Colour Coding in Coventry: Part 1

photo (3)

I must admit, I never did like Coventry.

After completing my O Levels I opted to take a one year pre university course in Law as opposed to doing 2 years of A levels. I applied to several universities in the UK and I was particularly excited when I received an acceptance letter from Warwick University, an institution with an excellent reputation. Interestingly that is where our Finance Minister at the time, the late Professor George Saitoti, got his PHD, not to mention the fact that I had close friends at Warwick. And so my fate was sealed, I was headed to Coventry in the Midlands.

Lets talk about Coventry:

As I recall, the sun does not shine from October to March;

Coventry has a rich history, legend has it that one of it’s founders, Lady Godiva, the wife of Leofric Earl of Mercia, rode naked on horseback through the city 900 years ago to protest the oppressive taxes her husband imposed on the peasants. Her  audacious ride forced her husband to concede and granted victory to the masses. The story goes that out of respect and solidarity with Lady Godiva the public agreed not to look upon her nakedness, but one fellow called Tom could not resist a  peek, hence the origin of the term Peeping Tom. Some say he was struck blind but others say to punish him the people decided they would not speak to him and he was ostracized, there are those who believe this to be the origin of the phrase sent to Coventry;

Coventry bore the brunt of the German blitzkrieg during WWII and between 1940 and 1941 over 1,200 lives were lost, many more were injured and 4,000 homes were destroyed. Many parts of the city, including the grand St Michaels Cathedral in the city centre, were left in ruins;

…I do believe that in Coventry the sun does not shine from October to March;

After WWII the economy developed around various industries such as bicycle and munitions manufacturing and the city eventually grew into a motor vehicle industry hub but the downturn of the eighties saw Coventry take a major economic dive;

There is some good news – William Shakespeare lived half an hour from Coventry in Stratford upon Avon… But I suppose in those days, without any automobiles, the journey would have taken much longer… Ok scrap that.

Did I mention the sun does not shine from October to March?

Oh, and Coventry has had one of the highest suicide rates in the UK.

Well, tucked into my books and trying to keep warm I got through that winter in Coventry and it was around early April when the sun started to slowly tease us, coming out for a few minutes every day. What a joy! My friends and I decided to visit a fair that had set up on the outskirts of the town. Three of us were strolling down the street to meet with a bigger group at the fair on a chilly but sunny afternoon when I heard some men yelling behind us and my heart froze.

“Nigger! Nigger!”

Heart pounding and scared I tried to keep calm. “Just keep walking, and don’t look back.” I advised my spirited West Indian classmate, she was always up for a verbal brawl and I didn’t think it would be wise. She listened but it didn’t help.

“You can’t run away from what you are, you are just niggers!” they kept on shouting and trying to goad us.

We walked on but it took just moments for them to reach us, the streets were fairly deserted and before I knew it one of them was right by my side. I stopped and caught a glimpse of my friends running in different directions each chased by one attacker. They were young caucasian men. It seemed so futile, running – how on earth could we outrun them? Plus, they expected us to run, they wanted to intimidate us, I must admit there was an element of pride and dignity that did not allow me to flee. And then I suppose, there was also the instinctive fight or flight reaction. Mine was not flight.

I can’t quite remember what the man was saying but in that moment it’s like everything went into slow motion. And all I could see was his fist heading towards my face, he was standing right next to me about to hit a woman for her colour. I looked right at him, he was so close. I remember his eyes, they were so angry and full of hate and his face was tight and twisted. My eyes quickly welled up with tears and I asked the simplest question,

“What have I ever done to you?”

… To be continued …

Afro-optimist * Wife * Mother * Child of God TV Host * Writer * Producer * Entrepreneur * Philanthropist

19 Comments on "Colour Coding in Coventry: Part 1"

  1. Emmanuelecw says:

    Seriously!? To be continued? You shoul really publish a book or something..terrifying and full of suspence(dnt mind my keyboad spellings)….bigggggggest fan ever..

  2. Ali Omar says:

    suspence!!

  3. SkyBlue says:

    really ?? specify what year you were in Coventry, coz I went to Cov Uni and had the most brilliant time!!! no one called me Nigger either!!!

    then again, you went to Warwick Uni….

  4. Wow! Quite a story! Waiting for the other part!!

  5. mufasa says:

    First, this us the first I have read your writing, and wow! This is just as brilliant a read as listening/watching you on television. We are onto something here. Bookmark and wait for the sequel. Well in.

  6. keshi says:

    intresting……… make sure you notify us once you’ve continued

  7. josh says:

    good writing skills

  8. Fiona says:

    There is nothing that pisses me off more than being made to question your skin colour or origin;
    Being in a place and minding your own business- then someone coming in to tell you that you don’t belong, that you shouldn’t belong…. It’s absolute evil.
    Great writing. Waiting for the next one!

  9. George Okoro says:

    What are you doing in media, your literature is sweeter than life.

  10. Ikenye says:

    Waah!! Reminder pap! Very nice piece.

  11. Risper says:

    Suspense!Quite a story! Waiting for the other part!!

  12. Adamsy says:

    This is quite moving, and I must say, well transcribed.

  13. AS says:

    …I suppose I completely understand your perspective…it is your own personal experience afterall and not disputing that at all….but…

    “As I recall, the sun does not shine from October to March”- nowhere in the Uk would you get typical summer weather….typical statement about the weather is ‘You blink you miss it’…and never trust the weather man…and October to March is early enter to early spring… the sun wouldn’t be shining anyway…so not just Coventry…pretty much everywhere so that cannot be a reason to slate the city…

    “Coventry has had one of the highest suicide rates in the UK”- predominantly this has been Blackpool or Brighton and Hove….northern towns have generally higher rates that the Midlands…

    Comment earlier by SkyBlue….
    I agree with the first part. You see, the thing about this article is it almost makes it sound like what is written is norm in Coventry….I say anticipate at least one racist moment if you were to ever got to any country other than your won….yes its disgraceful and yes it happens…but not just in Coventry…so why not add that to your statement…Coventry does have its have number of racists…and so does everywhere else….! WE have something worse in Kenya…tribalism!!

    The second bit I find it almost contemptuous….”then again, you went to Warwick Uni….”…i went there for uni and currently work there…what would you mean by your comment…i dare say the first thing that comes into my mind as that would be making assumptions behind the meaning of your statement….sorry to say but this is stopping low with your comment….

    Point is, Julie,…perhaps when you went there this is they way it is…but I can definitely vouch that there is no need for such bold negative statements about Coventry….things have changed…
    ps- got wind of this as someone has been accepted to Cov uni for September and they came across this and immediately alarm bells started ringing….not a good picture to paint and though it may be true….it is true for everywhere else…not just Coventry…

    A :-)

    • Greetings A, thanks for your incisive comments. Let me make it clear that my statement on the sun never shining in Coventry is a clear expression of humor as to my biased point of view, I do start by admitting that I never dis like Coventry but do read Part 2 which is coming soon. I was in Coventry in the early nineties, perhaps things are very different now. Having said that I had many friends at both Coventry Uni and Warwick Uni who never had a problem. This is simply my story, my experience and if you read through my blog you will find that I do capture issues of racism in other places and I question tribalism as well. Thanks for sharing and I hope Part 2 captures the fact that at the end of it all I have a deep connection with the City that I will never regret. Blessings J.

  14. Mohamud says:

    Your narrative hurts those of us who believe humanity belong to one species. More so infringing of human rights.
    The end justifies the means, u r now a respectable member of the society julie.

  15. Mururu says:

    You go ahead gal and capture that part and time in your life. This is a free world and as much as this may not be happening in Coventry – it does happen in some places: same country and regional bloc. Can’t wait for part 2….
    Remain blessed gal.

  16. Maina Chege says:

    I cant wait for part two. Experience is the best teacher and our history born from our stories will teach one a lesson in life to appreciate the dignity of others. Blessed Julie

  17. Grace says:

    Quite inspiring, we all have stories to tell, and they inspire others. I am inspired by your life stories. It’s indeed a journey Julie.

  18. Joshua king says:

    WOW i live in Birmingham UK, 10 minutes from Coventry, ive been to coventry many times and never had problems. How many years ago did this happen? Ive never been to Kenya, but am considering moving for business.

Got something to say? Go for it!