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The Congo boys of CardiffSugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams 192pp PlanetEncounters How Racism Came to Ireland by Bill Rolston and Michael Shannon 108pp Beyond the Pale PublicationsIn the mid-19th century William Hughes left Llangollen Baptist College in Wales and headed for the Congo to civilise evangelise and proselytise in the name of Christian ministry and Caucasian might He returned not long after with sickness in his body and two young men in tow In the years to come Nkansa and Kin Kassa would tour north and south Wales with the reverend preaching and singing in English Welsh and their native tongue The reverend sold pictures of the Congo boys for a few pennies apiece and the Welsh snapped them up I once read that diaspora peoples without a collective historical event to refer to invent one in order to define their presence in their inherited country writes Charlotte Williams in her autobiographical work Sugar and Slate It took me a long journey to understand why the Congo boys are part of my Elmina In its exploration of geographical racial and cultural dislocation Sugar and Slate is in the finest tradition of work to have emerged from the black diaspora in recent times Like Frances Mehdi Charef Britains Andrea Levy or Americas Edwidge Danticat Williams examines what it feels like to long to belong to balance difference and indifference and to map out both the potential and pitfalls of accessing many identities while feeling unable to lay full claim to any The themes are similar the journeys radically different But Williamss voice is her own Truth is she writes you just cant become something you have never seen or cant imagine I was a lost spirit Williams had seen few like herself in the small seaside town of Beit-eel on the northern fringes of Wales Her father was an artist from Guyana her mother was Welsh and worked in a book warehouse They met in
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