Tim from London recalls growing up in the east end of the city, dealing with racism and how ageism is now his main concern for his future job prospects.
The 54-year-old has recently come to question whether his age will be more of a barrier than the colour of his skin.
I was born in the UK, and as a young child of the 70s I grew up in Canning Town in East London, which was rife with racism in those days. I spent most of my teenage years living in Stratford and moved to Wembley 20 years ago. In my early 30s I had what I call my epiphany moment: I reflected on who I was and what I was doing. I wanted to have a purpose, to invest in the people I knew and the community I lived in. I’d been working in retail for most of my 20s, but then I moved into the voluntary sector, first of all working for the YMCA to address health inequalities within the Black community. Now I work for a housing organisation that manages homes on behalf of a local council. I work with communities – with everyone from babies up to 100-year-olds. Before this role, I lead on community development supporting older people in sheltered housing and care homes, making sure they had a decent quality of life. A lot of that was about how you bridge the gap between older and younger generations. As you get older, you start thinking about the things that you’d want to be in place for you when you’re in your 60s, 70s and so on. In my job, I’ve worked to make sure people have as good a quality of life as possible.
I loved to dance when I was younger and I love RnB, soul and hip hop, but as I’ve matured with age I’ve found an appreciation for wider music genres – my music influences have come from many of my diverse friends. Over the past 5-10 years this has changed – for example I enjoy listening to indie music and attending a wide genre of live gigs and festivals – it’s one of the things I’ve missed most during lockdown. Sometimes I’m one of the oldest at gigs. My son enjoys some of the same style of music as me, and we have been to gigs together. A while ago, we went to a gig in Islington and I went outside for a quick cigarette, only to find there were quite a few people of my age standing around outside. I wondered who they were – then it dawned on me that these were the parents of the people at the gig, waiting to be picked up, but these things don’t bother me.
For me, the conversation about racism is both a tiring and draining thing to continuously talk about.
It’s been many years since I felt the colour of my skin was a barrier to gaining a job – I’ve always had a positive approach. We as Black people don’t always have this, it's important not to put negative perceptions ahead of reality. Always see yourself as a man/woman first before the colour of your skin. As I’ve got older, a different fear factor has creeped up in my thoughts – ageism, believing "if I leave my job in search of something different, will my age be a barrier rather than the colour of my skin?" I’m not getting any younger and I wonder whether opportunities will exist for me elsewhere.
There’s been a lot of trauma in my family over the past few years that’s made me think about the things I would like to have in place for the future, not just for me but for my family. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I spoke to many male friends, I wanted to raise awareness and encourage everyone I knew to get checked and keep themselves healthy. I’ve lost family and friends who passed away too young due to cancer – and you think, how can that happen at that age?
In my youth I would say I was quite pro-Black, gaining inspiration from Afrocentric hip hop music, listening to Young Black Teachers, X Clan to Jungle Brothers. If I had to compare… back then I was more Malcolm X and now I’d say I’m a mellowed Martin Luther King. Racism in the 70s and 80s was different from how it is now. Back then, if someone was racist, you would know, they would tell you, it was directly in front of you. Now… it’s under the cuff. Being first generation, I've experienced what racism is, what violence is. For me, the conversation about racism is both a tiring and draining thing to continuously talk about. My hope is for the next generation of all colours to pick up the mantle and continue to raise awareness of the cause.