Leeds-based poet, playwright and activist, Khadijah Ibrahim, has recently released her debut poetry collection, Another Crossing, in which she explores, through her own personal experiences, the ever-changing identities of the many ethnically diverse communities in our city.
Born in Leeds of Jamaican heritage, Khadijah went on to study Arabic and Middle Eastern studies at our very own Leeds University. As part of her degree, she spent a year in Yemen, and this experience inspired her to study the history of North Africa more deeply, an influence which can still be seen clearly in her poetry today. She was exposed to new ways of writing, and allowed her work to be influenced by, among other things, classic poets and Sufi philosophy. In recent years she has founded Leeds Young Authors organisation, to develop the confidence of young people through creative expression, and spoke at TEDxBradfordWomen last year.
Another Crossing traces and recaptures 1970s Leeds, when young people were excluded from school for growing locs, and residents experienced riots, police harassment and racism. However, these were also culturally expressive times for black communities in Leeds, as they established their own music and dance culture, influenced by the Caribbean, Black American music, and British punk. Rastafarianism was important to Khadijah as a young woman, but she loved punk bands such as The Clash, The Jam and the Sex Pistols just as much. People regularly listened to punk records at the Jubilee Club on York Road, and ‘Rock Against Racism’ was also prominent in the area. Part of her performances based on her collection will look at this aspect of life in Chapeltown.
The book evokes her Jamaican grandparents’ home in Chapeltown, (where she lived under a mixture of British Victorian values and Caribbean traditions), and her mother’s home in Harehills, where there were strict rules, good meals, and shebeens (blues parties) in the cellar. She divided her time between the two addresses while growing up.
This book recalls the history of Black British life in diverse areas of Leeds, which Khadijah feels is important for both Leeds residents and university students to connect with. The book is littered with the sights and sounds of the historical areas which shaped Leeds, and still provide us with so much to learn from today.
Naomi Anderson Whittaker
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