Pauline Omoboye shares some of her personal experiences with inequality and talks about how Made by Mortals' Armchair Adventures uses poetry to share important messages of injustice with younger generations in Tameside, Greater Manchester.
Pauline Omoboye is no stranger to the arts.
The 64-year-old boasts an extensive background of printed poetry, paintings and is even a published author of the book, Purple Mother. A success built on inspiration taken from her own life experiences.
However, this isn’t life experience that makes for poems of happiness, pictures of inclusivity and stories of acceptance. Instead, Pauline admits one of her biggest artistic influences comes from the inequality and battles she and her family have faced with racism.
For over 40 years, Pauline has used art as a way to share messages of how ‘being different is okay’ – a concept which was vastly unfamiliar to her family throughout her life.
Moving to Manchester from Jamaica in the ‘50s, Pauline’s parents had a difficult start to life. Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, they made the move with little money in their pockets in a desperate bid to provide a brighter future for the now-64-year-old and her four siblings. A future where they and their future children could thrive and take up opportunities that were never available to them.
But they were not without their battles.
“Back then, it was all very much separate in regard to race. No dogs, no blacks, no Irish.
“Something that particularly sticks out for me is what happened to my dad when he came to England and how he was made to feel, purely because of his race. He experienced lots of negativity in the workplace. It was constant. Every day. His work colleagues would use it against him, some in humour, some more malicious.
“When he used to enter the pub, first of all it would clear, people would move to opposite sides of the building to get away from him, but second, after he had finished drinking the barman would smash the glass. He had some horrific experiences.”
The mum-of-four said her own mother was also subject to racist abuse, though she was able to escape its full severity after she was registered as one of Manchester’s first black childminders – an event Pauline says was just one example of how her mum “made her mark”.
From early on, Pauline recalls experiencing being made to feel different. Often excluded. Something which would go on to feature as a theme for her children, too.
Following an incident in which her son was racially abused at school, Pauline wrote a poem dedicated to him which incorporates the message of how being different is okay, and how everyone is beautiful the way they are. While the poem was written in the ‘80s, much like a lot of her work around inequality, she finds many of the messages remain relevant today.
Pauline has since gone on to read the poem as part of an Armchair Adventures episode, to share the story and educate children on the impact of racism.
Though she has always been artistically involved, Pauline said once the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic hit, this put an abrupt halt to a lot of the things that kept her active and creative.
Discovering Made By Mortals for the first time in summer 2021, Pauline found a purpose when she was asked to work with the group on the creation of the ‘Unity’ episode, released in honour of Black History Month in the October. Using the episode to share her personal experiences with inequality and linking it with more modern movements such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘taking the knee’ in football, Pauline admits it was here she “got the bug and never left”.
“A lot of my poems that I wrote in the ‘80s are still relevant now. What’s changed?
“We’re still fighting the same issues and battles, and this is a good way to help share messages with younger generations, because children are our future – like Whitney Houston said.
“We need to teach them to not only have a better life, but to help create a better life for others.”
Pauline is also passionate about using the programme to help more children find their artistic flair, whatever that may look like to them. In an upcoming podcast episode, which focuses on exploring the world of poetry, Pauline takes the children on a journey to explore the various styles of poetry and the different artists to showcase how there is room for everyone.
“With Armchair Adventures, I get so much out of it. We’re sharing messages to so many children on important matters.
“The whole experience has been a learning curve. I’ve met so many friendly and wonderful people during this journey and enjoyed everything we’ve produced.
“It’s worked very well for my mental health and has helped and prevented the feelings of isolation I struggled with before I started working with Made By Mortals. It has opened my eyes to new things – I’d never even heard of a podcast prior to Armchair Adventures!
“I feel honoured to be involved in an arts project which is making such a huge impact and difference to the lives of children.”
Black and Beautiful by Pauline Omoboye
Mummy can you tell me something true
Is there something special about you and me
or are we like Martians who come from space
Why do people stare at me in disgrace
My hair is combed my clothes are smart
my teeth are sparkling bright
My shoes they shine
the school bag’s mine
my trousers are not too tight
So mummy can you tell me something
can I ask you true
is there something different about me and you
Son listen carefully
you are perfect and you’re bright
The only thing that you don’t have
is the colour skin that’s white
That’s why they think you’re different
but the facts are clear and true
being Black is beautiful like perfect little you.
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