Black History Month: Frazer Clarke, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Lutalo Muhammad and Khadijah Mellah discuss why heritage matters | News News



Mike Wedderburn explores the importance of heritage in a discussion with Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Frazer Clarke, Lutalo Muhammad, and Khadijah Mellah at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Mike Wedderburn explores the importance of heritage in a discussion with Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Frazer Clarke, Lutalo Muhammad, and Khadijah Mellah at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

Mike Wedderburn explores the importance of heritage in a discussion with Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Frazer Clarke, Lutalo Muhammad, and Khadijah Mellah at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

Four elite athletes discussed the importance of heritage in a special Sky Sports News discussion for part of Black History Month. Frazer Clarke, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Lutalo Muhammad and Khadijah Mellah met at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton to share their heritages, experiences, and journey.

From the worlds of boxing, athletics, taekwondo, and horse racing all four athletes brought their own unique stories but also found they shared much in common when talking about their heritage and the impact it had on their lives inside and outside sport.

Lutalo Muhammad was a taekwondo European champion in 2012 and a two-time Olympic medallist. He won bronze in 2012 at the London Olympics and won silver at Rio in 2016. He has Jamaican heritage and one of his grandparents is Nigerian. The 31-year-old, who announced his retirement from taekwondo last month, recognises the importance of his history.

Great Britain's Lutalo Muhammad celebrates winning the men's Taekwondo 80-kg semifinal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio

Great Britain’s Lutalo Muhammad celebrates winning the men’s Taekwondo 80-kg semifinal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio

He said: “Heritage matters because it’s identity. It’s important to have that sense of pride about who you are and maybe more importantly, where you come from. Having those conversations with my grandparents and parents about stories from back home, you feel connected to somewhere else.

“I’m obviously very proud to be born in Britain, very proud to be British but having that extra spice, that identity, that’s the most important thing about heritage. It’s like a cool badge that you can wear and it’s a great conversation point as well. And just a feeling of pride that you are connected to family all across the world.”

‘Feeling like an outsider and insider’

Imani-Lara Lansiquot’s background is from Saint Lucia and St Vincent through her father’s side while her mother is Nigerian. She is named after legendary West Indies cricketer Brian Lara.

She asked the other athletes: “How does it feel representing Britain but then very much being connected and feeling like your identity is rooted in African and Caribbean roots?”

Imani-Lara Lansiquot at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019

Imani-Lara Lansiquot at the World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019

The 24-year-old added: “I’ve always found that a really difficult thing to get my head around. It’s quite jarring for me mentally sometimes because even though I’m really, really proud of representing Britain, sometimes being a British athlete, it’s like you’re an insider and an outsider at the same time.

“Because as soon as I don’t have that outfit on anymore, I’m just another Black girl on the street,” adds the athlete who won bronze in the 4x100m relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Frazer Clarke, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Lutalo Muhammad and Khadijah Mellah discussing heritage for Black History Month

Frazer Clarke, Imani-Lara Lansiquot, Lutalo Muhammad and Khadijah Mellah discussing heritage for Black History Month

‘How am I going to teach my kids?’

Professional heavyweight boxer Frazer Clarke’s father is from Jamaica and his mother is English. Saying he feels “very lucky” to have a mixed heritage, he is also aware of the importance of passing his identity down to his two young children.

He said: “It’s something which I want to slap myself for because I feel like I don’t know enough and I’m still learning now and one day my elders, my family aren’t going to be here to teach me. So how am I going to teach my kids? So it’s definitely an area I want to learn. I want to get better at educating. I know enough. But I feel like with all the time and having the resources I have, I should know more.”

2020 Olympic bronze medallist Frazer Clarke with partner Danni-Leigh Robinson and children Trent and Mila

2020 Olympic bronze medallist Frazer Clarke with partner Danni-Leigh Robinson and children Trent and Mila

Clarke says food was a familiar part of his culture and upbringing. “Food for me was the big thing,” he told the group. “That was not forced on us … but it was cooked! I had no choice otherwise I was going hungry!

“Embarrassingly, I can’t cook a dish yet. I’m embarrassed to admit it at this big old age of 31. And it dawned on me the other day. “I went to a festival and someone gives me a jerk, rub and seasoning and I was thinking ‘What am I going to do with that…!’ I feel like I should know.”

After 12 years on Team GB Clarke finally competed at the Olympics last year and won a bronze medal in the super heavyweight in Tokyo.

Heavyweight Clarke admits he must learn how to cook and learn more about Jamaican cuisine

Heavyweight Clarke admits he must learn how to cook and learn more about Jamaican cuisine

‘My Jamaican heritage…I’m so proud’

Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn asked the group “Can we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve come from?”

Clarke revealed his experiences and said: “I feel like you can know where you’re going but when you’ve got that core background and the education and the understanding and the knowledge, I feel like it can just broaden your horizons.

“I’m as British as you’re going to find anyone. On Sunday we go to my grandparents. The whole family, we have a roast dinner. It’s normal. I’ve got the bald head. You can catch me in a pub with a pint. I can’t ever not be true to myself and be that person.

“But at the same time, my father, who is the reason I got into what I do, when times get hard I always say my pride is British, but my strength comes from Jamaica. And I really believe that.

Frazer Clarke celebrates victory against Jake Darnell at the AO Arena in Manchester

Frazer Clarke celebrates victory against Jake Darnell at the AO Arena in Manchester

“When I was wearing that tracksuit in the Olympics, I had a massive following in England and everyone was getting behind me, my whole town, everything.

“But I also know that in Islington, Jamaica, there was a bunch of people in front of a not-so-big TV screaming and shouting and supporting.

“What I can tell you is I’m so proud of the place that my father grew up because it made him the person he is, which ultimately made me the person I am. I can never go away from that.”

‘Who do I stand for? Can I stand for both?’

Khadijah Mellah has a North African and East African background. Her father is from Algeria and mother from Kenya. She is Britain’s first hijab-wearing jockey and learned to ride at the Ebony Horse Club charity in Brixton. She sat on a racehorse for the first time in April 2019 and six months later became the first British Muslim woman to win a horse race in the UK.

Mellah, who is 21 and the youngest of the group, said: “Growing up I definitely had like a weird identity crisis where I was like: ‘Who do I stand for? Can I have a duality? Can I stand for both? And when do I step up as a Black woman? When do I step up as a hijabi? When do I step up as a British individual Londoner’?”

Khadijah Mellah after winning the Magnolia Cup on Haverland in 2019 at the Qatar Goodwood Festival

Khadijah Mellah after winning the Magnolia Cup on Haverland in 2019 at the Qatar Goodwood Festival

“As an athlete I’m always proud of everything that I stand for in terms of my religion, my race, and where I’m born. But I definitely think historically speaking, that’s when it gets sticky for me because how do I carry myself and my opinions and my political beliefs? And that’s when there’s tension that I feel like conversations got a little bit sticky.”

Lansiquot, who is also a 2019 world silver medallist, added: You feel like you’re almost betraying sometimes one side of yourself if you are in the athlete lane, or if you’re trying to be a campaigner – you don’t know if they can exist in the same space sometimes.”

Muhammad explained his view on representing Great Britain. He said: “My grandparents came here to work first of all, and they came here for a better opportunity for their children and their grandchildren. That’s always what I’ve had in my mind when I’ve been representing GB. I’m in my way giving back to that sacrifice that they made.

“They came here to a strange, cold country, where the reality is they faced extreme prejudice and racism when they came here. Me being able to do what I do, I kind of see as a way of honouring their legacy.”

‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown’

Mellah spoke about the pressure of being a trailblazer in racing as she helps others with a similar heritage to break barriers in the same sport. How did her community react to her success?

“A lot of them were like ‘we’ve never seen this before maybe we should see it more’,” she said.

“I’ve got young girls and young boys even messaging me ‘how do I get involved?’ I think it’s been very overwhelmingly positive and very uplifting.

Khadijah Mellah is the UK's first female Muslim jockey and also became the first rider to race in a hijab in Britain

Khadijah Mellah is the UK’s first female Muslim jockey and also became the first rider to race in a hijab in Britain

“I feel like now there’s a weight on my shoulders. As Stormzy said ‘heavy is the head that wears the crown’. I’m now realising that I’m going to have to carry this sort of responsibility of trying to guide the youth into sports that they have never navigated before.

“And I’m a very extroverted person. I don’t mind walking into a room and being loud, bubbly and talking and get myself in there. But for the young people that do have talent but don’t necessarily have the confidence, it’s about just giving them that push.

“It feels a little bit like, there’s pressure that I need to perform and be the best example possible. And it does take a toll sometimes, but I think it’s a huge privilege to be able to be a figurehead and try and encourage and do better for our community and expand not only the Muslim, but the black community to try different sports that aren’t ‘the average’.”

‘Commonwealth Games: were we betraying our culture?’

Clarke, the 2018 Commonwealth champion, and 2022 silver medallist Lansiquot said they really enjoyed the experience of competing at the Commonwealth Games and said it was a lot of fun. But with its history when it started in 1930 as the British Empire Games, Lansiquot admits she has doubts over its future.

The sprinter competed at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year and said: “A lot of us athletes from African and Caribbean backgrounds said it’s amazing because it happens once every four years. But at the same time, we felt like we were betraying our culture and our family and our history.

England's Imani-Lara Lansiquot, competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, says participating at the Games brings a "mixed bag of emotions"

England’s Imani-Lara Lansiquot, competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, says participating at the Games brings a “mixed bag of emotions”

“If I’m honest, it’s a mixed bag of emotions for me because I do think that Commonwealth Games now are rooted in better values in terms of humanity and equality. But you can’t forget the past. And if I’m honest, I don’t know how much longer it will continue.

“I don’t know how much longer the Commonwealth will continue, because a lot of countries are claiming their independence now. Another thing that was really highlighted to me at the Games [was] just how many countries in the Commonwealth are not doing well and how many countries in the Commonwealth come to England and are claiming asylum or going to Australia and doing the exact same thing.

“And these are issues that are really still current and still happening and it does feel a little bit awkward sometimes glossing it all over with this festival of sport – which is amazing – but these issues are very real and they exist.

“So as much as I loved my experience there, there were quite sinister undertones to it as someone of Black heritage.”

Mike Wedderburn’s view

Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn chaired the discussion with the four athletes and gave his thoughts…

In 1990 the Conservative politician Norman Tebbit declared that if immigrants from the Caribbean and their children supported the West Indies Cricket team rather than England then those families were not sufficiently integrated into British society.

Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn feels black athletes are more open and honest about their identity and heritage

Sky Sports News presenter Mike Wedderburn feels black athletes are more open and honest about their identity and heritage

What Tebbit and his crude test spectacularly failed to understand was the difficulties and complexities of being Black and British. Imagine representing a country that invaded the continent of Africa, forcibly took your ancestors from their home and enslaved them in the Caribbean for generations. All this to provide wealth and luxury for the enslavers on the back of misery, mistreatment and death for Black people. Is there any wonder that modern-day individuals are conflicted?

On top of that, Black people are still subject to views like those expressed by the Labour MP Rupa Huq. She recently referred to Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, as being ‘superficially’ black because “if you were to hear him on the Today programme you wouldn’t know he is black.”

The Duchess of Cambridge is shown Taekwondo moves by Lutalo Muhammad at the London Stadium in 2020

The Duchess of Cambridge is shown Taekwondo moves by Lutalo Muhammad at the London Stadium in 2020

In the heart of a vibrant and wonderfully cosmopolitan Brixton in London, I addressed these issues and more with four intelligent, educated Black sportspeople. What struck me immediately was their fearlessness to be honest. Gone are the days when Black people temper what they say to make things more palatable for a white audience. This generation is going to say what it thinks.

So there was no shirking from the difficulties of the concept of the Commonwealth Games. The Games were originally called the Empire Games and countries once conquered and owned by the UK compete in sport. The consensus was that despite being the sporting equivalent of the Notting Hill Carnival there is a jarring aspect to their history which means the Games like the Commonwealth itself is not long for this world.

Four athletes discussed heritage, identity, and culture at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

Four athletes discussed heritage, identity, and culture at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton

It was no surprise to hear the four talk about the unnerving experience of being an insider and outsider at the same time. The knowledge that once out of the international vest they were just another Black person walking down the street and all that entails.

They are fully aware that, for some, they have to be exceptional to be fully considered British and they slip from this at their peril. You only have to look at the treatment of the Black England footballers after the European Championships final penalty shootout to see the all too horrific reality of this.

The pressure comes from within Black communities too. The Black population demands and relies on our stars to lift us from the everyday. Sport is often the catalyst and all four have embraced that pressure. They know that through them the narrative of how Black people are viewed can be changed. They have my respect and admiration.

Watch the full hour discussion on ‘Why Heritage Matters’ with all four athletes on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Arena on Tuesday at 10pm.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *