Where You From?
by Riz Ahmed
(performed at the 2019 Eid in Trafalgar Square London)
Yo, they ever ask you where you from?
Like where you really from?
The question seems simple but the answer’s kinda long.
I could tell them Wembley, but I don’t think that’s what they want.
But I don’t want to say more ‘cause anything I say is wrong.
Like Britain’s where I’m born, and I love a cup of tea and that, but tea ain’t from Britain it’s from where my DNA is at.
And where my genes are from people don’t really wear jeans and that, or MC like in NYC where I stack my Ps and that.
Yo, skinheads meant that I never really loved the British flag and my stomach would react when I went back to Pak.
And my ancestor’s Indian but India was not for us, but my people built the West, we even gave the skinheads swastikas.
Now everybody everywhere want their country back, well, if you want me back to where I’m from then bruv, I need a map.
Or if everyone just wants their stuff back then that’s blessed for us, you only built a piece in this place yo, the rest was us.
Yo, maybe I’m from everywhere and nowhere, no man’s land between the trenches nobody goes there but it’s fertilised by the brown bodies fought for Britain in the wars so when I spit a poppy grows there.
I make my own place in this business of Britishness, your question’s just limiting it’s based on appearances, stop trying to find a box for us.
I’ll make my own and bruk your poxy concept of us.
Very few fit these labels so I’m repping for the rest of us who know there’s no place like home and that stretches us, who code switch so don’t take the mick with cricket tests for us or question us about our loyalty, our blood and sweat’s enough.
Born under a sun that you made too hot for us, kidnapped by Empire and diaspora fostered us.
Raised by bhangra, garage and halal Southern fried chicken shops, a jungalist, a jungali, I’m Mowgli from the Jungle Book.
I’m Mo Salah in the box, I’m at the mosh pit and the mosque, I bend words like brown and West until they just spell ‘what?’
My tribe is a quest to a place that was lost to us, and its name is dignity so where I’m from is not your problem, bruv.
Where I’m from is a place the whole world has built with its blood.
Where I’m from is a place where history meets future and that’s us.
Where I’m from is a place where every mansion’s next to council blocks and the mayor kind of looks like me and his dad used to drive a bus.
So, if you wanna ask me where I’m from, then I’m a Londoner.
If you wanna ask me where I’m from, then it’s London, bruv.
If you wanna ask me where I’m from, then it’s London, cuz.
( See the performance at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUolqwWuIxM&t=14s )
Riz has quickly become a household name through his acting work in films such as Star Wars: Rogue One, Nightcrawler and 2018’s Venom. Please see bio on page 177.