Speaker 1 00:00:21 How are you doing? I'm Doug Davan and you are listening to the Plastic Podcasts Tales of the Irish Diaspora. Now this is a unique episode in so many ways. For one, it's something of a companion piece to last week's chat with Jar Wobble when he talked about a bond between the Irish and Jamaicans of London for another. It's a direct sequel to a chat I had with my guest at the launch of Liverpool Irish Festival in October, 2022, which will be referred to along the way. And for a third my guest isn't direct, the Irish, instead she's petition. However more of that later. Chiia Phoenix is a writer, performer, mentor, spiritual advisor, and activist among many other things. She has worked with Lorraine Ma of I Am Irish since before that organization's inception and is frankly one of the most inspirational human beings. It's been my pleasure to encounter, but let's not put too much pressure on her. Instead, let's start by asking Chiia Phoenix, how are you doing?
Speaker 2 00:01:21 Hey Doug. I am well, thank you. Just getting used to this cold weather.
Speaker 1 00:01:25 It suddenly turns, doesn't it? I looked outside and I thought any moment I was exploding a boat with pairs of animals to float on by the window.
Speaker 2 00:01:33 <laugh>, there has been a lot of rain for sure. I'm well, I'm okay. I'm just coming towards, uh, I guess the end of like a term with like my young people, uh, because I work at a creative art center called, uh, rich Mix in London. And um, you know, I've had a, a group of young people that I've been working with since September, so they'll have like an end of, end of program performance in December and I'm ready to wrap up the year now. I'm, I'm ready to rest, like now I would think I was ready to rest last month. I was ready to be done with the year then <laugh>.
Speaker 1 00:02:08 So tell me about Rich Mix. What is it that happens there?
Speaker 2 00:02:10 So Rich Mix is a cultural art center, uh, based in shore ditch off the Beth Green Road. Um, it was an art center that was created I think around 15 years ago and kind of was built in a response to racial inequalities within the area cuz the Area Tower Hamlets is the borough and Tower Hamlets population was mostly, uh, many people from the Bengali community. And if anybody knows around the Liverpool Street Brick lane area, there was lots of like, kind of like leather factories, closed factories and stuff like that. But due to gentrification in 2022, um, you've kind of got, which is near like the box park, there's like a new box park down there. So it, it's still trying to hold the ethos of ethos of being a culturally diverse art center while we are going through this time of gentrification. But basically it has a cinema there, it has a like performance spaces that you can use.
Speaker 2 00:03:13 It's got a studio, it's got a stage, so it usually hosts, you know, short theater productions, very short ones, not long term cuz we don't produce stuff in house, you know, there's like lots of poetry evenings, music nights, people hold op people, um, hire the space for corporate events. And then there's about 20 or 25 other creative organizations within this space because there's like office buildings. So it's like a multipurpose arts center. And as I mentioned, I just run one tiny little project, which is called New Creative, which is for young people who want to explore various creative pathways into the arts.
Speaker 1 00:03:51 So Rich Mix has been going for how long?
Speaker 2 00:03:53 About 15 years if I'm right. I only started working there last year, um, just specifically to work on this project, but if I've got all the knowledge right, it's about, it's about 15 years and it's one of the only art houses that was literally, literally built on cultural diversity to bring people from different backgrounds together. That's why it's called Rich Mix.
Speaker 3 00:04:13 And what's been the response to it?
Speaker 2 00:04:15 It's a thriving place for I'd say more grassroots artists and creatives to be able to have a platform to share their work and share their work towards their community. So you could literally have, I don't know, a bang night there could be, you know, a reggae poetry night happening somewhere else and then, you know, downstairs there might be like a skin Scandinavian group or something like that. So it really is multicultural when you actually come into the building and see the type of work that people are putting on. Um, I think it's a really good space, like I said, for people to be able to hire because sometimes being able to hire art spaces and just do things the way that you wanna do it is sometimes can be quite hard. But Rich Mix responds to it being a more of a community space, a stepping stone for artists that want to build events.
Speaker 2 00:05:08 You know, people have held like, I think I was able to refer a friend of mine who held one of the first African spirituality like, uh, uh, weekender should I say, which was a series of lots of different talks, um, you know, like an African market and it was like a nine till nine, it went over two days, but she's actually managed to do five of them in the last year. I mean, I referred her and thought she'd be able to do one, but she actually ended up doing five. So that's just a response to how Rich Mix is, if they can fit you into the schedule, then you can, you can kind of get in there, you know, at a reasonable price and it's an opportunity for you to launch whatever it is that you want to launch before you might move it to like a bigger space or something like that.
Speaker 2 00:05:49 So I really enjoy it for that. It's got really lovely boutique cinemas and although cinemas not great everywhere, uh, at the moment just because everything went so, um, you know, everything fast forwarded in terms of streaming from the pandemic, so it made cinemas, um, struggle a bit, but it's got some nice boutique cinemas and at the moment they have Africa film, so there's an Africa film festival happening at the moment. And then the British Urban Film Festival, which is a festival that's been running for about 10 years for, um, you know, a black Caribbean African artist, filmmakers, writers, directors. Um, so yeah, they're hosting it there. I think it starts this week. I think the British Urban Film Festival starts this week.
Speaker 1 00:06:35 Did you say it was one of the first or It's pretty much the only art center based around diversity.
Speaker 2 00:06:40 I would say it's the only one that I know of. There may be other ones, but in my line of work I've worked in quite a lot of art houses, mostly across London, not necessarily so much outside of London. Um, but not everybody's history is in what had actually happened in the area because there was a lot of, um, if you're gonna go back to maybe like the nineties, there was a lot of NF presence in and around that area. So you've got lots of people from like the Bengali community and then you have, uh, there was a lot of NF presence in that area and like in other areas of, around North and East London. So it was about creating a space that would be a safe space for the community to be able to go to explore the arts and, uh, just represent, represent themselves really. So yeah, that's the only one that I know that's, that's, that's been their ethos.
Speaker 1 00:07:34 So what is your work with new creatives? What has that involved?
Speaker 2 00:07:36 So new creatives, I am project director. I have been a creative facilitator for about 20 years. So I've worked with many young people from teeny teeny young people right up to 34. Well, yeah, I've actually worked with vulnerable adults as well, uh, in various organizations, but basically using the arts as a way of creative rehabilitation, um, allowing the art to support people to explore who they are and how they're expressing themselves. So New Creatives was a project that kind of gave young people an opportunity to explore, explore different pathways into the art. So as an example, if I have a young person that is a music producer, it's about them understanding the transferable skills of them being a music producer. So yes, you could be an artist, yes you can produce music, but you could also, you know how to use a soundboard, which means that you could also use a soundboard for theater.
Speaker 2 00:08:34 You could also use a soundboard, um, in film. Uh, could your music be scored for film? Do you actually understand about prs? Um, you know, are you good at being able to teach what you do? So that's an avenue for you to be able to learn some, um, earn some money. So basically as a course, we've had young people that are, that are either graphic artists, singers, rappers, uh, performers, dancers, some young people have been still finding themselves after Covid. We have a lot of young people, uh, across the country that are still not so comfortable being out and about. A lot of young people lost a lot of their social skills. A lot of young people realized that maybe the peer groups that they had wasn't inspiring enough for them. So initially when we came, when it started after the pandemic, cuz that's when I, I actually joined New Creatives, it was about just enabling young people to reengage back with society again, but through a creative medium. Um, and then what we also try to do is create those pathways for them. So invited in artist tutors that are experiencing the fields that they work in so they can have an up close and personal conversation about that artist journey. It
Speaker 1 00:09:50 Sounds almost egg timer shaped diversity of, of heritage in and then diversity of opportunity out.
Speaker 2 00:09:57 Well, yes, because actually last year, one of our technicians, I had top technicians there, we had, we had a series of talks, which is, you know, we, we did film talks, we did visual artist talks, you know, we had the part, the path less traveled. So we had people that had unique paths into the arts. But I remember that my Twitter, I'm not on Twitter, I am on Twitter, but I don't really use Twitter. I never really got a handle on Twitter. But years ago when I was promoting a production, I remember used to have Jack all trades, uh, master, master of All. And I used to get such, I don't know, there was such conflict. People used to come at me with saying, you can't be a jack of trade. You can't do all that. You need to focus on one. You can't, you can't just be this, you're not focused.
Speaker 2 00:10:41 And I was like, yeah, but in truth, I do write, I do act, I do direct, I do dance, I do work with young people. It is real. And then when this technician, Dennis was on our panel, he said that there's more to that saying Jack of all trades master of none better than being a master of one. And I was just like, is that the rest of it? How could someone just leave off the rest of it because then it makes more sense to us. That's creatives where we then become masters of quite a few things and sometimes we might tend to work in one particular field. And then, you know, I think it's good to have the ability to then be able to go and work in another area of creativity to keep your creativity alive than feeling like I have to let that go and now I've just gotta go and work in Saintsbury and you know, just feel that you're dying slowly. So, you know, as creatives, I think that we all do wear many hats and I think that's what makes us special.
Speaker 1 00:11:40 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Gia Phoenix's career is a multifaceted jewel with far too many aspects to describe in this simple link. Suffice it to say that she's written, directed, produced, and floor managed all kinds of marvelous TV and theatrical activities, has an unproduced script by the name of 40 elephants and has worked in some of the most deprived areas of our society. I want to know where this drive comes from. So we talk about her heritage and its links to Ireland. At one point I will be displaying a book about Afro Irish links to her. But first some background.
Speaker 2 00:12:18 I am Cian, which means that my dad is from Saint Kits. And I always have to explain that because most people have been like, Cian, what the hell is that? And I'm like, it's Saint Kits. It's one of the smaller Caribbean islands. It was named after Christopher Columbus, uh, uh, like St. Christopher. And my mom is from Jamaica, uh, from the countryside of Jamaica, which is called St. Thomas. And then my great-grandmother is full Indian, uh, because of the many migrants that were brought over un like to the Caribbean through the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Um, so many of us have a mixed heritage. And then how do I connect back to the Irish? Uh, because in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, well before it became, I would say before it became maybe a very big business, um, or they created their full business plan on it, they did actually capitalize on the Irish intake.
Speaker 2 00:13:18 I think if I'm right, it was 500 Irish over to the Caribbean to walk to work. So many of us in the Caribbean would have in some way, shape or form some form of Irish ancestry just through, uh, you know, just mixing and relationships and the families that grew from then. And then also we celebrate, uh, St. Patrick's Day. They celebrate quite a lot across the Caribbean that most people don't know doesn't hit the news. Um, but what I think I'd mentioned to you guys that I remember very distinctly going over to St. Kits when I was 24 and my grandma has had passed away and we had been at the funeral, there was then like something at the house and then my uncle said he wanted to go for a drink or something like that. And I'll never forget us being in the Irish pub that I, that I think back now.
Speaker 2 00:14:05 And I'm like, no, this was, this was an Irish pub. It was, I think it was like an O'Neil's or something like that, but it was an Irish pub. And I now, when I look back and think of all the places that I've traveled in the Caribbean, I'm like, where was there, where else has there been <laugh>? Where else has there been an i an Irish pub? Like, because it, we don't really have pubs, you know, there might be bars. Yeah, but we don't have pubs. So, you know, and then obviously when we come on to talk about Ira Irish, you know, we can talk a little bit more about where that extends a little bit more in terms of my knowledge and then how I've connected with the community via Thera. Um, and then a little bit about her journey. But yeah, that, that, that is my heritage.
Speaker 1 00:14:48 So it's the cultural connection to Ireland.
Speaker 2 00:14:51 Yes, yes. It is a culture connection. Many West Indians, which we discussed when we all got together is, you know, how much similarities that we've had in terms of just our outlook on the English <laugh>, how the English have seen us, which was in your T-shirt, the your more black, more dogs, more Irish T-shirt. But knowing that in the past it was no, you know, no dogs, no blacks, no Irish, um, and just the fight that we've had, the words that we say, the broken downness of the oi and how similar that is to, um, the Irish dialect as well. Um, just to say I saved Doug a packet of crisp, right when we went to, um, the Irish Center in Liverpool, there was a packet of crisp, they were crinkle crisp. But I, I noticed on the back when I read as it said, GU Guan and try the thickness of da, da da. And I was like, it says Gu because that's what we say, right? So Irish say it and we say it as Guan, like, how you doing? Good. And I had to, that night I had to take a screenshot, I had to put up all my stories. I was like, guys, this is Gu whatever packet of crisp have you seen that says Gu on the back. But even dialect, we have a very similar dialect in the way that we express and the words that we use.
Speaker 1 00:16:10 I'm gonna show you this, which is Afro Irish links, uh, a shared cultural history, which is done, um, in sl
Speaker 2 00:16:16 Oh wow.
Speaker 1 00:16:18 It was a sl, west Indian people's Enterprise. I'm just quoting the back here. And it's, uh, topics covered include how the Irish came to be in the Caribbean and why Montserrat is known as the other emerald dial. How the Jamaican maroons retained African traditions, how the banjo became an integral part of folk music of the Caribbean art and the remote Appalachian mountains. And so it is that thing, it's not just that it's like a art and in the Caribbean, but it also stems across these cultural connections as I bounce all the way across, whether it's as a result of immigration or as a result of the slave trade or as a result of whatever it is. And essentially the hashtag, if you will at this podcast is we all come from somewhere else.
Speaker 2 00:16:51 Yes, yes. And, and you know what, why these conversations are so important for people to just understand that connectedness is because we haven't had, we haven't been given a lot of information about that middle passage. That's what they call the middle passage, the Caribbean. And knowing that we have Jamaican Chinese, we have Jamaican ind, you know, because over the years there's been different migrants, but it's not something that Hollywood has made a movie about. We don't know much about how that, you know, how that part of the, the, the slave trade came about. We don't know about the rebellions there, we don't know anything much. And then, because I think that that would show a lot about, more about, uh, the English and the British involvement, whereas when it's in America, it doesn't have that connection back to here. Um, so I'm always excited to talk about, uh, the mix and blendedness that we have over in the Caribbean and how that connects us to the rest of the world because we have more in common than we have differences, to be honest, whether people like it or not, the whole country has been built up by various immigrants that have come to the country in different waves and in different times that often haven't necessarily felt so welcomed.
Speaker 2 00:18:07 Um, you know, and even, even even us talking about like say Poppy Day, it's still a big thing to not acknowledge all of those from the commonwealth that fought in the war that was not allowed to stay. And that's what people don't realize. They was, they, they fought, they wasn't allowed to stay. They were sent back home and then they were invited to come and build up the country, which is what we have as the wind rush, you know, generation. But I just think, you know, we're in a time where it's just important for us to have the conversations. It's not about us feeling, yes, people will get triggered, but we have to see things as information and information helps us to broaden our perspective. Because we're like, we didn't know that if I looked at it from this perspective, I didn't know that, you know, but why is it all being hidden?
Speaker 2 00:18:50 That's the question that I wanna have. Why are we not talking about it? Why? And that is because unfortunately a lot of stuff is embedded in things like if I talked about the, the tape modern is the name, the tape, it's the name taped and what TA and la Sugar and then what the Sugar connects. Like there's a, an ingrained ness in that, you know, in the movement that I think would just give people some reprieve because there's always a missing link that doesn't make sense. And when there's a missing link that doesn't make sense, it means that we don't communicate very well. Because some people want to admit facts and some people always want to present things based on facts. And regardless of however we we've seen it, we just know that the br the the, the English have capitalized in different places around the world, whether we get the story right or we'd get the story wrong, they have still gone to different places, move things around, move people around, blah, blah blah.
Speaker 2 00:19:44 And that's just the basis of it, which is why we're all from different places. Would I be here if my, that grandma from India wasn't ta? I don't know. I don't, I I I, I really couldn't tell because also I can only trace things back so far as well because of names and you know, stuff like that. But I love it. I personally just love talking about history. Um, and you mentioned something when we were all together about, you know, just honoring the facts. You, you said something around when, when we was all having a conversation about just honoring the facts of things that have just that have happened, honoring the information and then being able to move forward from that. But because we emit facts or we feel uncomfortable with certain aspects of it, it stops us from moving forward because we don't want to say all of it, if that makes sense.
Speaker 2 00:20:41 And even in 20, 30 years from time now, people will be talking about the pandemic and there'll be people that want to admit parts of it and there'll be people that will be like, no, this is what happened. This is what really happened to everybody. And then in a hundred years time, I mean we won't be here, but who knows how people will retell what's happening now. And that's why I think it's important that our conversations or your podcast, um, you know, people writing things everyday, people having a contribution to what's been set out in society. Because rather than us, the news and tv, as you know, you know, with yourself, with your Irish background, when you go home, the stories are passed on from generation to generation, right? So your mom, your grandma, your great-grand, your dad, whoever they pass stories on about the culture.
Speaker 2 00:21:32 Yeah. So you are loaded with that as a child. Whether it's how you sing songs, whether it's how you dance, um, you know, whether how you tell stories, the programs you watch, the foods that you eat, you're loaded with that. So then you become a certain age and you go to school and you are proud because you think that you're going to be able to be included in the conversation in geography. I don't remember ever once in geography me pointing out on the map, this is where my mom and dad come from. I don't even know if we even looked on that part of the map. It was just all about coordinates. I don't remember us learning about countries and if it was history, it was very specific history that they were telling us, but there wasn't a look around the room and be like, hey, like there's about 10 different cultures in here like me, so you gonna ask me about my history and where it is that I come from?
Speaker 2 00:22:21 Because to make it relatable to me as I'm growing up, like, so I think that people just need to understand that, you know, people want to be included in the conversation and bring their experiences in and that it's not always to downplay other cultures, it's just because there hasn't been enough inclusivity of our culture to make it a fair balance to what people know and what people don't know. And also to get a control on their narrative. Because as you know, okay, as an example, if we're gonna go back to like the eighties, late eighties, eighties, early nineties, Ireland people might have only known about the ira and that is their understanding of Ireland and Jamaica, all they know is that a Yardi. Now a Yardi was a term that was just completely made up. Like what is, like most of us say what is a Yardi?
Speaker 2 00:23:14 And it's all just because the response from someone, when someone asks you with a piece of asks people where you come from, the man would say, I come from my yard, I come from home cuz you just getting picked up on the street. But it became this whole term called Yardi with a gun. And I remember it being like, this is what they look like. And I was like, that's not what my uncle looked like. That's not what my mom does. Like what are we talking about? But do you see what I mean? And the problem is those stereotypes have stuck. So no matter how much new information or new faces we see on the tv, whatever information sticks and the narrative grows with people and that that keeps their perspectives or their opinions about other people's communities and backgrounds exactly the same. But the only, you know, only, I'd only say since 2020 and it's sad, but you are really only looking at from 2020 there's been a massive influx in cultures saying this is us.
Speaker 2 00:24:15 Yeah. And we want the rest of everybody else to know who we actually are and what our contribution is or whatnot. Or even like what you said with Montserrat, because yes, Montserrat was known to have a larger population even though it's a smaller island, a larger population of those from Irish backgrounds. And I don't even know if there's lots of, I know that there is lots of Irish, black African and Irish black, uh, Caribbean people, but unless they're from Ireland, would they think to go and get their like Irish passport? I don't know. Could they, I don't know in the same way that I might think I want my, do you know what I mean in terms of, but until you discover that history that there might lead you on a path to be like, well no, actually I wanna, I wanna know a bit more there. And actually I, my family's from there, so I would like to have a part of being a part there.
Speaker 1 00:25:13 We'll be back with Chiia Phoenix in just a moment. But first and Fittingly for a unique podcast episode. We're ringing the changes in our central segment two, instead of the plastic pedestal, we're at home with Jar Wobble complete with microwave and crockery and cutlery to discuss an unusual choice for a London Irishman, his supporting Spurs.
Speaker 4 00:25:34 Well you've got a lot of Topman fans in, um, in Ireland actually, believe it or not. Yeah, they, Mike Pat's big Toplin fan over in America now, you know, um, so you have got, you have got, they've got a big following over there I believe that're always. I I d dunno if it's in the double team, but in particularly in Dublin and you know, so yeah, you have got, you have, you have got quite a big following out there. But yeah, I think it was Jimmy Greeds was the reason I was drawn to it. All the families, west <inaudible> Mill, you know, but yeah, you get a lot, you know, at the time Robbie Keen was there. You get a lot of Irish flags there. AAL was always the Irish team, man, United, big Irish Catholic. I played football with Albert Morgan. You know, a lot of, I played, at the moment I've got two hairline fractures of the pelvis, the torn of, so I can't play football. Maybe I'll never play again. But they're, they're all guys who have worked with man, I, I played with a doctor Mike, you know, were there. So I'll get the inquest on Unite every bloody week, you know, I hear what's, it's the disaster at the moment. You know, we are looking forward to the season to, and I think it's all looking good for us.
Speaker 1 00:26:53 John Wardle aka Jar wobble there. And if you want to hear more of what John stroke Jar has to say, well why not listen to his entire interview on our website? Simply go to www.plasticpodcasts.com, click on the episodes page, find his hypnotic eyes, click on those and there you'll have it in full audio vision, all 50 something minutes of it. You lucky, lucky person. And of course, while you are on www.plasticpodcasts.com, why not subscribe? Simply go to the homepage, scroll on down, put your details in the space provided and one confirmatory email clicked later. The entire plastic lu to the world shall be yours. Honest. Now back to Chiia Phoenix. Chiia Phoenix's work with Irish in Britain has come about as a result of her close friendship and working relationship with Lorraine Ma. I want to find out more about how that relationship grew, but first we come to her observations about the rise in activism in particular, but not exclusively with Black Lives Matter over the last few years. And how that came about in 2020 at the height of the Covid Pandemic and why?
Speaker 2 00:28:01 Well, I think it's just obviously in light of the marches and because the world was at a standstill, in my opinion, everything that has that we saw is normal to us. It's not a shock. There was a shock because there was a collective, you know, everybody was feeding the same things at the same time. But the stuff that the world highlighted is stuff that we grow up understanding. We grow up being told, be careful of when you're walking down the street. We've seen examples of our brothers and our dads or whatever's getting stopped by the police. And we also know of other stories of things that have happened here that have never hit the mainstream, but we know it's normal. And then we also have our, you know, our personal stories of school and work and all these sorts of things. However you have to prove it.
Speaker 2 00:28:54 Yeah, you've always got to prove it. You know, I think from whatever culture or background you come from, where you feel that people have, um, you know, people have had a level of ignorance towards your culture and background, you always have to prove it because people say, well I, I didn't see that. You know, it's not like that anymore. That was back then, that was this and you always have to prove it. But I think 2020 and people having their own cameras, people being able to feel things in real time and stuff like that and the world being still, you couldn't ignore it. Okay. Because I also said to people if like say with the George Floyd incident as an example, I said to people, if people were going to work, do you think that they would've, do you think that people would've stopped and decided to march if if it was a normal day?
Speaker 2 00:29:42 No, they would've felt shots because they, they people are, um, what's the word? They're numb to these things that come out. So they would've seen it, they would've seen it on the news and they would go, oh that's really such a bad story, blah blah blah blah. And then they would've went and people would've decided to go to work over marching. But because the whole world was paused, some people must have got uncomfortable within because these things have been happening all the time. And that's where you then got a lot of people that maybe wouldn't usually march or people from other cultures saying, you know what, I never knew that this was happening and I'm gonna stand in solidarity with my black brothers or sisters and whatever that are feeling this collective morning and speak on it. And then you had people from other organ, other communities being able to say, well no, actually my friend that comes from here, I've actually seen that and we need to have this conversation.
Speaker 2 00:30:31 But they didn't know how to lead in being at work and saying, do you know, I have actually seen this all my life, but I didn't know what to do about it. But now that you told me I can be an ally, you know, cuz the level of anti-racism courses, sessions, programs and whatever now, even though it's exhausting, if I'm really honest with you, it's very exhausting. Um, has gone up. You know, most organizations are having to think about it. There is organizations that have to go back to 20 years ago where people made complaints where they were scared, will this come up? You know, that people have made complaints about prejudice and stuff like that within the workplace that was pushed under the corner. But now that this came up so big, it gave us, it's just given an opportunity for people to have a bit of voice and communities that have wanted to talk, you know, even with yourself, you know, we've wanted to talk about these things.
Speaker 2 00:31:24 We've wanted to share that Irish and the Caribbean have that history. We've known it, you've known it. It's just everybody else that hasn't, you know, that within our communities we've talked about this, we know it's not a secret to us. We know about our history, it's just that we're only given a certain history via the media, but we grow up with our parents given us all the rest and we just are like, when are they gonna tell the truth? That's all it was. And look how powerful it is when the world pauses and everyone's attention has to go in the same way. Suddenly there's change because it's easy to be distracted in the world, Doug. Yeah. And most people are happy to be distracted because then it means if I pay attention it means what do I do?
Speaker 1 00:32:03 I'm gonna go quickly back then because you mentioned something mm-hmm <affirmative> and that was growing up with these stories. And I'm wondering what were you like as
Speaker 2 00:32:10 A kid? So I have two older sisters. They're 12 and 14 years older than me, so they're already like almost teenagers when I'm born. And I'm born 1980 and they're born 67. And I made it very clear growing up, this is the 1980s, I'll never forget saying to mama, this is the eighties, I'm not them. Uh, because they, it's just a different time that they grew up in I was very vocal. Um, I believe I was born to be an activist. It may not be in the way that other people perceive what an activist is, but I've always spoken, I've always, every school report was me sticking up for injustices. And I'd learned from quite young that most head teachers got on well with me when I would articulate and say, miss look, I couldn't deal with that cause that person said that. And I, you know, went for that person because how can I just watch that person do that while that person was doing?
Speaker 2 00:33:06 And you know, the teachers very much the, the teachers of authority used to listen, maybe not the form tutors that used to think they could just get me in trouble by going and telling on me. But once I would get to in a room, they would tell me, you know, my head teacher would tell me, you're very articulate. What are you gonna do with this passion that you have, uh, for speaking up? And I think I did explain to you of the first time when I was in year eight and we were given a comprehension, you know, when you would read a passage and then you answer questions on it and it was the banana boat that there's this slave boat and I was asked, asked to answer super stupid questions like how many slaves was in the boat? My brain, I'd already watched Roots by this time if I'm right, roots came on sky one around 19 90, 19 91.
Speaker 2 00:33:53 So my mum had me sit down and watch roots and I was just like, who's, why would I count? How many people is it like, I was already quite advanced in my thinking for why would we be doing this when I know more? I know about the kings and queens, I know about stuff that happened in e like I know more like what, what is this? And then in the third year, for some reason we got the same page again from the same teacher. And by this time I wasn't having it. So I actually said to the teacher, why are we doing this again? And she had told me that I need to just get on with my work. And I said no, because this isn't doing anything for my self-esteem. Why do I want to know? I said, and I said to her, do you understand what's happened on this boat?
Speaker 2 00:34:31 Do you understand what this boat represents? Do you understand my ancestors was thrown in the water? Like what are you telling me? And she went red and started to cry and then I got like sent to the head of year that I was bullying her. So that's what happens when you are inquisitive and rather than a teacher saying, well what do you know what, what, what do you know, tell let's open it up to the class or let's have a discussion about it, or whatever It was like, this is what the curriculum says and that's it. But that's all that was offered in my whole time. The school was those same, same page twice in regards to black history. There was no black history month, nothing. When I was Malcolm X the movie eight out in 1992 with Denzel Washington, that was a big year for me because that was a year that I had gone over to St.
Speaker 2 00:35:20 Kits to see my dad. So my dad was here and then he, he, you know, when my mum and dad broke up, he went over. So that was a big year for me to go there. And that was the year that I learned that Malcolm X was born on the same day as me, so May 19th. And then that's when I said I'm an activist, I'm him. Like, I'm, if we are born on the same day, then that's it. Cuz you know, I hadn't heard of anyone else Famous born on May 19th before that. And I read his autobiography, which was crazy thick when I think back now. But many of my friends, we all read it because it was really big that Spike Lee had made that film at that time, like it had a cultural impact on us. And Spike Lee had a very big impact on the culture.
Speaker 2 00:36:00 But remember at that time we could only get videos on Pirate. Um, it wasn't out at the cinema. I do believe Stratum in South London would show the odd black movie and the ritzy cinema in Brixton. Um, but that's how I'd say who I was. But having said that, at school we were still encouraged to express ourselves creatively and culturally. So through drama, through dance, I was able to be the proud young Caribbean woman that I was. And it was celebrated, you know? Um, and that I ran with that. I, I guess I thought creativity is the way that I can express and be me at its fullest. So I, that's a bit of a rat thing. I think my mom would say, I always was vocal. I think my mom said, you always did what you wanted to do. I think my mom has always told me, you never listen to me. I've spent my whole life saying, you're comparing me to my my sisters. I'm not them, I'm me, but then I'm also a tourist. So, you know, that bull attitude. Um, and yeah, so I I, I think I'm pretty much still the same, just maybe more refined and still excited about the same things. I still love history, I still love creativity and I still love the art of debate. Those were my three things.
Speaker 1 00:37:31 What I'm gonna do now is ask you about Lorraine. How did you meet
Speaker 2 00:37:35 Her? So when I came out of university, I didn't have money. I didn't know what I was gonna do. And I got in contact with a friend, well a friend's sister. I got like basically some work experience like on a summer scheme. And I worked that summer, I did like two weeks. And then that lady Emily, Emily actually also does work for I Irish show. Let me mention Emily Renards as well. Cause Emily is also somebody that if she didn't give me that first, those first jobs to work as a youth worker, I would never have moved onto the career that I've got. And then I wouldn't even have met Lorraine. So basically I worked there for the summer. I got paid like, meaning it was supposed to be free work sprints. And after two weeks em had told me, you know, you're good at this, I wanna pay you.
Speaker 2 00:38:18 And it kind of rolled from there. I then moved on to being like a key worker for Camden. And then I think that there was some work, some small workshops coming up with the roundhouse before the building opened and Emily said, I want to introduce you to Lorraine. Lorraine will be someone really good for me to introduce you to. And so I went and met her and although the, or you know, the, your listeners can't see, I would just say from that day she put her arm around her, my shoulder and she just said, stick with me kid. If there was a way that she didn't say those words, but if she was gonna say she'd be a stick with me and she just then would be like, you know what? I would like you to do that. Would you be interested in do that, you know, do that.
Speaker 2 00:38:57 This is this pay, but it's not really that much pay. So she started to help me to understand how to negotiate. She started to help me to understand what my skill set was. She started to help me to understand what I was good at. But then she also kept me safe. She really genuinely looked after me. And I, I, I've only recently in the last few years say, oh Lorraine's my mentor. Like she's been a mentor. But I never described her as that before because it wasn't a traditional, this is my mentor, it was this lady asked me, do you wanna do this? And I just go, yeah. And you know, she took me out and about, I reminded her of that just recently when I saw, I was like, you was always out and about. You know, we'd be driving, driving down to Brickston, we'd be going to talk.
Speaker 2 00:39:35 A college would be you tell me that, you know, we're gonna go to this prison. I remember the first time I went into Pelham, I think I was like 24, I was terrified cuz Lorraine was literally like, don't make eye contact with any of the young men. You know, don't show this, don't show that. Don't do this. And I just thought, what, like what you mean? Don't make eye contact with people? But she gave me real life experience and gave me the opportunity to work out who I was within that world and, and friends to, you know, other people. And yeah, from then, wherever she went, she called me. So wherever she went onto work, wherever she was freelancing, it became a, a thing where she would say, I'm gonna call you to work with me. And then it moved on to I need, you know, can you go and represent me there?
Speaker 2 00:40:27 Like I don't trust anyone else to represent me. Like I believe that you can represent me there. Um, and just encouraged me in ways of things that I didn't think about. I mean, if, if I had, if I followed everything Lorraine wanted me to do, I don't think I would've been a politician. I would've been a politician slash activist. You know, she was just like, just go for it. Just go for that. You'd be good at this. You have a good voice for this. And many times I was scared, but she's special to me because she continues to feed, to pour into me. And that has allowed me to pour into others. And because of that selflessness about her, I'm just so thankful that she's able to create something that she's passionate about, something that connects to her, something that pours into her and that she can see this great contribution that she's doing to society, which is just raising the voices of people like herself who maybe haven't been heard or seen.
Speaker 2 00:41:24 So that's how I know her. She's still mi nothing has, nothing has changed apart from not being able to see her as often as I used to be able to see her because we don't work as much. But yeah, I, I don't know many people that can say they met somebody and that their whole entire career was carved out just from that person, pointing them in the right directions and helping them to see parts of themselves that they didn't know. Cuz I don't think I was thought of so much trauma just from, you know, as much as I had the creativity and I enjoyed all that, I still had my dysfunction and I'm such an highly emotional sensitive being that to be honest, 18, 19, 20, 21, I still had my stuff and the stuff would get in the way of me progressing. So to meet somebody that could see beyond that and find strength in me beyond that, be gentle with me, give me a lot of nurturing as well. Even though I come across a super strong, she always was super nurturing with me. I feel I owe her a lot. I feel like I owe her a lot.
Speaker 1 00:42:39 You're listening to the Plastic Podcasts Tales of the Irish d asra. Contact us at the plastic podcasts gmail.com. In this last section of the interview, I want to find out more about her reason for changing her name from Nadine Woodley to Chia Phoenix.
Speaker 2 00:42:57 It's not officially changed by Depot. I would like to, but I still have, you know what the funny thing is about name? Do you still feel like a child? Like, oh it's bad. Like I can't just tell my mom I'm gonna change my name to this. But the other side and the, I guess what I haven't mentioned on here is my, the, the title I go by is Creative activist, spiritual mentor. So over the years I also developed, I didn't realize I had a gift. So I've always been interested in, I don't know, I guess the mysteries of the world, the spiritual mysteries, not necessarily the religion, but the, the mysteries. My sister was always into readings and all that stuff when I was young. So I was exposed to that from when I was quite young. And then I always like had dreams and stuff at school.
Speaker 2 00:43:41 People always used to say to me, are you in your stupid dreams? You shoot me. But I, I just was like, this is telling me something. And then when I started working with young people, sometimes they would tell me, miss, how did you know that nicely? Like, I dunno, this is what I thought in my head. And it grew. So I started to explore a bit more of my spiritual side and understanding do I have any gifts? And I started to have like spiritual mentors that helped me develop with that. So I realized that that's what I'm also doing via my creativity. That's like, there's a different form of creative spiritual activism via the work. It's about how I, how you make people feel through what you're doing. But we need to get to a deeper place. And I, and with clients that I have, I just seem to be able to hear something else that they may not ever voice.
Speaker 2 00:44:30 So over the years, yes I'm Nadine Woodley. Woodley is actually a slave name. I didn't have an issue with it, but there wasn't, when I realized that there was 3000 Woodley's at that time in the phone book in St Kits that I just knew I wasn't related to that. I was just like, what weight does this name carry? And then also there is a author called Octavia Butler. She writes like Afro futuristic stuff, but she's an old author. And there was one book that I've read and this John Woodley came up in the book. But when I googled the John Woodley, he was a real slave master. You know, that there was like a connection to this. So then I just decided I wanna have a lighter name. I want something that shows that the energy that I have and it, it's got more of a feminine flair to it, but it's not from anything that you've really heard before.
Speaker 2 00:45:28 So you get the idea of chi as in energy, you know, the Chinese energy of chi and the art is what initially made it like more feminine to say cheer. Um, although there is chia seeds, you know, that have become quite popular now and they are energetic seeds. And then the phoenix was about how many times that I've fallen down, but I've gotten back up and that I've always come back as a bit of version of myself because I'm always self reflecting. So Chiia Phoenix came from this energy that re alchemizes itself every single time comes back stronger like the Phoenix bird. Not afraid of the darkness, not afraid of the light. The phoenix represents newness, rebirth, bitter version of yourself. It represents represent strength, but it's a unique expression of that being, you know, and I think I'd realized quite young that I can't be like anybody else other than being myself. And I'd gone for a lot where people like, why aren't you like this? Why aren't you like that? Why don't you do this? Why don't you fit in here? Why do you speak like that? Why don't you this? So it was like creating this formation that this is who I am. And when I say cheer Phoenix, it hits people in a slightly different way than when I say Nadine Woodley. You know,
Speaker 1 00:46:47 Last two questions and you had a wonderful phrase when, um, we met, um, which was, you are your ancestors' wildest dreams.
Speaker 2 00:46:56 It's something that within the black community that we say all the time, it was so, it was really beautiful to say it to the group and you all went, because we are our ancestors wildest dreams when we go back into history and we look at some of the things that they have endured that allowed us to be here. And then we look at what we can do while we're here. Right now, we are their dream. Yeah. When will I look at my ancestors and they may not be able to just walk on the street or go here or go and do that and whatever. Me going to university, me creating my own projects, me having my hair in an afro whenever I wanna hear, have my hair in an afro and no one can't tell me anything. This is their wildest dreams. So I always imagine them rejoicing, you know, seeing what we are doing, seeing how we're using our voices, seeing how we're using our talents, and then how we are honoring them by saying, this is who we are and this is where we come from.
Speaker 2 00:47:52 I think that it makes them very, very excited. I don't think our ancestors, I know that we can be very stuck in the past, but I don't necessarily think our ancestors are like, you know, they need to keep remembering us. I think that they keep saying, come on, keep pushing forwards. We didn't go through all of that for you guys to be filtering, take the best of us, you know, and all of our gifts and our skills is alive in our dna. So the more we honor who we are, the more that we honor where we come from, these gifts, they come alive in our dna. And so the ancestors are going, woo, I dreamt one day I could own my own production company. Look at my great great, great, great, great, great great granddaughter. She's got one. You know? And I just imagined that we are what they visioned, you know, we all have dreams and I just, I just feel like that.
Speaker 2 00:48:43 So I I, I remember that moment. It was a beautiful moment with everybody. The way that they felt that. And I think that if I was to say thing to anyone on here, everybody's got ancestors that have done good and bad things, right? Regardless, however, if you can connect in some ways and be like, you know what, I can contribute to the better or I can continue contribute to the worst. But when you understand where you come from, you, that's why they say you're gonna understand where you're going and you're gonna, you're gonna create those dreams that people we never thought possible. Some of us, we didn't even know we could go to university. Some people didn't know that they could go to a school that was mixed. That's not even that long ago. Do you see what I mean? So every 20 years, every 20 years our ancestors must be going, oh my gosh, it was all worth it. So that's where, what the title, you know what, what that sentence means to me. I am my ancestors' wildest dreams and there and the wild is there too. I am wild. Like it's okay to express that side, you know?
Speaker 1 00:49:47 Which takes me to my last question, which is, what would Sheia Phoenix's wildest dreams be,
Speaker 2 00:49:55 Doug? Oh my gosh,
Speaker 1 00:49:58 I keep the best one to last.
Speaker 2 00:50:01 Gosh, I can feel all sorts of energy in my stomach now. You know why? Cuz it's a trigger. That is because I very rarely think properly about what my wildest dreams are because I also sometimes still don't think dream too big. However, cuz you've asked me my wildest dreams would be, okay, let me just say it one, I will still want to make 40 elephants the film. That is a dream because I grew up thinking, I never thought I'd knew I'd want to make a film. But when I started to, I thought, wow me from Little Estate, you know, I still have that um, aspect about myself where I'd remember little Nadine and what little Nadine couldn't imagine when she got older. And then the things that I'm actually doing now, I think I would love my own creative spiritual art center where we actually fuse creativity and spirituality.
Speaker 2 00:51:04 But I mean from a perspective of know yourself, you know, and having more to say in creativity rather than it all being so formalized how we are creative because I think that creativity is my birthright. So I don't wanna be fit into boxes. But more than anything, I think my wildest dream is just for my voice to be heard and to go down in history so that I can leave that legacy where any young people in the future can say, look what Chiia did and I wanna be like her cuz I can go and do this now. I think that would be important to me, that all the young people that I've ever inputted into, that they are able to carry on in some way with whatever it is that I poured into them. I think, I think that would mean something to me. And I do get to see it a little bit now, where young people I've met are 14, they're like 30 and I get to see it and I'm like, wow, this is magical.
Speaker 1 00:52:08 You've been listening to the Plastic Podcasts with me, Doug Davan at my guest, GIA Feedings at home with Ja Wobble was with JA Wobble and music was provided by Jack Davan. Find [email protected]
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