I Am Who I Am

I Am Who I Am

Where we are as individuals is a product of our upbringing, environment and the people with whom we surround ourselves.

I'm a grown up, I know this seems as obvious as the colour of my skin but I feel I need to be clear. It means I take responsibility for my actions. I stand by what I say, how I behave, how that impacts on others and if need be, apologise for when I get it wrong. In some areas of my life and work it has taken me longer to grow, thankfully I live and work with people who will tell me about myself as I surround myself with people who I can level with and learn from.

My directing work has given me the opportunity to scrutinise fellow artists in detail and technical workers as well as my own intentions, asking the questions of the work and ourselves until we get closer to the story we are trying to tell. I watch and listen keenly to 'our' world.

I am who I am because of the particular circumstances of being born in Britain in the early 70's, raised in a Jamaican household by two politically aware parents, and watching from London the 80's uprisings against racial injustice. I am who I am because I went to a primary school that valued arts and took us to national museums, which always seemed to be in London, and a high school where the teachers were aware enough to place Maya Angelou on the curriculum and introduce me to August Wilson's Fences, so that I too could at least start on my journey in theatre with a closer relevance to my life experience and understanding of the world. At that point in my young life I had more in common with a middle aged Black women from the USA then let's say Antigone... I now understand that with the right tools we have humanity as a commonality, but I was 17 at the time and glad for the opportunity to roll the incredible power of magnificent words written by a Black man for a Black woman speaking our truth, which I’d had little opportunity to hear up to that point, much less speak.

I am who I am because I have been invited on a number of occasions to step up and serve on boards and committees and have learnt precious lessons along the way, watching closely when a leader had to be challenged as well as celebrated and stepping up the courage to say so when required. Speaking truth to power was never easy but listening to the silence was worse. I have a lived experience of power not always being right and an ingrained, overdeveloped attitude to challenge for the greater good for all.

As the Artistic Associate at Hull Truck Theatre part of my role as a Change Maker is to not only learn the ropes but to ask the question - why it is done that way? I have been invited as part of the Senior Management Team to observe and support all areas of practice. This role, alongside my fellow Change Makers up and down the country, has been made possible because of all the years of hard work and investment and, truth be told, the acceptance from Arts Council that there has been a lack of pace around underrepresented leaders from a wider range of backgrounds. This requires a strategy for positive change. This has now been put in place and we will see where it takes us. I have led and I have been led.

My heroes include freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, Jamaican poet and exquisite linguist Dr Louise Bennet, the powerful writers of truth James Baldwin and his best friend Dr Maya Angelou who changed my life from first discovery and left a powerful legacy of using their life and work doing what they could from where they were. This informs my life and work and has stood me in good stead so far. It's a good opportunity towards continued change. I'm glad I'm here in Hull.

Image credit: Balvinder Sopal & AH Chol Theatre - Paul Floyd Blake