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Gulia and her journey joining KB!

15-year-old Gulia joined us at the end of July 2023 for our Summer Step Up Programme. Since then she has created and performed two phenomenal poems as well as making big moves across several sections in the Bloco!

During the week of the Summer Step Up course, Gulia learnt a variety of employability skills to prepare her for entering the workforce, from interview etiquette to CV writing. Additionally, the cohort explored different social action issues which they responded to via creative art forms to perform at the end of the week to friends and family. There were speeches, songs and spoken word performances. However, one of the highlighted performances was Gulia’s poetry.

”If they can do it, why can I not do it!

The poem was titled ‘A Mother’s Ode to her Black Daughter’ and dissected themes of colourism, placing herself in a mother’s shoes and what she would say to her daughter. Gulia felt this was an important topic to discuss as more people should be aware of the way society, institutions and media often favour lighter-skinned people.

With a little guidance from Scarlett, Gulia decided that instead of focusing on the negative, it was crucial to spin the narrative more positively to empower young girls reading her poem to feel empowered about their dark skin. The poem urges listeners not to idolise everyone you see in the media and not let them change the way you feel about yourself. 

“If they can do it, why can’t I do it?” she says, citing Little Simz, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill as positive role models who offer her optimism despite the challenges they experienced as darker-skinned women who went on to become hugely successful in the music business.

As much as she felt nervous performing outside of school to an unfamiliar audience, Gulia delivered a powerful performance which boosted her confidence.

You can watch her perform ‘A Mother’s Ode to Her Black Daughter’ here

Gulia was born in Italy to Nigerian parents, living there for nine years before coming to the UK in 2017. Growing up, she recalls her parents playing a variety of music from Fela to Tupac and being really into Italian TV shows as they were especially musical.

Upon arriving in the UK and enrolling in a new school, Gulia remembers being shocked at seeing that the majority of her class was black. She was used to being the only black girl in the class and immediately felt a rush of belonging, seeing more people who looked like her allowed her to form bonds. However, her English was broken and recalls classmates making fun of her accent. She had to force herself to watch English shows to learn the language and make friends.

”Bloco changed my life”

After a highly successful Bloco introduction Gulia was keen to get involved in a more musical capacity. After joining Senior Summer School, she made new friends, speaking to people of all ages who mutually understood what it’s like to be creative and musical. She felt elated with how many people shared her same beliefs.

However, Gulia sensed she was struggling on the first day. She was around so many talented people and felt embarrassed after joining Drum Squad and not getting the song straight away. ‘’It’s hard being a slow learner in front of everyone’’.

After a motivational chat from Aneira, she quite literally found her groove! Young leader Ruth took Gulia under her wing and helped her to practice, allowing her to feel a part of the Bloco community. She soon realised she was more than capable and after the first sharing session, and hearing a preview of how the Bloco would sound at the end of the 2 weeks, she knew from that moment she had to peruse music seriously.

”Tribute isn’t only about people from the past, Tribute should also be about people in the present”

Our theme at Summer School 2023 was Tribute and like the year prior, poetry was a breakout group option led by Ruben. Exploring ‘Tribute’ she thought of people who shaped the world, making a stand against racism and women in particular who fought oppression. Assisting her with the refining process, which she still uses to this day, Ruben showed her how to fine-tune her writing, make it an appropriate length for the show and structure her poems properly.

In her poem, Gulia recognised the ‘languages forgotten’ as a result of colonisers stopping enslaved people from speaking their native languages and losing their roots, the ‘unanswered questions’ and even thanked ‘the teachers who continue to educate and work overtime to teach kids about the world around them’. ‘’People don’t give enough credit to teachers’’, she says acknowledging Bloco leaders ‘’who allow young people to be creative. Tribute isn’t only about people from the past, tribute should also be about people in the present.’’

Performing the poem at the Summer School Finale felt intimidating for Gulia, especially after watching the past shows on YouTube and seeing how many people would be there! Reading out the first few lines felt scary but the more she went on, the more people clapped and the more confident she felt. Gulia realised ‘’it’s not that deep! People are only judging how good it is, and that made me feel really special’’.

‘’I would never have got this opportunity if it wasn’t for Bloco”

Another highlight for Gulia was performing dance choreography she had learnt in under two weeks at the Royal Albert Hall with Ezra Collective! Being the biggest crowd she’s ever performed to before, ‘’it was really nerve-wracking but being up there with my friends in the dance section, I forgot all my nerves when I got on stage and started performing. I had fun and made me realise I do like dance as well. Performing with a big crowd at Royal Albert Hall was eye opening and I will never forget it. I would never have got this opportunity if it wasn’t for Bloco.’’

Gulia’s also experimented on the Steel Pan because of Bloco, joining Millie’s Pan Takeover sessions learning music theory, scales, and improvisation techniques. She hopes to join a steel orchestra and play in Panorama one day!

‘’Bloco is a really nice place and it’s a loving place. If you want to explore the arts and make friends with artistic people or just want to learn music then you should join Bloco, it’s the best place to be.’’

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