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Exploring The Black and Brown experience from the vantage point of adolescence.

IntroductionProject Zazi
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Our work with young people spans many different ethnicities, cultures and religious practices. Our young people
are reflections and projections of the wider community we are all a part of and love dearly. 


This year, we wanted to provide a space to reflect on and  explore what people in our communities

childhood experiences are like and have been like.


Are there any differences between groups of young people and elder generations? 

Are there any similarities?


What would our young people like to see more of?

What would they like to see less of?

What lessons and reflections can our elders pass down to us?


What, if anything, is stopping our young people from expressing their magnificence unfiltered

and authentically?


These are the questions and themes that we seek to explore in this project. Our history lives and talks

through our community and their experiences, and we want to honour this history through this project... 

The People We Spoke To

We spoke with young people, adults and elders in our community on the subject of childhood. What was their experience of childhood like? What memories, experiences and observations did they have that they wanted to share with us?
Some ideas are expressed in audio recordings captured from our sessions, some are expressed in writing. We have kept all written contributions anonymous, to protect the experiences and ideas of people contributing. 

We wanted to craft a piece where all expressions and ideas of childhood could be articulated as freely and 
as personally as possible. Some of the reflections found within this piece may fill you with joy, others may frustrate you or resonate with you on a deeper level. We wanted to get an honest, unfiltered exploration of how our community has experienced and experiences childhood. All content in this project has been captured by Team Zazi between January 2021 and October 2022. 

The People We Spoke To Project Zazi
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Childhood plays a hugely important role in the cultivation and development of our future generations. 

To examine the flaws of our system, we must study the experience of said system through our children's ideas and perspectives. 

A Video From Girl Talk...

This is a video made by a Girl Talk group in late 2020, exploring barriers that impact their day to day experiences, but also how they wish to  work through said barriers. 


I’m a paragraph. Double click me or click Edit Text, it's easy.


I’m a paragraph. Double click me or click Edit Text, it's easy.


I’m a paragraph. Double click me or click Edit Text, it's easy.


I’m a paragraph. Double click me or click Edit Text, it's easy.

Usher - yeah

"The song of my childhood. Learned the dance moves... all sorts. Absolute banger." 

The Boy Is Mine- brandy and monica

"I remember duetting this with my mama - I was so small and stood on a chair!"


tlc - no scrubs

"I remember singing this on the steps in primary school thinking we were members of TLC!"

Warren g - regulate

Y'all were probably in nappies when this dropped!

Songs From Childhood

"What Was (or Is) It Like
Being A Young Person In Bristol?"

"In ends, you always feel like the "majority"... it's normal to be you here, everything is contained. It's when you start stepping outside of ends when you say 'rah!', these man don't rate me at all!"

"My only reference point for Bristol is Easton or Poles (St Paul's) - so being a young person here is cool. Challenging at times when you see what sometimes goes on, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else... put it that way!"

"My youth was joyous, full of laughter and memories. There are not so positive experiences, but for me, the positive engulf the negative".

"I would rather be a young person in Bristol, than a young person in Devon... put it like that".

"We have to acknowledge that there was a part in Bristol's history (1970's) where grown men were chasing, beating and belittling children all in the name of racism. The Police did nothing. I remember stepping outside of my neighbourhood and always feeling on edge!

"There's a lot to do in Bristol, so growing up here is fun. I like going to different places and seeing different communities."

"Them man (teachers) saw as grown men the day we walked through the front doors"


"Adultification is a term we
use multiple times per week in our work when speaking with schools"


Theme: Adultification

"Adultification" refers to the way in which 

children and young people are constructed or treated by wider society as adults, even if they are pre-teen or teenagers. Adultification is often racialised in its nature, with ideas of Black and Brown people being "more physically mature" or "stronger" still being a really damaging stereotype that follows the community to this day.  Adultification can result in young people being targeted more by police, being sexualised from incredibly young ages or being wrongly accused of engaging with or encouraging young people to engage in anti-social behaviour. We see (and have to advocate for) young people in our care who are the constant recipients of adultification. It is something that is not acknowledged enough when we talk about the experiences of our young people now, and our young people from past generations. 

AdultificationProject Zazi
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Did the community shape your childhood at all?

Did The Community Shape Your Childhood?Project Zazi
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""One thing about our community... everyone on your street is basically family! My community raised me."

"I still have connections with my childhood neighbours. They raised me just as much as my wider family. It's always love."

""Community was and is everything to me, even though I wasn't always in ends, I always was connected to my family and friends who kept me in the loop". 

"Yes, And we need the community back!! We have lost the community feel in my eyes." 


"My alarm every Sunday morning when my mum was cleaning!"


This song reminds me of weekends at my Nanny's.


A reminder of my year 6 school disco. BADMAN FORWARD!!"


If you didn't know the dance to this in school, you were missing out! 

Songs From Childhood

The "light skin/dark skin debate was a real ting!"

"Light skin people ran the world when I was in school - literally!"

"Being Black in school in my day put you front of the line for roasting"

"I think a lot of my self confidence issues around the colour of my skin can be traced to school and "dark skin" banter".


Theme: Colourism

Colourism refers to the act of discriminating against someone based on the colour of their skin. Colourism can happen within racial groups and cultures and a lot of young people within our groups talk very frequently about experiencing colourism. Popular examples of colourism include the "lightskin/darkskin" debate, where members of community argue (sometimes playfully, sometimes seriously!) on which skin tone is better, worse, more attractive, "more" Black or Brown etc.  Colourism can have a huge impact on how young people view and love themselves as people of magnificence, and more needs to be done to educate young people (and elders) about the impacts of colourism. 

ColourismProject Zazi
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Let's talk about school...

"School made me think that diversity and respect for all cultures was the norm... it was only when I left school that I realised this wasn't the case".

"It definitely makes a difference having teachers who look like you, teaching you". 

"School was fun because I was with my best friends every day, but when you reflect back on certain things, like how teachers treated us, it's kinda mad when you think about it!"

"Inner city schools were diverse everywhere but teaching staff! Reflecting on this as an older man, I see its impact on us as youth".

"I had a couple of teachers who looked like me in school... one in particular had a massive impact on my career. He told me that my name sounded like it 'belongs on the back of a door,' and I think in many ways that specific interaction had an influence on my career now in education."

"We speak about this all the time... teachers know exactly how to get you pressed (angry/annoyed), cause a reaction in you that makes you bug out (flip), and then act as if you were the instigator".

"I loved school. I often think about how lucky I was to go to a school where I didn't feel like I was on display 24/7". 

"My school was one hundred percent racist. I can't tell you how many times I got a detention or isolation for something that got my white friends a slap on the wrist for". 

"Besides teachers thinking my afro comb was a lethal weapon and confiscating it on the regular, school was okay you know"

"We had our issues in school, but they were direct... in your face. These yutes today experience things subtely, things that aren't easily detected - the damage is still real though".

"I learned very quickly that school was a game. Get the work done, do what you needed to do, and teachers tended to leave you alone."

"When I started going to school in Bristol I was shocked at how many cultures existed around me in my classes. I learned so much about different beliefs and communities!"

"Teachers talk about 'respect', but chat to man in the most disrespectful ways. I don't get treated with this much disrespect anywhere else. This is why school is long. I can't wait to get out."

What did your childhood years teach you?

"Ends is the only place in the world I feel safe to be myself". 

"Community is family". 

"It was safe to make mistakes". 

"I can be anything I set my mind to"

"I have to work 10x harder than my peers to be acknowledged, but I will be acknowledged!"

"Life teaches you more than school does".

"Call every elder, auntie or uncle, or face consequences!!" 

"There will always be room for me here (St Paul's)". 

"Family isn't just blood, it's the people who stay by you through every situation".

"My blackness is a gift"

"Sometimes it is your own people who are racist to you - my own experiences of racism as a kid was from other Black people".  

"Gentrification IS an act of violence". 


"They cannot build upon the spiritual foundation that this community has cultivated over the years. They can't erase our essence from this part of town however hard they try to ignore our voice"


"So many spaces and places we use to knock around in are unrecognisable now. It is really sad, it's like a part of us has gone!"




Gentrification is the process where (typically) deprived areas are gradually built up, developed and "improved" at the expense of community groups who have occupied said areas for sometimes generations. It is an act of displacement, an act of violence and an act of removal. Gentrification made itself known in virtually all of our conversations with young people and elders in our community. There is an awareness and resentment of groups who have changed or are attempting to change the spaces we call home. Communities are resisting acts of gentrification and making their ideas and thoughts known...however at times these opinions have been blatantly ignored. 

GentrificationProject Zazi
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What advice would you give to young people that you wished you had received yourself?

"Don't forget to appreciate every moment of your youth, even the boring day to day stuff. It's the everyday stuff you miss the most!" 

"Your skin colour, your culture, your languages, your faith... these are your greatest strengths, Let the world see them unapologetically, display our ancestors on full volume!"

"Always pursue your dreams, not someone else's. Life is too short to live with regret! 

"School is important, but education is life long! You will always have time!"

"Tell the mandem you love them every chance you get!"

"There is nothing more valuable than following your heart!"

"Read more!! I wish I got into reading sooner, it changed my life"

"Slow down... you don't have to be rushing to get from A-B in life. You have time." 

"Stop chasing gyal!!" 

"Stop living for the weekend!"


ReflectionsProject Zazi
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From our interactions with our community, we have seen a range of perspectives and experiences relating to childhood. Here are some key themes that we observed and will be exploring further in our own work. 




School was a hot topic. This is mostly due to the fact we work with young people in these spaces, but it is important to note that this was a popular area of discussion with our elders too. School has been experienced positively by our young people, but there are glaring issues we need to address as a wider community. We observed a common theme of our community feeling like the school space was at times deliberately targeting of, and racially discriminative towards them. As a team, we deal and have dealt with several cases where we have to advocate for young people in school spaces who have been experiencing discrimination or racism whilst being at school.  We are in the process of developing training for staff around bias, discrimination and metabolising racist belief systems within the school space. We would also like to inform young people and parents in the Bristol area that if you or your child are experiencing racism, discrimination or feeling on edge at school, you can drop us a message here. 

There Ain't No Unity In Community Any More


A common theme among "elders" was the reflection that community is missing unity today. A large part of elder generations childhood experiences was the leaning into and being surrounded by the community. There seems to a longing for that extended family energy that at times feels like it is disappearing. There seems to be a desire to bring back the cohesiveness that characterised our spaces in the 70's, 80's and 90's.  

Multi-Generational Structural Awareness


Amongst all of our chats with the community, we picked up on a heightened sense of cultural, political and structural awareness. From young people in schools commenting on the "feel" of spaces and energies of authority figures, to elders often making the point that conditions haven't necessarily changed, they have just become more subtle. A key component of our community's childhood appears to involve the experiencing, theorising and resisting the dominant discriminative ideas of the wider structural space. Our young people are actively engaging and critiquing the world around them from a young age, and this is largely due to their experiences and observations of this world. Young people shouldn't have to be doing up social scientist in response to the conditions they are surrounded by... but they often are. 



Our project does not aim to provide a "full" picture on childhood from our communities perspective, but we do hope that you have contacted experiences and reflections that resonate with you. We hope that we have made you think and have expanded upon the way in which you conceptualise childhood from your vantage point. We observed that experiences of childhood, whether told by young people or elders had very similar undertones. We observed an awareness and at times dissatisfaction with the structure that exists around us. We bathed in a collective joy when recalling the memories of being together as a community and observed a fondness when exploring the spirit of what makes our communities our physical and spiritual home. There is a lot for us to do as a wider city in ensuring that the generations of children that grow up here are brought up with the belief system that the world is a playground to express their magnificence, and that they have the ability to thrive and survive in any space across the city we call home. We have a duty to challenge, re-educate and reconfigure models and spaces that view our children in problematic, racialised lights. We have a collective responsibility to examine our own beliefs and how this may be creating harmful experiences of childhood for our young people. The voices and perspectives you have interacted with in this space are a small piece of a larger puzzle, but through examining this puzzle piece, we can work towards understanding and addressing the bigger picture at hand. 

"I wish the young bucks could experience a day of our childhood... the best times". 


"Ventures saw me more than my family more time!". 


"Pryzm?? You mean Oceana! Come correct!" 


"I would leave yard with £2, no mobile phone and be gone all day playing with friends. The most care - free days of my life". 


Joy and Innocence

Our young people and elders recalled several instances of joy and innocence in our conversations with them. From reminiscing about ventures, Oceana, Carnival season, spending all summer at St George Skate Park or simply growing up with multiple generations under one roof... Joy and pride featured heavily in our chats. 

Joy and InnocenceProject Zazi
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