The fact that London has a distinctive Black presence should come as a surprise to no one. After all, we’re in the midst of a latter day British invasion. There’s supermodel Naomi Campbell, actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, and that magnificent hunk of maleness, Idris Elba. And who among us who came through the ’80s and ’90s can forget Sade, Soul II Soul and Floetry?
Searching out Black London on the ground takes a bit of effort. Don’t go looking for the ‘hood on Black Boy Lane, okay? It’s named for a horse, not a human being.
“Now, if you huff and puff and finally save enough money/you can take your family on a trip across the sea.”
My hidden inner black girl geek may be showing when I admit to drifting through this 2000-year-old city with British-themed melodies playing in my head. I date it to the times before I started traveling, when my exposure to the world came through books and movies and songs: “A Foggy Day in London Town”, “England Swings”, “London Bridge is Falling Down.”
“On The Street Where You Live” is quintessentially London, though the city’s name is never mentioned. It’s about that fierce, almost stalkerish delight that comes from nearing the vicinity of a loved-one’s dwelling. “And oh, the towering feeling/just to know somehow you are near.” We’ll let that song be our signpost in finding our way to some choice spots on the Black London roadmap.
Where “does enchantment pour out of every door?” When you’re in hip and happening Soho. Once a notorious red light district, this central London entertainment district is now known for its nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.
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