R Gav tha Birkenhood $ocialite
By Gavin Odhiambo Okello-Davies
me n r Tony, godfather of Birkenhead x
Introduction to Gavin's article:
I was raised in the hood in a terraced house in Rock Ferry, an infamously ruff place that sits ova tha water opposite tha Dingle. I lived w me mum + me 1/2 brother who are both dark-skinned Joluo Kenyans. Tha reason I mention dark-skinned is cus i was alwayz my mummy's favourite, n tbh, me bein mixed-race/mulattx almost certainly had a part 2 play in that........ an old family story is 1 of me mum excitedly talkin abt havin a light-skinned baby. Me poor bro must have felt like crap! So ye, Victorian-era colourism from circa 1899 was definitely @ play in 1999 Merseyside. My mum is 1 of thoze fierce Afrikan mothaz who u luv dearly but cud v easily b tha most terrifying lioness u kno 2 run from! I definitely had 2 overcome tha instinct 2 flinch I picked up on when I was small. We did tho used 2 turn off all the lightz, put on tha UFO lamp + dance 2 her Kenyan cassette tapez 4 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Blak joy circa '00 <3 She did alwayz speak 2 us in English w a thick Luo accent... "Gabin! Get mi a glass of wottah!" She alwayz had mi do that + I realise now itz cus of all tha bangy she'd b smokin That's wat we call it in Kenya. Me + me bro played Streets of Rage + Shinobi + Mortal Kombat 4 houuuuuuurs on tha Sega Genesis mi dad bought uz. I always thought Stage 2 of Streets of Rage was set in Rock Ferry! A memory that stix w me r the weekly tripz we'd make 2 Toxteth on a Saturday... we'd get on tha train at Rock Ferry station, get off @ James Street, visit tha Scope which is still there, where if I was lucky i'd get sm new clothes when my mum's DLA came in!!!!!!! DLA is Disability Living Allowance + it always felt like we were millionaires when she'd dance in the living room "I GOT MY DLA! HEY! I GOT MY DLA!" Hahahahahahhaha.
We'd walk up Bold St + up tha hill 2 da Anglican Cathedral. We'd sometimez go in 2 light a candle... I was always holdin me mumz hand quietly... i rememba me mum was mayb sayin hallelujah loudly LOL + 1 of the priests came up 2 us + asked uz 2 leave. I knew then there waz smthin in his face that told him me mumz melanin was part of it. If only mi mum knew abt Black Girl Majiq then We'd walk thru the tunnel n down the steps in2 St James's Gardens... I alwayz felt the garden was magical. I rememba seein snowdropz + sayin 2 my mum "look! snowdrops!" as we walked thru the foresty bit... it must have been early spring, around my birthday <3 Any1 from 90s' RF will rememba me mumz leopard print legginz + 1 time a man ROARED from his car az he went past. I kinda knew he thought my mummy was pretty, bt i also knew he didnt respect her at all + was makin fun of her. My mumz response told me everythin - she didnt respond @ all + we carried on walkin. We'd go up Upper Parly 2 Granby St 2 pick up hash from a dark-skinned man w dreadlocks. Ive spoken 2 Toccy rezis since + he's still well known! I've never 4gotten wen me mum got a big DLA payment + bought a HUGE choccy bar w a capital H on it.
Lasted her weekz. My least favourite part of the trips waz squattin in a bush w me mum while she smoked it... it stank + i always had 2 b careful in case i got nettles on me handz!!! That spot is since tarmaced over... ive since chcked! My favourite part was goin tha maccies in town + gettin ma chicken nuggetz n Happy Meal toy. So we'd go from Rocky 2 Tocky 2 pick up a choccy ov rocky. She'd smoke tha rocky in Tocky n we'd go bk 2 Rocky... Got it? My bro wud alwayz stay home on those dayz... i secretly wondered whether he was lonely. We did hav fun in that house + i had friends who genuinely loved me + i got bk in touch w them recently. Shoutout 2 Sean, Ben n Jade x
We did ofc experience everythin tha only blak family in a poor area will experience... BRIX thru tha winda + me mumz DIY boardz ova it were left on 4 weekz; dont let that lil n***er in ur house! P*ki; eggs thrown @ us. My sources tell mi tho all tha ppl who did it met v terrible fatez! Our tribe, the Luo, r born warriors + ik now we were there 2 tell Merseyside its reckonin as the architects of whyt supremacy as we kno it wud be comin 1 day! BLM byotchez! We claim Lupita Nyong'o + Barack Obama as our own + let's b clear, those 2 r family friendz so little did they kno wen the Okelloz walked by they were in the presence of AFRIKAN ROYALTY! So siddown in the playpen, not tha throne, Lizzie!
I woke up today and watched a friend’s video. It was really wholesome, calm, and warmed my heart. This friend is White + so was everyone else in the video. I miss the trust that I used to place in White people and I miss that feeling of calm that I am in a safe place to relax into sweetness and innocence.
You’ll just have to take my word for it that my trust has been punctured a thousand times with the needles of racism. That a beautiful thing like spending a week at a friend’s family home in the countryside is poisoned by racism and I am then left with this unresolved anger, a shame that I trusted them and a guilt I was complicit and didn’t speak up for so long.
But the truth is, the shame and the guilt doesn’t belong to me. I can only have admiration for the person who endured that torture for so long... and I was never silent. I was silenced.
Racism wants to erode your barriers and for you to slip into its toxic waters. “Maybe they didn’t mean that. Maybe I’m being ungrateful. It’s just how it is.”
I really wish I could live a life of innocence like my White friends. A week away is just a week away. A pottery workshop can be just a pottery workshop.
There’s no need to be hyper vigilant because my dignity is not at risk.
I want this world and I want all of us to want this world too.
The 2nd piece iz abt Joey Persistent... I mean I stan Joey; he's fkn hilarious. I was walkin 2 the laundrette + he started tellin me he found me hot... was askin me 2 get in his car 4 a drive cus he'd take me anywhere i wanted lol... It wasn't the 1st time boiz lyk him had hollerd @ mi since movin 2 this neighbourhood in April... have had men askin me my penis size lol/been cruized in parks/fightin ova me 4 attention + ofc puttin their handz in my hair as meanz of flirtation! It was so unexpcted!!! not the hair touchin part tho lol. the 1st time it happened i found myself reactng instinctively... I've observed how my female friendz + ofc me mum hav come bk @ these hood masculine come-ons + i think the ability 4 a femme 2 bat them off playfully 2 preserv our own internal joy is somthin that sits in our DNA. Like fr, the cncrete jungle may b built up but we're still livin in the wild.
We can analyse lvls of oppression + the toxic dynamix of the cis whyt het patriarchy, which in our cerebral clture is so important, but I also tink this is tha point where academia, critical race theory, feminism antrhropology and queer theory are in their very natures classist. it takes a certain amount of education + time + access 2 engage 2 grasp all those complex subjects + topics. Like i said, western/modern culture is v intellect heavy + it gaslights, manipulates + speaks down 2 us as tho we're unintelligent........ which is y I do believe we need 2 elevate 2 that academic level bc the structures that were created 2 oppress were created by ppl who also use that language. It's a funny thing like that!
I started using txt speak + Scouse hood speak again when I came bak 2 Liverpool/Birkenhead, the city that raised mi. I went 2 UCL (University College London) str8 from Market Wells, a hostel in downtown Birko (tho they call it a foyer) 4 young ppl who've been kickd out or r estranged from their caregivers. I learnt that usin propa gramma + learnin 2 speak *properly* aka speak like a Londonder as approved by the monoethnic teachin staff was how I will gain respect + bcome successful...... it workd 2 a certain extent - i travelled 2 amazin places, spoke 2 ppl i wud hav dreamt of meetin + learnt things kidz from tha Fez wud never hav access 2 normally. As w everythin, there's always a tradeback, n u begin 2 lose touch w urself, w wat loved as a teenager + the unspoken/spoken rule that pop culture is smthin 2 sneer @ really gets in2 ur bones. While I received full bursary (I was snottily told by a financial aid officer I received the highest amnt therefore shudnt complain when i ran in2 financial difficulties), UCL was NOT inclusive of my class/racial experience; the education is one size fits WHITE. lol. Big up me tho came owt w a degree in Russian & Spanish + speak 6 others x
While Merseyside is a place I ran away from bc of the difficulties of growin up around ppl who have a limited life experience, I've reembraced Scouse culture, followin all those hilarious/problematic Scouse meme accntz, becomin a familiar face around the shopz in Birko/St John'z, speakin @ BLM events, reprezentin in an UNIMAGINABLE WAY + learnin soooo much abt local history from local Scouse elders + historians like Laurence Westgaph. I have spoken 2 ppl who remember my family from Roche-Ferrée (anotha name 4 Rock Ferry hehe) + tbh, it's been a huge source of healin 4 me. Both me mum + bro have lived in the mental health system 4 decades now, so tha pressure 2 succeed all immigrant children feel is amplified 2 tha max. It's not ez, but I'm doin wat I can 2 rebuild my broken family. Baby lamb I do feel like a lone fighta 4 the Okellos + our lineage + that weight is somethin I carry all tha time. #factsfacts
Tha British class system + tha prejudiced media + society that bakz it up tellz workin class ppl + especially SCOUSERS we r lazy or *thick* 4 speakin w an accent that iznt Standard Babylon .gov.uk English. n thatz w/o talkin abt bein of colour........ I kno now that bein proudly HOOD + LEARNED iz the superweapon we've seen in the likes of artists like 2pac + James Baldwin... Also look up Sista Soulja!!! Cming bk 2 it + embracing my inner being has been like "Woah this is me, this is grassroots, Scouse culture, Joey hollerin from his red motor German whip. YES!" In a way it's the same social dynamics u get in the US anglophone African hood + I wanted 2 live and feel that in the same way and own it! I'm ready 4 a $couse renaissance!!!!!!!!!!!!
Joey Persistent story, told by Gavin:
Gavvy from the block is back in tha hood!!!! 1 thing i thought i'd never thought i'd experience is bein hollered @ by homeboys when walkin back from the coey. a red van stops next 2 mi + he's a good lookin Birkenhood scally boy w fresh turkey teef. He winds down his winda + says "Are u gay, ye?" "What an interesting question. Are u?" "UR DEAD HOT YANO" w a big smile on his face. Short bk n sides, grey tracky, Irish blue eyes. We stan a scal. I didn't c what he had on his feet but i reserve the right 2 make an educated guess :P
"Uve got gd taste" I say w a smile. "I do. ur boss u kno." "Whats ur name then?" "joey" "I'll c u around then, Joey" By this point I was used 2 bein hollered @. I carry on walkin. He carries on drivin. I laff 2 meself knowin this boyfriend XXL ralph loz denim shirt i got from Scope in the Pyramidz downtown Birko w rolled up shorts n smooth legs wud get em all sprung.
He's parked 10 metres down the road. I lol + roll my eyes. i'm literally fergie in dont phunk w my heart rn. "Eh. Av u got a number?" "Is ur second name persistent?" "Ye, it is. WHere are ya goin now then? Ill give ye a lift" "Im actually goin 2 pick up my laundry my mate" "Ill take u then!!" "Was I born yesterdee? Av ya not heard of stranger danger Joey?" I carry on walkin again. I'd had a shit day of microaggressions so bein sexually objectified was a nice break from it. Joey Persistent drives past the turn in 4 the coey car park and stops again. maintain that strut bb, i say 2 miself. Im @ the car: "Do u live round ere then?" "Ye, I live round here, Joey." "Go'ed then, av ya got a number?" I stop for a moment. the phone company cut me off 2 years ago, but ive still got the phone. "alright then" i give him the defunct number i now use 4 whatsapp. he pulls out iz graftin fone +punches in my number. "boss. whatre u called then?" "me name's gavin, joey." "Alright den. Gavin?" "Ye" "so ur around then?" "i'm around". the laughter doesnt come out my move but ripples thru my body. i must be lit up like a firework on bonny night. "ur BOSS yano. go'ed, jump in, i'll take u wherver u wanna go." i look @ his passenger seat. i think 'wouldnt that ba fkin hilarious story 2 tell.' "Ive gotta pick up my laundry my m8, but i'll b around." "arrrr alright den." hes grinning. them teefs is blindin. I walk my merry way + he zooms off boyracer style.
welcome 2 my merseyside!!!
A reflection of Gavin's experience with Joey (Persistent) and the writing styles used in Gavin's storytelling:
The reaction I get from friends when I tell them that story is usually a look of astonishment bc these men are obviously picking up on my divine feminity + are slotting mi + themselvez in2 that role. 4 some reason only Gxd knowz, the "need" 4 homophobic abuse isnt there... they sexually objectify mi like they would any other cis-gendered woman! HA! Mayb thingz rly r changin IMO it's beautiful in its ugliness. Pretty ugly, ugly pretty. It's a curious thing as well, bc thru objectification I found validation, but the actual validation was "Wow my Scouse ppl have evolved 2 a point where they're able 2 accept my gxddess form along w my queerness + blackness." Growing up, all 3 were rejected, but now I'm able 2 occupy this role as a hood femme + have these interactions w hood mascs + it's actually pretty revolutionary.
Including both writing styles is 2 include both aspects of me... it's 2 include the hood femme who lives in the body + interacts. 4 me, Hindu goddess Kali is the ultimate hood femme; she's armed w dual scimitars n u betta believe she's a single mum on Universal Credit w a grow on, 1 eye on tha baby 1 eye on the door in case she haz 2 collect some headz w calcified 3rd eyez. She tha type who comes w those finger snap clean comebacks who is reactive + comes bk n forth... who is fearless. I'm able 2 bring that hood femme, while @ the same time have my analytical brain wearing away understanding the social dynamics, the racial dynamics, the sexual dynamics, the gender dynamics, the class dynamics... consolidating those 2 often fractured identities + BCOMING A FKN FABULOUS HOOD QUEEN FROM BIRKENHOOD!!! YANNOWARAMEAAAAAAAAAAN??/ YANOWARAMEANNNNN LIKKKKKKKKE?
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