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Simon Brathwaite’s The Outsiders?: Are You Going Mad?!

October 24,

My pick for this week isn’t a podcast; it’s the YouTube Original series The Outsiders? I didn’t plan to binge-watch the show, but that’s what I ended up doing. And I watched most of it with a lump in my throat. 

I’ve been sitting with the impact this six-part series had on me ever since I watched it in early October. 

‘The Outsiders?’ is directed by Simon Frederick (‘They Gotta Have Us’,) and profiles Black talent worldwide, and many of those voices are British. It features celebrities like the Chief Business Officer of Conde Nast, Britain, Vanessa Kingori, MBE, Mo the Comedian, and the radio BBC DJ Clara Amfo. Amfo’s heart-felt reflection to George Floyd’s murder went viral. 

The guests were SO emotionally honest that there were points when I felt uncomfortable and exposed. It was like they were sharing the stories, traumas, ambitions and dreams, the ones I never felt safe to share. 

That’s because I came of age in the 90s when Tony Blair and New Labor talked about a ‘New Britain,’ a ‘Cool Britannia’ that recognised and celebrated our diverse communities. Soul II Soul showed the world that the UK had some flavor, that there was indeed some Black in the Union Jack. 

And know that my heart still tightens as I use the phrase ‘Union Jack,’ a flag that to me represents violence against people of color. It strikes fear into my heart — I’ll put my head down and quicken my pace to get past a building that brandishes that symbol of the British Empire. I know I’m not alone.

The stories shared on this show were (and are) the same stories my friends shared with me. They are the stories that were pitched and rejected by editors who ‘didn’t understand’ that experience back in the day. They were the experiences that, when I was brave enough to share them, provoked people to get so angry that they’d accuse me of causing trouble or of being ‘radical.’ Those people would sometimes tell me to leave Britain if I hated it so much.

And now I was watching people who, like me, were inspired by those institutions talk about how they, in their way, were re-shaping and taking control of the narrative of what it means to be Black and British.

It was Candice Braithwaite’s commentary in the second episode that resonated the most with me. She said: 

“Because you’re in a family where you fall in line. So to even have the thought that you could do things differently. Are you going mad?…“Me waking up every day and standing firm, daring to give my children a better life, even though they’re as Black as me, that has to surely be madness. But, sanity weren’t getting me nowhere!”

*SCREAMS* I scrambled for breath the first time I heard Braithwaite say those words. It was like each syllable burst their way through my chest and wrapped itself around my heart. The ACCURACY was so REAL that all I could do was give in to it. And when I did, I could breathe again. 

She had expressed the very feeling that had compelled me to move from the UK to the US.  

You see, I wanted to thrive, while the world told me that I should be happy with surviving. I wanted my friends and my family to thrive with me. But, I was told the only why to make it was to play by rules my parents didn’t fully understand. Rules that changed every time my parents thought they were getting somewhere. Those rules were getting good grades and keeping my head down. I’d tried them both, then was told, what I did wasn’t enough. So I learned to follow my gut, which meant I veered left, when I was told to run right. I got called different, troublesome, and funny. 

A friend even told me ‘huh, see you, you like trouble, innit?’

But I didn’t. I just wanted to be happy. So I took the only option I thought I had. I left, and found a different way.

I’ve enjoyed my adventure so far. I’m convinced I would never have enjoyed the same kind of ride if I’d stayed home. Watching ‘The Outsiders?’ made me hopeful that there is a growing movement of people at home who are adding their stories, and creating a public narrative of Britain that might be more reflective of the one that I, and so many others, grew up in.

I can’t wait to build with them, wherever they may be.

The Outsiders is available to watch now. Click the video below to watch the first episode. Do yourself a favour, clear a few hours in the day if you can, beucase you’ll want to binge watch the whole thing. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

The YouTube Original Series, ‘The Outsiders?’

Check back regularly to find out which podcasts from the African Diaspora have caught my attention. Follow me on Instagram at @theciphernewsletter.

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