Blog: Chiedu

The Hull rapper praises his city's BLM protest and calls for it to build on William Wilberforce's legacy and do more to tackle racism

Hero image

Growing up in an African household filled with music, my passion to create came at a very young age. My home was a place where every active hour was filled with music – from my mother throwing the best parties with UB40 and Michael Jackson being blasted from the speakers to my older sister dancing in her room to TLC, Aaliyah and Lauryn Hill. I grew up music obsessed.

All my mates had dreams to be builders or work away on the rigs but I always had dreams of the big stage. Coming from a council estate in Yorkshire, being a successful rap artist is unheard of and something that would be mocked. From performing at house parties and youth clubs to headlining festivals and getting millions of streams, my journey has always been about pushing boundaries. Being different has never been an excuse – I’ll always embrace my authenticity. It’s in my DNA.

I was brought up in a single-parent Nigerian household on one of the toughest council estates in Hull and raised by two amazing black women. My mum and my big sister worked all the hours under the sun to provide for me. Because my mum had to work long hours my sister had to grow up quickly and take on the role of my second mum. Our resilience and unconditional love got us through some extremely tough times.

I was like any kid, outside all day playing games like block or bulldog and I loved football. I would play for hours on 5th Ave Field. I look back at these times as some of my happiest memories – an innocent boy playing with my friends, not knowing how cruel the world could be. These were also some of my darkest memories as I was very quickly reminded from a very young age that I was different.

I was left feeling alienated for being black and I remember being frightened and ashamed of my own African culture. I remember just wanting to be like everyone else. It wasn’t just the fact that being called the n-word was the normal terminology used to describe a black person in North Hull in the 1990s – it was that no matter how hard I tried to be accepted, someone would come along and remind me that I wasn’t their equal.

Just seeing more diversity is a huge step in the right direction but we still have a long way to go

Over the years, on the surface, I would say Hull has become more diverse. We now have places like Spring Bank that has a large Kurdish community and Princes Avenue, which has always had a thriving South Asian community. I’m also seeing more black families in Hull, which is great considering I was one of the only the black kids in my school. I feel envious as I wish I had that growing up. Just seeing more diversity is a huge step in the right direction but we still have a long way to go.

The Hull BLM protest was a really emotional and overwhelming experience for me. To see Queens Gardens filled with so many people from all walks of life was beautiful and unexpected. Everybody was so supportive of the BLM movement. It was a peaceful protest with some powerful and impactful speakers. I left with hope that we can eradicate the racism in this city.

We just need to look at our history. Hull was the birthplace of William Wilberforce, the man responsible for abolishing slavery, so I believe this city needs to do better at tackling racism. The protest was something to be proud of but that means nothing if the hard work doesn’t start now. We need to start from the top by seeing a fair representation of black people in the workplace and in positions of power. We need to create a stronger network of support and introduce initiatives to support the growth of black businesses and provide mentorship. We need hubs for black people to feel safe and be heard.

There are 57 Hull councillors and not one of them is black. This is not OK. We need our allies to recognise why we are fighting and help us make some serious change. Being silent or sitting on the fence is a huge part of the problem and that’s one of the main reasons why black people are still talking about oppression in 2020. We need to make sure that our employment and educational systems are diverse and inclusive and we need to stop idolising leaders who use the ideology of white supremacy.

My advice to my fellow black people who are living as a minority? Make sure you protect your mental health. It is not your job to educate your white counterparts. There are plenty of books for people to read, there are plenty of blogs and social media posts for them to access. This is a very traumatic time so allow yourself time to do things that make you feel happy. Do not tone down your blackness for anyone as this is something you should be proud of. Surround yourself with people that see your colour and celebrate your greatness.

Stream and buy The War Chant by Chiedu and DeezKid 

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Blog: Chiedu

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.
Close

Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

We have taken the difficult decision to tell our vendors that they cannot sell Big Issue North on the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, for the safety of the public and themselves.

This is a serious emergency for our vendors, and they need your help. There are three things you can do right now to help them get through this impossibly tough period.

  1. Buy our digital issue of this week’s magazine Buy
  2. Donate to our hardship fund, which we’ll use to help vendors in the most urgent need Donate
  3. Buy subscriptions and back issues online Shop Now