- 24 Nov 21
Zeinab shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
I was the only Black kid in primary and secondary school. I tried to be like the other girls, got my hair cut into a bob, forgetting that I had curly hair. It was an epic fail – and yet I still didn’t learn from it. I straightened my hair constantly thinking it would help me to fit in.
I did experience racism, but luckily I didn’t really understand it was racist until I was much older. I struggled with my identity – even in recent years, I didn’t feel like I was Black enough or white enough. But from working on it, I’ve since become stronger in my skin and my identity as a Black woman.
As a young adult, there were a very limited number of Black Irish inspirations. Hence my aspirational musical influences came mostly from Black American artists. Specifically my genre of R&B is an emotional, soulful and Black genre. Growing up, Destiny’s Child and more so Beyoncé, were huge role models.
I feel now like I have a responsibility not only to put my songs out there for a wider audience, but also to be a voice for Black Irish communities. When I released my last single ‘Forever’, developing and sharing the artwork was a huge moment in understanding my identity – in acknowledging who I was and what I wanted everyone else to see me as. It represents the Black, strong, positive woman that I am.
During the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of Geroge Floyd, I was overwhelmingly anxious with everything that was going on. I started to feel weak, powerless and helpless. Even though this wasn’t happening in my back garden, there were things that I have experienced, or I know my Dad has experienced, that did affect me. I was totally put off going to America. I didn’t feel equal as a Black person in this world.
I was extremely upset and was breaking down, in a whirlwind of sadness. I wrote a new song as a release, to try and help myself understand what I was feeling, and try and figure out how I was going to move forward. To put it on paper and sing it aloud felt so cathartic. I hope that when other people feel the same way about this song, that it can also help them.
Read Part 1 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism, in the current issue of Hot Press. Available to pick up in shops now, or to order online below:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.