“I wanted to reclaim an area that we [Black men] could talk about ourselves and make us three-dimensional and make us whole humans because that kind of space has been taken from us.” Derek Owusu, author of SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, is clear about why this book is needed.
Likened by many to be the male version of last year’s bestselling Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, SAFE is a timely anthology, shedding much-needed light on the real life challenges and realities of Black men living in Britain today. A veritable roll call of top Black British poets, writers, musicians, actors and journalists contribute their narrative and essays, including poet Suli Breaks, award-winning author Alex Wheatle, Channel 4 news reporter Symeon Brown, Guardian journalist Joseph Harker and many more.
As Black women, we recognise the reality that nobody can speak our truth, and likewise, who better than Black men to raise discussions on topics such as where Black men belong in school, in the media, in their own families, in the conversation about mental health, in the LGBT community, in grime music etc.
An endorsement quote by Diane Abbott describes it best:
“We all know the narrative, images and media stories around Black men often play to negative stereotypes, but in this collection, we see Black men re-writing those scripts to explore their identities and their experiences in their own words.”
A writer, published poet and podcaster (he’s one third of Mostly Lit) North Londoner, Derek Owusu, collated, edited and contributed to SAFE, which is published by Trapeze Books. It’s no coincidence that SAFE is being compared to Slay In Your Lane (SIYL), Derek is very good friends with Yomi Adegoke, one of the authors of SIYL. During a recent interview with Waterstones, Derek explained just how involved Yomi was in kick starting the process to get the book written and published.
He said: “SAFE is essentially the conversation about diversity happening at the moment. It’s very focused on Black women, rightly so. But if we’re serious about this diversity conversation, all voices need to be included, including Black men. So, this is our attempt to jump into the conversation.”
I found the experience of reading this book quite emotional. This is the closest you are going to get to understanding the mind machinations of your husband, brother or male friend. From Alex ‘Reads’ Holmes’s [Also one third of Mostly Lit] musings in ‘What’s In A Name?’, (insightful), to Yomi Sode’s essay on grappling with the F-Word (no, not the four-letter one) which brought me to tears. I can relate so hard to his relationship with his father and reflections on his ‘what-if’ moments.
Buy this book for yourself and get one for the men in your life too. We leave you with an excerpt from the book. Enjoy…
The F-word – Yomi Sode
“Worn out, embarrassed and pretty much fed up of the mistreatment, Tina Turner decides to listen to her gut instinct and leave her husband, Ike. I remember the scene from the biopic vividly. The speed she got out of the bed to wake the kids, getting them dressed, frantically trying to hold composure while on the phone to her mother, the Jesus, Jesus in realizing the enormity of this decision.
She leaves on the coach, not looking back, only to arrive at the destination with Ike already waiting for her. I watch on as Tina runs towards Ike, who now has the kids in the car, screaming for them to get out, but she’s too late. A stand-off happens in the rain where she’s left with little choice but to get in the car.
At weddings, my father and mother would stand and join the other invited guests in welcoming the bride and groom. At some point during the joyful proceedings of the day, my father would say to my mother, ‘This could be you, if you . . .’. What came after the ‘if you’ is not important, but I believe it cemented her worth in the relationship. It was as constant as a reoccurring dream, or nightmare. Like Tina, one day the coin dropped for Mum. Ask me what the drop was for Tina and I couldn’t tell you, but having a piece of cake shoved in your face against your will in front of friends and family definitely ranks up on the list of fucked-up things to do. While Dad was no Ike, he still did enough to convince her the end was nigh.
Nine years old. Mum woke me up the night she decided to leave my father. I walked into the living room seeing uncles and aunties moving the last parts of our belongings out of the house. I remember the silence when packing our things and their hushed tones when speaking. Unlike Tina, this was a plan in the making for over nine months. Unlike Ike, my father returned to an empty home that evening, then (with family in tow) stormed to my grandmother’s compound shouting ‘Where is she! Where is my son?’ repeatedly, but no wall, dog, ceiling fan or grandmother uttered a word. […]
Many moons ago my mother left my father in what I can only describe as an Ocean’s 8-type execution that left him emasculated and alone. I doubt my father has forgiven her. There’s this man thing regarding pride that would rather struggle underwater than rise to the surface for breath. I go further to add the specific type of stubbornness worn by an African man that I’ve grown to know. The kind that will get married and have children that soon grow their own animosity. The kind that’ll watch his grandson grow to be four without a call to wish him happy birthday, not once.
My father is still hurting after all these years and his children and grandchildren are paying the price. I remember writing a three- page letter to him when I was younger. The letter was a plea to him and our relationship, my willingness to work if he, too, was willing to work. His response was one page that addressed my grammatical errors, nothing else, and that never left me.”
Buy SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space here.