Love

They Taught Me More Than They’ll Ever Know

I couldn’t write about the people who played a special part in my 2018 without writing about Queen’s Gardens.  I spent a significant portion of my time in Queen’s over spring and summer, bringing me into contact with a number of people who I continue to love, in spite of what may have passed between some of us.

Queen’s is one of the strangest and most interesting places in Croydon, because of the mixture of characters you will find there, and also because of what takes place there.  It is kind of like a bubble, a community within a community, which you come to realise the deeper you ingratiate yourself with the people there.  I learnt a lot – good, bad and useful – which I will definitely be taking forward in my life.

I’ve developed relationships with some beautiful people, who I happily speak to and spend time with whenever I see them.  Due to some of their lifestyles, I won’t be using their “government” names or naming them at all.  If they were to read this, I’d hope they know who they are though.

I’ve known my Jamesy-James for a couple of years now, and he’s always been someone I find easy to talk to, although I can’t put my finger on why.  I guess he’s a great listener, and is definitely an all round lovely person.  I’m always excited to see him.  I’ve known and been friends with Gamma for a couple of years too, but I got to know him a lot more this year.  Gamma always finds a way to make me laugh, and I’ll never forget when he had me cracking up when we were hanging out in the summer one time.  I also love that he calls me ‘Poetry Queen’ – just saying.

Win is a really, really lovely human being.  He’s easy to get on with, easy to talk to and easy to be around.  We got on immediately, from the moment we met in summer.  After not seeing him for a few months, it was nice to bump into him randomly, spend some time chatting on a walk and then go to Kaspas.  Whenever I’m with him, I know I’ll always be looked after and treated right.  And you’ve got Frankie, who I first met in spring, but quickly warmed up to and also got on well with – he looks out for me too.

I saw more of a beautiful lady I met last year, who is always warm and quick to greet me.  When I ask her how she is, I love the response she gives, which is such a mouthful that I cannot remember it all.  I also met a young woman this year, who I found sweet, despite being very rough around the edges.  She is always quick to greet me too and ready for a little conversation.

After meeting him at the soup kitchen the church I attend puts on, I came to see more of this ball of energy at Queen’s during the summer months – let’s call him My Darlin.  Like I mentioned, My Darlin is a ball of energy, talking quickly, walking quickly and often on the move.  He is truly lovely, with a heart of gold and caring nature.  He’s always got a story to tell too, which can often be amusing.

There are so many others I could mention, including a kind-hearted sweetie who made me feel like family, and a group of Eritreans, including a beauty who brings me joy with his beautiful, bright smile and shining eyes.  However, I came to spend quite a lot of my time with a particular group, who will always have a place in my heart (some of them have a special place).  No matter what has gone down with them, I want the best for all of them and I will always keep them in my prayers.  I don’t think they realise the impact they have had on my life and how much I have learnt from them.

Through one member of this group, I came to meet a genuine, down-to-earth, lovely person, who is studying youth work (I think he’s going to be a great youth worker), and I could have proper conversations with.  I have time for him any day.

However, it was the one who introduced us that has probably had one of the largest impacts on me this year – we’ll call him my Knight (in Shining Armour).  Out of everyone from Queen’s, I think I ended up spending the most amount of time with my Knight.  I initially met him last year, but we didn’t really speak, which all changed this spring.  Somehow, we began to talk more and more, as we became properly comfortable with each other.  The conversation flowed and we got to know each other better, which was made easier by his raw honesty.

Like people I tend to get on with best, he made me laugh, although sometimes he would joke around too much.  He looked out for me, like many of the people in Queen’s would do, but he went above and beyond in some ways by being very protective – not in a creepy way though.  However, what I think most stands out about my Knight is the sense of calm he would bring me, especially when I would get stressy over the actions of certain individuals – it was funny how much he would come up with sensible things my sister would probably say.  He’s got a really good heart as well.

As strange as Queen’s can be, meeting people from there has made me a better, more resilient person and more streetwise person.  I don’t think they even realise how much I love all of them.

They Warmed My Heart & Made My Year More Beautiful

As you probably know by now, I’m a poet, so portions of my life are spent with poets and around the poetry scene, which brings me happiness and a wealth of other emotions.  This year has been spent in the world of poetry a lot more for me, bringing a lot of great people into my orbit.

I am beyond thankful to the stellar poet, who is Anthony Anaxagorou, for bringing me into the world of Out-Spoken.  Out-Spoken not only wows and inspires me, but the poetry and music onstage has enriched my soul on a number of occasions.  In November, I went to Out-Spoken feeling emotionally drained and was uplifted by the gorgeous, soulful sounds of Thabo, who was exactly what I needed on that day.  In December, I teared up to the ridiculously powerful poetry of Chimene Suleyman, then cried my eyes out to Lowkey’s emotion-fuelled, politically charged music.  They were both incredible nights; in fact, every night at Out-Spoken is incredible.

Going to Out-Spoken is also the perfect opportunity to see Anthony and Joelle (who I met during Rallying Cry) on a regular basis – both lovely human beings who always make me smile.   Anthony is also brilliant at convincing me to buy books.  Seeing Tom is great too, who I met through Spread The Word, and its been lovely to meet the ultra talented Karim and Kaia as well.

Paul was someone I’d known in cyber form for a couple of years, but I finally met him in the flesh at my poetry night in April.  He is a wonderful human being, who wowed us with his stage presence and made it clear that he wanted to support me and Young People Insight (YPI) as much as he could from the outset.

He stayed true to his word, putting out a photo of the two of us, captioning it with info about what I do and a call to action.  He also invited me to perform at Field Day in the summer with The Chocolate Poetry Club, his poetry organisation.  I was beyond grateful for the opportunity, as it was the biggest festival I had performed at up until that point and it provided me with another platform to get my poetry heard.  I’m so glad to have people like Paul in my orbit.

Field Day was where I met Usaama face to face for the first time, after being in contact through YPI on the Twtittersphere for a significant period of time.  I’d seen his work online, but watching Usaama perform his poetry in person is special.  What’s funny is that after finally meeting him in the flesh, I went on to seem him perform three more times throughout the year, including a few days later at Out-Spoken, none the less.

What I’ve come to love most though is not Usaama the poet, but Usaama the person.  We’ve sat together at three of the four events I’ve seen him perform at this year, so we’ve been able to chat a little bit.  His personality is unique, he always makes me laugh and he never fails to engage me in interesting conversation.  However, what makes Usaama really stand out is the amazing, beautiful compliments he gives that warm my heart and soul.  These aren’t basic, face-value compliments, but they are compliments that speak to the inner-most parts of my being and character.  Everyone needs someone in their life who compliments them like Usaama.

Then there is the lovely, supportive, community-orientated Darren from Well Versed Ink, who asked YPI to be one of the partner organisations for LIP Fest 2018.  Shout out to Justine (Well Versed Ink), Jemilea (Writerz & Scribez), Ted and Peter (Poets Anonymous) as well – I was happy to see it come to life with you all and I can’t wait to see how it develops next year.

And one of my favourite poetry nights, What You Saying, put together by the wonderful Humi, Daisy, Nomes and Nikki.  They have created a beautiful event that exudes a beautiful atmosphere, which I miss whenever I’m not there.  I’ve also met some beautiful people at their nights to, including Manj, Roe, Louise, and Nay, who I enjoy catching up with whenever we’re there.

Poetry has become one of my great loves and I’m blessed to share it with so many great people.  I hope their presence in my life will continue and that their creativity will continue to grow.  Love them all.

They Made My Summer Even Brighter

Two of my highlights over the summer, which was without a doubt my favourite time of this year, were associated with church.  It’s probably obvious by now, but it was the people involved who contributed to making these events so memorable and highlights of my year.

I’ve been helping out at VBS (Vacation Bible School) for 14 years now, which is a staggering feat to me, especially as I am only 26.  I always love being a part of VBS and I will continue to help every year I can – I try to ensure that I’m available whenever VBS is taking place, getting the date in my diary months in advance.

For some reason, I enjoyed VBS this year a whole lot more than I have in a long time.  I loved the songs, I loved the set up of the hall, I loved all of the various activities and I loved my group of children – I’m always a Crew Leader, which involves supporting, looking after and taking a group of children around to the various stations.  Some of my favourite moments were when the children came running forward to splash me with water during one of their games, and the group hugs with my crew.

All my crew had a very differing set of personalities and characteristics, which made them an interesting collective that raised a varying set of challenges.  I’m always up for challenges though and we got through the week positively, with me striking up a bond with each of them.  There was one girl who was particularly funny, with her hard to please persona and who came out with the most unexpected comments.  She also took to counting how many songs we sung or were played each day, which was fun to keep track of – I’d regularly ask her what the total was throughout.  It is those little things that make the experience all the more enjoyable.

It’s also quite nice to be part of VBS with family and long-time friends.  My cousin, Sophia, was the VBS leader, assisted by her sister Rochelle, who both did an amazing job of pulling VBS together, in spite of some adversities along the way.  Sophia is genuinely made for this and I commend her for all she did.  My mum and my Aunty Debra led out in some of the rooms, making them an engaging experience for all of us.  It was great having brother and sister duo, Klavel and Si-Ann, lead out on the games – friends who are family to me.  And there was my cousin Kavan, who was a fellow Crew Leader.

A week after VBS had wrapped up, it was time for the Croydon Youth Extravaganza, which led up to our Youth Day.  The Extravaganza was well thought out and a special experience throughout the week that brought us all together, but the Youth Day was beyond beautiful.  I could not have been prouder of Si-Ann for all that she has been able to achieve and make happen with the youth this year, supported and guided by Pastor Alex, who is amazing in his own right.  I mean it when I say that Pastor Alex is a force of nature.

The whole day was emotional, well-organised and involved the majority of us youth from the church.  The four presentations in the main service were honest, relevant, useful and very special.  I was crying along with Si-Ann by the end of hers.  The play in the evening was slick, funny and made best use of everyone’s talents.  And the social in the evening was a whole lot of fun, laughter and good conversation.

For me, what made the day beyond beautiful was the people, especially being with those I had not seen for a long period of time.  I spent most of lunch with my Kay Kay – who I also had a nice meet up with a few weeks earlier along with Si-Ann – having good conversations and eating on the steps.  I exclaimed with joy when I saw my girl, Sh’kira, who I had no idea was going to be there and had not seen for a good few months – we had good chats too, as we always do.  I exclaimed with even more shock and joy when Gazza tapped me on the shoulder, as I hadn’t seen him for the longest.  We had a little conversation later in the day, but it wasn’t long enough – we fully need more time to catch up.

I swear, I filled with more and more joy as more faces I had not seen for a while began to appear.  However, I think I became full to the brim and found my heart overflowing with joy and love, when Ranen walked into the hall.  Now I literally have not seen Ranen in the flesh for years, so to be able to hug him and speak to him face to face was beautiful.  Ranen was one of the consistent faces in my life growing up, someone I could call a friend.  I also remember when he gave me his jacket to wear out in the cold at a social – a true gent.  It was great to have him around us again.

To be honest, it was just great to have so many of us in the same space again, as it doesn’t happen so often anymore.  Chilling and chatting to Arks, Gis, Sach, Charlie, Nnamdi, Ike, Ryan, Paige, Elliott, Jemel, O’Shea, JJ, Myrin, Karina and a whole lot more.  It was one of the best and happiest days I’ve had in a long time.  No matter what, I will always love my church family.