Project Description

Joan Ferguson


I was born in St Ann, Jamaica, came to England to join my mother, stepfather, one older brother who came to England several years before me, a younger one.
My mother was expecting another child who was born just after a month after my arrival in the UK.
I attended secondary school at Langdon Comprehensive in East London, the local Evangelical church for many years into adulthood.
I live in East London, and after working in different professions all over London, settled to working as an External supervisor and Key Worker in Local Authority Youth Service. My work is with children, families and young people.

Several of my poems were published in an Anthology with Magic Me Pen friends, London in 2008. I am currently working on three poetry books, one for children and young people and the other for adults.

My work is influenced mainly by my personal experiences in life, as well as events, which unfolds during my every day encounter with other people.

From one Exile to Another

Growing up in the East End of London, and having gone through many challenges as a child, and young adult I longed to go back home to the place of my birth, the family I left behind who knew and understood me.

It was in 1980 when I decided to take a trip; one, which I thought, would put an end to all the confusion, ill treatment and misunderstandings.

I wanted to go back home to see how easy it would be to return and settle there in the country I had lived in with my maternal Grandmother, Aunts, Cousins and friends. How hard could it be to fit right back in and be accepted as me, I wondered to myself.

My trip came about after hearing Margaret Thatcher who was Prime Minister at the time, stated ‘they should go back to their own countries’.

Excited about the prospect of seeing my family again, I wrote a letter and booked my flight, so that they could prepare for my return.

I am going home at last I thought, and everything is going to be all right
Or so I thought.

My plan was to visit first, and return to England pack my bags and go back Jamaica to the family I knew and loved for as long as I could remember.

I remember thinking I don’t need her to throw me out, I know where I am from
Chester district, St Ann, Jamaica that’s where I am from
I didn’t ask to come here, didn’t even want to come. I had no choice I was sent to join my mother, her husband and step brothers. The people in my family here were all strangers to me except an older brother who I followed; he came to England before me.

I could not wait to see everyone; I tried to remember what they all looked like
When I saw them last, and smiled at the thought of seeing my family again
It did not take me long, to see how everyone had changed
What I got was requests, for all the things they wanted from me I imagined what “Santa Claus” feel every Christmas Eve trying to meet the requests from those who believed in him.
I went bearing gifts for everyone, but it was not enough for some, they wanted my last pair of shoes even the thin high heel ones which they could not walk in properly.

Several family members often asked ‘ when are you going back’?
Leave me those shoes, handbag and hat, “how comes you wear such high heels”?
I remembered how I had felt at the thought of returning to the people I left behind the excitement, anticipation, and memories flowing my mind of how things use to be when we all lived together as one big family.

After a long flight to Heathrow of about nine hours, I was back here in England queuing up to get back into this country.
I joined the line I thought I fit under and waited to be checked by Immigration and customs.
It wasn’t long before I realised that I did not belong there, and did not belong here

I know Africa is the motherland, but they speak a language I don’t understand
Where in West Africa am I from?
Is it Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal or another place on the West Coast, which I don’t know?
How will I ever find out when black people are mixed with so many other countrymen?

What I do know is this; I am in exile here and was in exile there
So I’ll carry on here for now, until it’s time to go somewhere new
If not on this side then, the other is definite that I do know
It all fits into a divine plan bigger than man

Poem by: Joan Ferguson