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A Call to all Guardians of the Black [British] Village

If it takes a village to raise a child, then how do we define the village? This question underpins

much of my research into culture-building for Black people born and raised in Britain. Who are

we and how do we actualise ourselves? Because yes, we have a popular culture, but what of

our movements? What of our rites and rituals? Our values? It is important for us not to equate

proximity with community. It will take an intentional collective effort to build this Village, and

intentional members to become its Threshold Guardians.


Traditionally, Guardians of the Threshold enable us to spiritually mature by helping us confront

any negative manifestations on our journey to enlightenment. These Guardians test our

readiness by laying bare any conditioning that can get in the way of our spiritual growth. In

context, our ‘village’ is the threshold. This theosophic concept demonstrates a need to

understand the past, so we can contextualise our present, and effectively take hold of our



Black Brits have shared roots with the rest of the Black Diaspora, with prominent influences from

the Caribbean, West Africa, and the United States. Though these cultures have often laid the

foundation for our sense of selves, they were formed in different contexts to our own and are not

tailored to our needs. The British State has attempted to present assimilation as an option to

Black Brits. But many “British Values” are anti-black and neoliberal; and Britain’s ongoing hostile

domestic and foreign policy proves assimilation to be an illusion to foster compliance. History

has shown us that assimilation into the British imagination results in conformity, not belonging.

Here we see that British culture too, is not designed with us in mind.


Threshold Guardians are able to describe and contextualise our experiences, helping us to

distinguish between what is for us and what is not. This can help us understand our place in the

world better, enabling us to self-actualise. It fosters our connection to others, giving us a sense

of responsibility for the Village. Once initiated into the Village, any of us can take up the call of

Guardian and contribute to the group-actualising process, whether as community workers,

spiritual guides, librarians, educators, archivists, facilitators, organisers, practitioners, doulas

and carers, artists, or something else. Upon finding ourselves, we will also be better equipped to

engage the Diaspora with a Pan-Africanist intention.


In discussing Black male self-actualisation, St Louis, Missouri-based community organiser Mike

Jones commented,

‘one thing that we don’t talk about is that they took our rites of passage. And

replaced them. So now it’s been replaced with shit that’s not really a rite of passage. It’s

replaced with *prison*. Niggas go to jail [...] get arrested. And it’s almost like, “well, the time

finally [came], finally got em! Yep. Finally got in them cuffs.” [...] It’s looked at as, like, something

you go through as you transition from being a boy into a man.’


Displacement has disrupted our rich traditions – our literal modes of survival – leaving us

without actualising rites for our current state. A lack of collective intention bodes ill for the future.

How then can we unpack our past and engage with our present to disrupt these futures? In

Theory for the World to Come, Matthew J Wolf-Meyer states that,

‘Articulating futures – imagining them and bringing them into being – is an active process, and rather than a posture of

resignation, theory for the world to come needs to instil radical curiosity.’


Our homes can be sites of affirmation, as were our elders’ front rooms. Our experiences can

continue to be acknowledged in our songs, poems, prayers and affirmations. We can reclaim

the anti-social hours for ritual, celebration and organising, like Nigerian Hall Parties in London,

and our ancestors in the Caribbean; or to take up space like the midnight grime cyphers in our

nearby tower blocks. Like those who printed their own publications or utilised pirate radio

frequencies, we have the internet to create alternative gathering spaces. And we have what bell

hooks calls our ‘oppositional gaze’, reclaiming our Otherness as antithetical to normalised white

supremacy. The Black Radical Tradition is a reminder that, despite displacement, we have much

at our disposal.


Actualisation is a collective, ongoing effort, and our toolbox will need to be robust to weather the

British hostile environment. This is a call to all Guardians of the Black British Village, to imagine

new rites of passage; share cultural and historical knowledge; signpost and provide resources

or services; create gathering opportunities; unite with Diaspora; and design the future. We stand

on the shoulders of giants, and make up links in the Great Chain of Resistance. Let us do what

we can to guide the displaced back to the Village.


by Jaz Morrison