Ric Flo: Thoughts on Farming, Foster Care & Belonging

In this guest blog rapper and foster care leaver Ric Flo shares his thoughts on Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's 2019 film Farming and his own experiences of growing up in Foster Care in a predominantly white community. Ric is part of our Being the Story Spokesperson Network Pilot Programme.

I watched Farming last night and it was intense. Imagine Cass meets American History X, that’s the intensity of the palette when you watching Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s coming of age story.

Farming is a British film written and directed by Adewale, based on his own childhood. The plot is about a child whose Yoruba parents give him to a white working-class family in the hope of a better future but instead he becomes the feared leader of a white skinhead gang.

The term ‘farming’ was the peculiar euphemism given to the practice, prevalent in 1960s and 80s England, whereby working or studying Nigerian parents would pay white British families to foster their children.

British films like this are so important because it shows the extent of how young black youth have had to navigate outside of the multicultural capital and how trauma and racism can have a person finding belonging in the darkest places.

Being privately fostered in Bournemouth myself with racist carers, I found belonging from being associated with the hardest in the town and even went back to the Nigeria for a special prayer, and so I resonated with Adewale story deeply.

As a Rapper it’s standard to state where you are from, but when you’re a child of the state who has moved foster homes five times in Bournemouth, was born in Nigeria and spent half their life in London, it wasn’t so straight forward to do my ‘state where you’re from’ rap. But recent films like Farming (and The Last Tree) have given me a boost of confidence to know that I’m not alone in how I feel about identity and Britishness.

We can sometimes wear a mask to hide our traumas, to fit in and belong even if deep down we don’t feel we do, as a coping mechanism. I’m privileged to be a part of two cultures, yet I understand how it feels to feel like you’re a part of neither. Farming and The Last Tree depict this is very different ways, but I think both are very relatable to people of colour who grew up outside of London in a prominently white community.

In Farming we see that everyone around the main character Enitan systematically fails him, but there is a glimpse of hope from one of his teachers which significantly helps the future of someone who could of turned out very differently considering what he had been though. In my life I recognise that my Art teacher in secondary school – Mrs Guppy – played a key role in helping me with my self-esteem and confidence in art. And if it wasn’t for her compassion and caring attitude, I could have taken a different route in life, too.

Ric and Mrs Guppy

I also recognise that although I didn’t have a great start in foster care, the fifth family that I got placed with was one of the best things that has happened to me. Mr and Mrs Payler are family to me to this day because of the unconditional love and care that they showed me, not only whilst I was in their welcoming home but beyond foster care. I know I’m always welcome whenever I feel because I am their son and I can proudly say that. I still acknowledge my biological mum too so I’m a lucky guy to have two families!

The idea of home can often be complicated, but if it wasn’t for guardian angels like the Paylers and Mrs Guppy, the foundation of what I call home could have been very different.

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