Celebrating our diversity... Sherlon

I grew up in South London in the 70s and 80s. Both my parents were from Barbados, part of the Windrush generation that came over after the Second World War to help rebuild, “the Mother country” as they called it. I know racism was a constant in their lives but they hardly spoke of it.
My two brothers and I lived for most of our childhood in Herne Hill an area that bordered Brixton. I can still remember experiencing the Brixton riots of 1981. It was a time of tension between the black community and the police, caused by police harassment.
I can still remember my mum turning up after school on the first day of the riots to stop us going to Brixton to join our friends in the rioting and looting.
My parents worked tirelessly when we were young, my mum had three cleaning jobs on the go at any one time. She would head to work at 5am, be back by 8am to get us to school and then would head out to work while we were in school returning to cook and be there when we got home, she would then head out again to work just before 6pm and return by 9pm. My dad worked on a building site, though he was out of work for a while in our childhood.
Growing up in London was for the most part great, though there was always the undercurrent of racism in the 1980s. I can recall my older brother been stopped once by the police for looking suspicious, which equated to walking down the street whilst black.
Church has always been an important part of Afro-Caribbean culture and it was mandatory, as any child of that generation would testify. Irrespective of any protestations from an eight-year-old.
Racism in my teens was generally quite overt. It was the time of far right groups like the National Front, I was a middle distance runner for my school and county, I used my training to good effect when pursued by these bigots, who always tired first.
My secondary school was multicultural and aspirational there were several BAME teachers but it was my pastor, who had been to Oxford University who encouraged me and my twin Sherwin to go to University.
I did a History degree at Portsmouth where I was a bit of an exotic oddity, many of my friends and fellow students had never met a black person in the flesh, so stereotypes were never too far from the surface.
I had become a Christian a couple of years before university and church life was great at university, once people accepted that I wasn’t an overseas student and that I was born in this country, though I found it tiring to repeat this to several well-meaning church families.
I moved to Liverpool in the early 1990s and lived in Toxteth. It was here I encountered endemic racism from the police. I lost count of the times I was stopped by the police in those early years, whether it was stealing my own car (this was quite a regular occurrence), looking suspicious, carrying a suitcase when I visiting my parents or being mistaken for a suspect who also happened to be young, male and Black.
My experience of church life was totally different in comparison, when I arrived at Frontline in 1992 I was the only BAME person there but I was just Sherlon another student who was instantly welcomed by all and made to feel part of the church family.
I decided to go into teaching around 1998 because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children from deprived backgrounds.
Initially finding employment was difficult; I went to numerous interviews but with no success. At one interview I was asked how I would deal with racism as a black teacher in a majority white school I was taken a back at the question as no other candidate was asked that question. Surprisingly I did not get that job.
I was head hunted for my first teaching post at a school in Toxteth  - they were more progressive and ethnically diverse and wanted their staff to reflect their school community.
Education is a major antidote to racism and intolerance. As a history teacher, I know that historical perspective is everything. In terms of racism in schools, much of it stems from ignorance of other cultures and lack of visual diversity in certain communities. In October 2019 I was racially abused by a student when I challenged his behaviour. The boy was given a fixed term exclusion.
This has not been the norm for me though more subtle stereotypical racial comments about black people amongst students and staff (to a lesser extent) have been, especially in more mono cultural schools
As a Christian and member of the Frontline church family I am excited at our future. There is no racism in Heaven, there is only the culture of the Kingdom of God, which is inclusive to all and there are no ethnic minorities just a God Majority
I am excited at how going forward we can advance God’s kingdom in Liverpool by showing the world around us a model to combat racism. The gospel of love, where there is no Jew or Gentile…
My faith has remained an anchor in spite of all I have experienced. I am a Child of God, racism or racists might have infringed on my life but they don’t define it. As a church, we all irrespective of our ethnicity need to see each other as God sees us not as the world would try and define us. It’s much easier to love your brother or sister than a complete stranger. That’s the key to being inconclusive and attracting the wider community into our church family.

11 Comments


Andrew - June 20th, 2020 at 4:30am

Thank you Sherlon for sharing your story with us!

Kirsten N Harding - June 20th, 2020 at 5:36am

Thanks for this Sherlon.

Mike - June 20th, 2020 at 6:24am

Thank you for sharing your story with us Sherlon. By the way, I've been wanting to thank you for your recent Devotions you've contributed. Last Saturday, 20th June, Mary was listening late in the evening to your Devotion on Luke 2:1-20 about the shepherds and the glory of God. You finished with the words, 'Lord, let your glory fall on your church, and send the fire again. Amen.' Immediately there was a thunderclap outside, and a deluge of rain started to pour down. The torrential rain continued for over 15 mins, with some lightning as well. Amen Sherlon! Thanks for all you're bringing.

Taluwa - June 20th, 2020 at 6:32am

Very powerful sharing Sherlon, indeed we are all God's children made in His image.

Pam - June 20th, 2020 at 7:30am

It’s been a real privilege to meet and get to know you and your beautiful family Sherlon. I will never forget our first acquaintance when I heard the mighty prayers of a powerful, passionate intercessor at Strawberry Fields Prayer rooms; so in tune with the Spirit of God, I have ever since been drawn to your Godly character and thank you for being who God made you to be! Pam & John xxx

Sue Uddin - June 20th, 2020 at 3:28pm

Sherlon thank you so much for sharing your story I need to hear it, thank you x

Helen paton - June 21st, 2020 at 2:31am

Thank you Sherlon for sharing your story, you are such a blessing to our church community.

Josh Langlois - June 21st, 2020 at 3:59pm

Amazing, honest, vulnerable. Thanks Sherlon. “Stealing my own car” 😂. Unbelievable!!

Marisa - June 21st, 2020 at 6:03pm

Thanks for sharing this Sherlon - very powerful!

Steven - June 22nd, 2020 at 11:22am

Great story and message Sherlon and you're right, our identity is in God.

Louise - June 26th, 2020 at 5:07am

Thanks Sherlon, it's wonderful to get to know you better and so powerful to hear your story. Let us see God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!