A name for Britain

A poem inspired by a masterclass I did with the poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan as part of the SOAS Festival of Ideas: Decolonizing Knowledge events.
Here I discuss identity and the importance of names which ties into ideas about race.

A name for Britain:

Leah Simone Campbell Chan is my name.

詩朗 is my name. 

But Chan is their name.

陳. Chan. 陳. Chan.

Born in Hong Kong,

But not a Hong Konger.

Grew up in England.

But not English at all.

I’m as mixed as

the confusion of a white person

Trying to say my name.

Which name?

I’m mixed up about my name.

I could be a Geordie.

But

haha is ya da Jackie Chan?

He is and I’ll tell him to chin ya.

Me mam gave iz Campbell

‘Just in case’.

That’s her maiden name.

She got it in Scotland.

Told me never to call her mam.

Divven’t have a Geordie accent.

Nee one will take you seriously.

At least Leah was easy to spell in school.

Looks good on the register.

Maybe they won’t even realise that I’m not quite

White.

陳詩朗 is my name. 

Chan comes first.

That’s what they see first.

詩朗, you are bright, artistic, poetic.

No one sees 詩朗 .

What?

Is that your real name?

I can’t say that.

So, what are you?

Are you like, Asian?

You must be really clever.

That’s exotic.

Leah Simone Campbell Chan is my name.

陳詩朗 is my name. 

They’re two different names for the same person.

You can call me Leah.

That’s what the register says.

You can’t call me 陳詩朗.

I can’t call me that either.

They never taught me how to say my name.

They never say my name.

I taught myself my name, it was given to me.

A gift.

Non-refundable.

It would be rude to return it right?

I’ll go back to my own country,

Even though I grew up here.

Chameleons in the city.

Assimilate or

Make a name for yourself.

But I can’t say my name.

It’s better, if you just call me Leah.