This will be the first year in many that I’ve missed the Notting Hill Carnival. Most people who know me know that carnival season is my favourite time of the year. It’s not just the two days I enjoy, but the entire season with fetes (carnival parties) starting in June, and lasting until the ultimate experience of joining a float on the bank holiday weekend.
Although it’s often promoted as a street party, carnival’s roots run a lot deeper with its origins stemming from race riots in the 1950s when newly arrived West Indian’s were targeted by violent white nationalists. The very first carnival was created as a celebration of black freedom and held in Notting Hill to reframe the area in which black people had received so much hate. For me, it’s an ode to the rich history of British West Indians and also a chance to celebrate with fellow small islanders. When you live as a minority, opportunities to commune with those of a similar heritage is an important part of wellbeing and belonging.
COVID-19 has taken that opportunity from many and although it may have seemed like people were sad about their opportunity to party the wounds run much deeper. Cultural events like these hold a great significance for members of the diaspora globally. The pandemic saw other meaningful occasions such as the AfroNation festival, Windrush Day and several Independence Day commemorations cancelled. In a time when the BAME community are being disproportionately affected by COVID and many members of the society are being heavily impacted by the distressing recurrences of police brutality black people need more than ever to commune and rejoice.
If you’re struggling with feeling disconnected from your physical community here are some ways to fund cultural joy in the age of COVID:
1. Get active - Make the most of lockdown restrictions being lifted. Although mass gatherings are not happening, we can keep it vibey and cookouts, zoom festivals and family gatherings are a great way to do that.
2. Get in the kitchen - During the lockdown, I rediscovered some Caribbean favourites. Exploring old school recipes was a great way to connect me to my childhood and culture.
3. Get the speaker on - Music is intrinsically linked to cultural identity and even though I’ve missed out on carnival season it hasn’t stopped me from blasting out my reggae, soca and dancehall on every occasion.
4. Get Connected - The rise of the BLM has prompted me to talk to friends and family members about culture and identity like never before. Sharing and exploring heritage and history has reconnected me to the joy I feel in being a West Indian woman.
5. Get Laughing - Comedy is such a tonic; I find that listening to comedians and sharing memes from the islands is one of my favourite things to do when I need a pick me up.
This article is written by BYP writer, and fitness and wellness instructor, Lildonia Lawrence