friendship model: meaningful encounters – whose baby are you? / kiki brown
As a friendship producer, every single day is different from the last. One day I’m in the office, calling number after number trying to establish connections to different establishments, the next day I’m having a 2 hour conversation about how to inspire and support black youth, and then I’m being taught how to play dominos by older Caribbean gentlemen in a community hall giggling and feeling a nostalgic connection to my childhood. This role is so exciting and diverse. I get to support my community in ways I didn’t know I could as an actual career!
I usually start my day in the office, answering emails and touching base with my colleagues. Because I spend most of my day out of the office engaging with the community, it feels right to greet my colleagues in the morning and keep each other updated as we are a team after all. Taking the time to communicate with your colleagues is so important, as yes, you are representing a company, but it can sometimes feel like your journey is separate to everyone else’s, which is unhelpful when you’re actually all cogs in the same machine. You have to work together.
For the past two days I have been connecting with older adults from the African and Caribbean community in Watford. Yesterday was a group at Elim Church, a place where they’re doing great work, including a food bank every day and an over 50s group mainly made up of people of African and Caribbean descent. As soon as I walked in, I felt instantly moved by the scene. People serving food and breaking bread together, chatting and laughing, and a woman came to me and asked, ‘whose baby are you?’ which is something my great aunties and uncles say at family reunions when they can’t quite remember what branch of the family tree I belong to.
I was also fortunate enough to be invited to Watford African Caribbean Association’s 50+ initiative. A lady volunteered to run a light exercise session, there were drinks and refreshments and people chatting and playing games. I was lucky enough to be allowed to partake in a game of dominos, (a game my grandfather always used to play but forbade me to join in as it was a ‘big people game’). Again I was moved – the images before me were reminiscent of my grandparents, my great aunts, my great uncles and their friends. In our society, we often don’t treasure and respect our elders as much as we should. Growing up, I was always taught that elderly people have a magic in them; a wisdom and stillness that I can learn from, and that I should therefore cherish. I was taught to call older black women ‘miss’ or ‘aunty’, and when I walked into that meeting today I was surrounded by my ‘aunties’ and it was wonderful.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend good time with these people, and I found that although I connected with the men who were present, I connected more deeply with the female members of the 50+ groups. They had a maternal way of being and were very interested in what I had to tell them. A portion of them ended up attending good dog press night, and it was so lovely to see them there.
kiki brown is a singer/songwriter and poet whilst being a friendship producer for tiata fahodzi. With a background that also encompasses acting and community theatre, she has co-run two small-scale theatre companies, touring nationally and is also s singing tutor for Young and Talented Theatre School.