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.
Damon Mackin. 22 years of age. Mass Communications major at Shenandoah University 18'. Freelance Journalist/Photographer