Black Sheep – Oscars 2019 Short Documentary Nominee

Everything changed for me
the day Damilola Taylor died. That was it,
that changed everything. I remember the day vividly. I came off the bus and literally, as soon as I got off the bus,
I could see a blue flashing light and then obviously as I got closer,
it became more brighter and they locked off this whole road
and the police officer just told me: ‘You can’t come here,
a kid just died.’ So I got home now and then just opened the door and my mum was like, she was just shouting out my Nigerian name,
which I’m not gonna say, and she’s just looking at the TV
and she’s just … She was just crying, like just eyes watering
and then Damilola Taylor’s mum started talking and then she just,
she just started crying for no reason, like just literally crying on her knees
and she probably, I think she grabbed my little brother and hugged him and she just
said ‘that could’ve been one of you guys.’ (TV presenter): Police are hunting for the killers
of a 10-year old boy who was stabbed to death
on his way home from school earlier today. Nigerian-born Damilola Taylor
crawled up these steps on a housing estate in Peckham,
south London, in a desperate attempt to escape his attackers. He was still wearing
his school uniform when he died. Damilola Taylor, a 10-year-old boy
from the same country my parents are from, died. That could have been me. And that’s what scared my mum the most.
It could have been any one of us. Two months later …
My mum moved us out of London. I remember the day we moved and … like it’s like one of
those happy memories because … I remember when my dad,
he’s a very silent person so when he was kind of telling people where to go
and what to do I was just like, ‘yeah, that’s my dad.’ I remember us sitting in the back seat
and I was seeing the whole of Peckham just flash by right behind my eyes
and like you see the mosque, the big Peckham library, the churches … It was my London. My multicultural London. So we keep going and keep going
and all I see is horses, I see cows, like … What, where are we going? And then, you know when you’re driving
and you get the speed limits and it’s the three bars
and then it’s two, then one and so I’m just looking at that and looking at that
and it’s like yeah, yeah, yeah and that’s it, pitch black and I’m asleep. Wake up now.
I see this house and I, like, that my house. I remember my dad just
grabbing me just like ‘you better behave yourself.’ The first week I was there
I just stayed inside my house, I didn’t really go out. I didn’t want to do much. And then one day my mum
just asked me to go the shops for her. I remember walking out my house and walking down this long path. And all I saw was white people. Like literally just different shades of white. So I go to the shop and when I enter the shop,
everyone keeps looking at me, like staring at me,
and then the cashier just gave me this kind of like, ‘what are you’ and I was just like
‘OK, cool.’ So next thing, you know,
I finish buying what I need to buy from the shop, and I walk down the road and all I hear is: ‘Oi nigger!’ What? ‘Oi nigger!’ I look up and I see a little
boy calling me a nigger. And then he looks at me,
just stares at me and starts making monkey sounds. Oo oo oo oo oo oo oo. I basically got home
and I just – I just kept it to myself. I could’ve told my mum,
‘hey, the area you’ve move us to, they’re kind of racist, is there any way you can get
a return on the house that you’ve just paid for?’ And just, you know, send us back.’ And I can’t go to my dad telling him someone
called me a nigger because he’s going to think I’m weak and if I cry in front of my dad,
he’s going to think I’m even weaker. At that age I was … I was trying to look up to my dad,
I was trying to be a man, I was trying to get my dad’s love,
and my dad’s affection and I just really wanted my dad to love me. And it’s not like
he didn’t love me, he just had a very hard way of showing it and at that age,
I didn’t wanna show him any kind of weakness. I remember when I was young, like, whenever we, you know, got my dad angry,
he would like, he would beat his chest as loud as he possibly could and say, ‘I’m a lion, do you know what a lion is?
He’s a king of the jungle. This means you can’t mess with a lion.’ And I just got that in my system. If he’s a lion then I must be the son of
the lion and I can’t show weakness so I just went
into my room, I closed the door, I just screamed as loud as
I possibly could but with nothing coming out my mouth. I soon realised that the area
that we lived in was run by these two families. These people just looked … I know this sounds really weird to say
but when you … Is it possible to say
that you can see bad in someone by just looking at them? The guy who was in charge at the time,
I wish I could say his name but I’m not going to, he just does this and does that. I just felt ‘oh crap.’
It doesn’t get better, does it? First fight I got into
was with a kid at school, a white kid. But the way they fight,
compared to London, is completely different. So in London
if you want to fight someone, you grab them, you just instant, as in instant punch,
you make someone angry, boom. In Essex they were like
‘meet me round the alleyway, round the back and me and you
are going to go at it.’ ‘Okay, yeah, I’ll do that.’ So basically, we organise the fight. It was on a large field and I just see
like a crowd of white people in a circle and as soon as I enter
they kind of open the thing and was like
‘is this him? Is this him?’ Get away you black cunt. Fuck off! Why the fuck are you over here boy? Why are you over here? Why are you over here? And next thing you know,
the kid just comes up to me and then, boom, I dropped to the floor. Everything went black. This little kid just goes, boom, boom, boom on my face and I swear
to you I didn’t feel a single thing. And all I heard was ‘come on man, come on,
hit him.’ ‘Hit the black cunt.’ ‘Hit the nigger, hit the wog, hit him right
in the face, hit him.’ ‘Harder, harder.’ They were enjoying me get hit. I froze. So I just let him carry on hitting me,
carry on hitting me until he was finished. I remember just them making
the same way they parted for me to enter is the same way they parted
for me to leave but like they were following me, and they
were like, ‘go on, go away then, go on, get out of our country,
go on leave us alone, leave us alone, see I told you I’d have him, I told you I’d have him,
next time the black cunt gets lairy.’ I was just scared man, just scared. I remember like … My eyes, just, I remember them
being puffy like up to here. And I remember just,
going into the sink and I’m just trying to … I don’t know why I thought it could wash
it away. I just started crying. I never cried like that before you know,
you know those deep in held cries. I remember … Sorry. I remember hearing my mum,
footsteps slowly coming up the stairs. She saw me, her eyes were like that, and she just started
speaking in her native tongue
and she started saying, ‘my life, my life, my life, what have I
done? Who done this to my son?’ She blamed my dad because she felt like, if he was at home then he would’ve known
where I was going or he would’ve heard it and he could’ve stopped it but
because he wasn’t there, you know, she blamed him for that. In a way, he felt like
she was right because he should’ve been Superman right?
That’s what dads are mean to be and like he wasn’t able to do that and … I think that added to more of their problems,
which added to more of my problems. He basically quit his job
in London after that and he started looking for work around
the area. But it didn’t really work out. And that put a strain on a family. My dad became a very angry person. (Interviewer): Did he hurt you? Yeah, but it’s cool. After I lost that fight,
I just said to myself, the only way I’m gonna survive
is if I fit in, if I become like them. So I did whatever I needed to do to fit
into a group of people who hated the colour of my skin. I started with my clothing, I would literally
save all my dinner money up, starve myself, literally I turned into a little
twig. Just so I could buy all the latest clothing,
like Lionel Scott, McKenzie hoodie, tracksuits and anything I would see all
the big top guys wearing. That’s what I wanted to wear.
And then next thing you know, it went to the hair, you know,
at the time they had the little spiky, the spiky hair was the thing back
in the day so I literally would buy this thing called, it’s a
texturising cream that would straighten your hair. And then I just got the,
the accent, and I just like started putting a bit of a
swing on it like, ‘you all right mate?’ And they’re like, ‘yeah mate it’s me, how you doing?
You all right? You want to go for a pint?’ So I was just talking like them
I was like, ‘yeah, I want to be like you.’ After that, I remember thinking to myself, the perfect white man has blue eyes. So, I said F it I want blue eyes too. So I went to a local shop
and I bought the brightest blue contact lenses I could find. And the final thing I did
was I bleached my skin. I remember the first time I did it,
I remember putting a load on my hand and going like that and looking at my skin
in the mirror like, ‘am I light yet?’ And I’m not light,
so I put some more on. Next thing you know
I wake up in the morning and my skin is a tiny bit lighter I’m like ‘wow.’ I had enough on to be … It’s not even like I wanted to be white,
I just wanted to fit in and if it meant being like white people then,
let’s do it. Over time I started to become friends with,
I guess the racists and the families and I guess all the people who didn’t like black people in the area.
I became friends with them. I wasn’t a threat any more. I was just a black kid who wanted
to be like them. To fit in I felt like I had to … I had to keep silent,
I had to not talk on some things that I thought were important things,
and certain situations and certain predicaments I would just find a way to side the white
people. We had a situation one time
where we were walking down, we were about to go to a little party
with my mates and the white and black guys
got into a little, you know, altercation. You fucking run away you cunt. I’m running away. Go back to fucking Africa. And he said something,
he was like, ‘He’s a fucking nigger, he’s a fucking black cunt.’ It was like, ‘not you Cornelius, I’m not
talking about you, I’m talking about your friend.’ And in that moment I just like,
I’m not proud of it, I just said, ‘yeah, cool, I get it.’ But these are my friends,
so what am I meant to say? (Interviewer): What did you say? I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything
for me to say. We started smashing houses,
we started smashing cars. It got very violent. But I enjoyed it. It let me get rid of all the pain,
all the anger I was feeling for my dad, so I liked it. Do you want to know like the weirdest thing? The only thing I wish as a like 10-year-old
kid back then was … I just wanted my dad to love me, you know. But … I feel that he was hurt a lot
and I though he … … he hurt us a lot. So I hurt a lot. Leave him alone! I just kind of feel like… Like, why?
Why do you, why would you do that? Like, why? And it just pisses
me off because like … I just don’t feel like
you should treat people like that. It really bothers me because it’s just like,
like it really messed me up. We went out on a rampage one night. And there was this guy on a bike,
and I don’t know what came over me but I just punched him for no reason. He didn’t say anything, just punched him. And then he dropped. And then I remember
seeing him on the floor and then I just kicked his head. But when I kicked his head, he screamed
from the top of his lungs and I just remember seeing his face
and it just cave in and he was just like, (screams) Do you feel guilty? Yeah, I … Yeah, I feel guilty,
I feel guilty. But, I felt like,
I felt like I was accepted. All right, you show it like that
and you butt it like … You don’t want to butt it off cause it’s
bare wet and it’s horrible. Yeah that’s it! You’re talking about, a black kid being accepted by racists
and they were cool with me, like, me of all people. And it felt good. It felt good. I wanted love.
I wanted to feel love. So yeah … Just made friends with monsters.

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