I was born into a family living on a North London housing estate (BWF). Poverty was a mixed experience of struggling and pushing to achieve an improved life experience for us and many residents. My mother came from a middle-class background in Guyana. I can imagine the unpleasant shock she received arriving in the UK, making a life for herself. Previously living in a colourful, warm, vibrant world only to arrive in England the cold, the sepia tones, stained the lives of those she would interact with as a nurse. The nasty taste of barely disguised racism and then there was returning home to the housing estate’s depravation. Those born into poverty the world over are a large willfully unseen group. The eye skips uncomfortably over signs of poverty. A street hawker, someone who begs, with visible signs of malnourishment, unwashed, clothes in disrepair. They: showing signs of both distrust and a rapacious need, cause discomfort and a wish of ours to not associate. The idea – distance creates separation and less chance of being infected with their version of ‘lack’. Those who live below a poverty line in most of our societies are potentially us. A few missed mortgage or rent payments, losing ones employment could transform a seemingly wealthy person into the needy. Take time to notice both the privilege and the possibility of upheaval. The notion that we are more deserving – untrue. In actuality due to some degree of luck, choice, support and determination provided an outcome that has us living remarkably differently.
The piece below plays on some of the themes discussed in Willfully Unseen. Derrick Hodge’s ‘Looking At You’ repeatedly offers in this piece of music that ‘I see you.’ A statement, a refrain, a memory of being with…
Looking At You Derrick Hodge
Bird Photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash