Now how did I end up in London on accident you ask? Let me digress. The point of the trip was to cover a pro-life abortion demonstration for a group project. I thought we were going to Richmond, U.K for the rally. You would think I would realize I was in London when one of my group members was explaining to me that Big Ben was under maintenance, and that the rally was across the street from the Parliament building. But I thought nothing of it. I was zoned in on getting some good footage from the demonstration. I even took a picture of Big Ben and it still did not sink in that I was in London. It took me to see the London Eye, and numerous souvenir booths for it to actually resonate.
The feeling that came over me once I came to reality was that of walking around all day with toilet paper on your shoe from a post meal visit to the toilet. I have never been to New York (and I lived on the east coast of the US my entire life), but I imagine that London mirrors the city in many aspect. That is all I am going to tell you; to get a full debrief of the city I encourage you to arrange a trip there.
What did my two day stay in Birmingham, U.K teach me you ask?
A metropolitan city in the U.K, is just like a metropolitan city in the U.S.A.
My stay in Birmingham was for the J.Cole 4 Your Eyez Only tour concert, that was taking place at the Birmingham Arena that weekend. J.I.D and Earthgang were two names on the roster that I really wanted to see: and I grew a appreciation for the lovely vocals of Arri Lennox. These are all artist I recommend to any Hip-Hop/R&B fans reading this.
But that is not the point of this post.
Madsen (my girlfriend) and I stayed at a Airbnd on Birchfield Rd, which was a few blocks over from Lezolls, and Villa Rd. Where we stayed was next to a barbershop, window tint shop, convenient store, and kebab shop (which our host recommended that we not eat at). We were in what a ignorant person might call "the ghetto"; but to me, we were in the hood (not in the negatively connotative meaning, I will explain).
My dad is from Baltimore City, Maryland. For those of you who do not know what the real Baltimore, Maryland looks like, google it. It is a prime example of the American system failing its people. But the people who habitat Baltimore seem to keep a high moral about them that lets you know, they are from Baltimore and they are proud.
When traveling down Lezolls and Villa Rd, the sense of high morality illuminated from the people regardless of the environmental circumstance, just like the people of Baltimore. The demographics of these neighborhoods ranged from West Asian/Middle Eastern (Pakistan, Iraq, ect.), African, and Caribbean people. I call areas like these the hood because, city areas with a melting-pot of different cultures in one area seem to create a since of brother/sisterhood between its people, and to those who visit their community. Our Airbnb host told Madsen, him and her were two of the few white people who were in the area: and my man was not lying. But that meant nothing at all once we began our road to road trek.
From first glance, people knew we were not from the area, or even the country when we opened our mouth: and they approached unquestionably, and asked us questions and sparked conversations. Some people even asked if I could take pictures of them when they saw me holding my camera: even if it meant holding up traffic. The appearance of the different cultural backgrounds was apparent. There were Caribbean food spots down the street from kabab shops; a mosque across the street from a church of god, and about 10 different barbershops in a 5 mile radius. It brought back memories of summers spent in Baltimore at my grandma's house.
A moment that stuck with me from occurred in a friend chicken restaurant. We went to grab some chips (fries) from Tennessee Chicken (yes, Tennessee Chicken in Birmingham, U.K) to compliment our packed sandwiches, and I just so happen ask the manager of the if I could take a photo of him during his lunch break. At the time I did not know it was the manager, until he started a conversation with us.
Like my man Quasi Manu: who explained to me his venture to the Fanti Lands in Ghana and how the elders there told him about his heritage and where his people were before they were enslaved by the Europeans. He explained to me how I look of Ghanian decent, and encouraged me to visit the Fanti Lands before I leave this earth. They will tell me who I was during the European demise of the African culture. Damon Mackin (Mackin/Mackmahan (original family name until it was changed) which he think is a Scottish/Irish last name, is my slave name. They will let me know my real family name once I visit the ancestral grounds, as they did for him.
His name is Abdul: he told us his story and how he ended up where he is today, and asked if we were uni (college) students. Once we replied yes, he quickly offered us free veggie burgers, and anything else we wanted. His reasoning for for doing this was because he once was in our position, and even though we had money, he insisted on giving us the food for free because he put himself back in that position. That one moment gave me hope, that there are people out in this world, who are selfless enough to think about more than themselves.
(To hear more of a explanation of his story, and why he offered us the house, watch the video at the end of this post.)
There was trash from street corner to street corner, fast food establishments on ever end of the street, and your typical homeless person (or addict) asking for spare change. But this did not represent all the people of this amazing community. The people we encountered had a high moral/pride, and what seemed like a appreciation of life: that made the negative aspects transparent. It made me realize that it does not matter about your situation, it is about the soul that lives within all of us. And for that Lezolls and Villa Rd in Birmingham, U.K will forever hold a special place in my heart. I will be back.
I never would have thought that a fellow American would be my tour guide around my new environment. But Alexander Fitzhugh from Ashland, Oregon a.k.a The Danger Adventurer did just that. To be a first timer here, it sure did not seem like it. He took me to premiere locations such as St. Giles and St. Katherine hills as if he was a local. He inspired me to get out and venture around the city, get lost, and enjoy everything that this experience has to offer; and for that, I thank you Mr. Fitzhugh.
Life and emotions are each as unpredictable as the weather these days. With the state the world is in now, it is understandable as to why there are so many cases of anxiety and depression. Compassion, the human spirit, and communication all seem to be fading away and being replaced by internet outlets that create mass narcissism and heartless dialogue. At least that is what it feels like to me more than often.
I would like you to ask, and answer these questions to yourself:
1.) Who controls everything you do on a daily basis?
2.) Who is responsible for making sure you survive on this planet?
3.) Who hears the thoughts that your mind constructs?
4.) Who do you have to lay down with at the end of the day?
Now from the blog title you should know the answers to those questions already. But for those of you who do not get it, I will digress for you.
There are many influential aspects that can contribute to our psyche and everyday life. But what it all comes down to, is the person reading this blog post, YOU.
You can blame someone for his or her actions. But do you blame yourself for your own? Do you ever think about the situations that you are going through and how you got yourself in one to begin with? Do you take time to think about you on a conscience level and not by a internet reward system.
If you cannot sit down and hold yourself accountable for the situations in which you put yourself, then my friend, it is time to do some soul searching. Being brought up in a 1st world country allows us to make our own choices every day we wake up, no matter what walks of life you come from.
People can influence you. However, no one controls you, but you. You can not control life, but you can control how you react to it. It is a battle of you versus you, until you die. Who is going to win?
Damon Mackin. 22 years of age. Mass Communications major at Shenandoah University 18'. Freelance Journalist/Photographer