Attending local events and being a part of the black community in Watford has solidified my understanding of the importance of tradition in our culture. As human beings, we go through many milestones in our lives. We have carved out social traditions for ourselves to mark our achievements, our losses, or just to celebrate life in ways that bring us together. This summer I went to the Watford African Caribbean Association summer barbecue where I got a chance to catch up with a few friends I have made along the way.
There was a familiarity in the way people greeted each other, old friends and new, as if they were family that they’ve been longing to see. And of course no African or Caribbean party is complete without an abundance of delicious, impeccably seasoned food. It was all hands on deck, and while I was being served fried plantain by the Chair of the association, it occurred to me that this is a beautiful ritual I know all too well. The marriage of black and British culture. The elders and the youngest children eat first – people took multiple plates back to their tables for their mothers, grandmothers and great aunts. The most able-bodied made sure that their less able counterparts were fed first. All this intertwined with the very British concept of queuing single file and waiting patiently for your turn.
The archetypal characters were all present – the older men playing dominoes, throwing back rum like water, while their wives nursed small wines or sherries delicately, as if every drop warmed their bodies from the inside out. There was the man in the colourful jacket who just couldn’t stop his feet from moving when the beat hit him just right. There was the toddler who was so friendly and comfortable she was seated on the lap of multiple mothers throughout the night, until she chose her daddy’s shoulder as the perfect resting place, completely giving herself over to sleep, while her mother wolfed down her dinner, happy to have both hands free to eat, and her baby girl sleeping soundly. There was the lady with the beautifully styled dreadlocks selling raffle tickets and the older gentleman who played cricket at this place as a young man, standing on the field watching far away bodies in white, playing the game his muscle memory would not allow him to forget.
There is a familiarity in tradition and a safety in community, which I think we all like to feel sometimes. It’s almost like hitting the reset button, returning to HQ to recharge and break bread together as well as allowing our bodies to move in charismatic synchronicity when ‘Candy’ by Cameo is playing, and everyone becomes a friend.
Kiki Brown is the Friendship Producer for Tiata Fahodzi. With a background that also encompasses acting and community theatre, she has co-run two small-scale theatre companies, is a drama facilitator and a singer/songwriter.