is directly linked to his homosexuality which unfortunately still makes him a target in his home country.

In a riveting article written in the NY Times, Marlon provides a fascinating insight into his contrasting life as a gay man in Jamaica and the US and I highly recommend you read it – NY Times: From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself

So congratulations to Marlon James. I really hope that Jamaican’s are aware of him and his internationally recognised writing achievements – he is doing his country proud and as a Caribbean descendant I am happy to shout about it.

I’ll be buying the book – I hope you will too.

Further reading:

BBC: Man Booker Prize winner 2015

‘A Brief History of Seven Killings’: Oneworld Publications

Man Booker Prize official press release