By Shamar Blunt
She’s an author, television presenter, journalist, fashionista, and more importantly, a proud mother. These are just a few titles carried proudly by Candice Brathwaite, one of the United Kingdom’s most prolific writers on social issues, race, and the black motherhood experience.
Those who glance at her achievements may see her as simply a contributing editor at Grazia and a presenter on Lorraine, both well-regarded international media organisations. But any Barbadian seeing her surname for the first time, may quickly assume she has Barbadian lineage.
Though born in England, Brathwaite was raised predominantly by her maternal grandparents, who were Barbadians who migrated to England among the “Windrush” generation searching for better opportunities.
For Candice, England may be where she has lived most of her life, but Barbados is very much her home and the place to which she keeps coming back for the last 30 of her 32 years of life.
Speaking with Barbados TODAY as she finished up her shooting for an upcoming documentary on her ties to the island, the multi-talented young woman noted: “The people are so friendly…it does feel like a home away from home. It’s just welcoming, and I’ve not found that anywhere else, so I just keep coming back.”
Brathwaite said that her connections to the island were more entrenched than just family relations, and though she did not dive too deeply into her family line, for fear of spoiling new details presented in the new documentary, she admitted to having a love for two of Barbadians’ favourite pastimes – talking on the phone and watching soap operas.
“I remember coming to Barbados as a child, and I think it was ‘Days of our Lives’, I remember anyone who has a phone back then, before Days of our Lives started you heard everyone’s house phone ringing, and they are watching a show, whilst talking about it at the same time, and in the UK I could be watching Netflix and I would be on the phone to my girlfriend like ‘yeah did you just see what he did?’… I would be like oh my gosh I feel like a Bajan auntie right now.”
Though Brathwaite has always been intrigued about her Barbadian roots, this latest trip to the island for work has so far been an emotional one during which previously unknown facts about her heritage have been revealed during the course of filming.
“I’ve never come to Barbados in a work capacity and been supported in the efforts of exploring my Bajan heritage. We went to the Barbados Archives Department and I was able to see what my great-great-great-grandfathers were doing, and how one of them could not even sign his own name because he could not read or write. It felt deeply emotional to be coming back here with a British TV crew, as a popular British author to look at the records of an ancestor who could not even dream of doing what I am doing,” she recalled.
As a black woman living in Britain, Brathwaite has had no shortage of experience dealing with racial bias, from the most subtle to the obvious. For her, each experience, though disturbing in nature, has strengthened her resolve in her pursuit of better living conditions for black people in all aspects of their life.
“As a black woman who has given birth and almost died giving birth to my firstborn, there is a lot of racial bias. There is not enough education around the black body and black birthing process and so thinking about my black culture through the spectrum of motherhood, it does remind me of how you see aunties gather and help other women give birth.
“It’s like a sisterhood, communal process, which when you are thinking about the UK or USA systems, they lean heavily towards the monetary and pharmaceutical side and they push away the idea of needing sisterhood and a community.”
She added: “Racism on a whole, one thing my black culture has taught me is to stand strong, because everything was stolen from us; the spices, the foods, the teas, the dance moves, the bodies… all of what the world loves, has roots in black culture, but then they try to erase black people. I think my black culture reminds me to stand strong, because we truly are the source.”