Cassianne Lawrence is a Content creator, host of Tones of Melanin, Musician, Author, Communications Specialist and mother, based in Berlin. Cassianne took some time out to share her story.
What is your name? Cassianne Lawrence is my birth name but I am interested in changing it to Law because I think ‘Lawrence’ is a slave name, but I also have other aliases I go by:
C-law - she is the poet and she is radical and fierce, and doesn’t give s*** about what anybody thinks. Actually all my aliases don't care, they’re just like, revolutionary.
I have Caxxianne who is my hip hop rebel, who is in your face and just, tells the truth. Whether it is about black people or white people. I don’t care I’m going to speak my truth in the way that I walk through the world and I would never try to purposely offend anyone but I will speak my truth.
Can you tell me a bit about your background? Like where you were born and grew up?
So I was born in Jamaica in July, and grew up there till the age of 7 then I moved to the Cayman Islands. In Jamaica, we lived in poverty stricken area but whatever the case we made the best of it at all times. Obviously there were limits to that because of gang violence and political powers using guns against the community for power gain. I lived in the eastern end of the islands, I didn’t really know racism or colourism till I moved to the Cayman Islands. They call Cayman Islands the house slave country because there were a lot of mixed race people sent there in slavery times. A lot of lighter skin slaves were living in the Cayman Islands. To this day it is still seen as the Silver spoon country of the Caribbean. No one really likes the Cayman Islands due to that classicism that is still present.
And do you know what your heritage is? I don’t know exactly where my family comes from but the little pieces I know is that my great grandma was actually Chinese and my great granddad was Jamaican. My grandma and grandad were Jamaican, this is on my mother's side. If I'm not mistaken. On my dad’s side, his mother was actually enslaved in Cuba and brought over to Jamaica. She was actually raped on the plantation by another slave and had my dad. That’s as far as I know regarding that.
What does a day to day look like for you? I go to work, my day job but during on breaks I would work on my music or Tones of Melanin, or Afrokid series. It used to be that I worked overnight shifts and late shifts because I work in customer service, so I would write my music in those shifts. My EPs are songs I wrote at midnight at work. I haven’t done that anymore due to a shift in my focus. After work I pick up my daughter from school or I drop her to school in the morning. When I am home I have to cook dinner for her, or read with her or help her do her homework. Doing mother things you know. Put her to bed and when she goes to bed then I work on my own stuff. Depending on what I feel needs to work on that day. I don’t really have time for myself (she laughs) but I do have a partner who I love and is truly helpful, he steps in when i'm overwhelmed and he really helps me be able to do the things I am doing right now. So I am grateful.
‘Since moving to Berlin, what things do you love about the city or being in the city? As much as I say I don’t like the city, and as much as I don’t feel a connection here, there has been so much growth in myself. I'm amazed. Everyday I'm like wow! ‘you were this person living in the Cayman islands’ I had a certain lifestyle you know. In the Cayman Islands I had a good lifestyle, I was making good money, I had a car, a house, I was living the freakin life but when I moved to Berlin I had next to nothing, living on bare minimum. It made me financially savvy, it also broadened my mind. Everybody has a different way of thinking, a different way of living and people can just express themselves. Express themselves without judgement and I love that about Berlin. Also the artistic scene, there are ways to express yourself in ways that I wasn’t really allowed to in the Cayman Islands for all different reasons.
How about what things do you hate about the city?
Oh my gosh, wow, well there are really so much that I don’t particularly like but the major thing for me is the complete disillusionment that racism doesn’t exist here. Im like ‘excuse me?’, from the daily micro-aggressions like someone moving from their seat on the train when you sit down next to them, or applying for a job and ‘sounding white’ on the phone but when you get into the interview the shift on their expression, or when trying to get an apartment and you can see that you have been ignored or even when you are on the street and someone calls out Nigger. The complete disillusionment that racism doesn’t exist here. Also the lack of commitment to fulfilling an idea when agreeing with others, saying we need to support each or do something together but it doesn’t happen. You know. I feel people here live on a dream at times.
One more thing, the drug abuse is a lot for me, you know people can live their life however they want it but it is hard to see people doing drugs in the Ubahn or something whilst i'm walking with my child. You know. I am also learning how to protect my energy because I feel peoples energy, there is a lot of heavy energy here and I feel sick and drained when I go out.
Can you tell me more about the stuff you do when you are not working?
Like your own ideas? So I started a book series called Afrokid series., it started in 2014. It was actually supposed to be 1 book about my daughter. I started to write it to give my daughter more representation of seeing herself and loving herself you know. I learnt
other black kids were having issues with being teased about their hair and skin so it encouraged me to see the need for a book like this. I think it is important that kids are encouraged to love themselves no matter what they look like, skin, hair, weight etc.
Then I have Tones of Melanin, it's an entity is what I call it. It's on YouTube to grow a following but the aim for it is to be a collective. A collective of people of artistic abilities to showcase their work. So far there are 4 entities within Tones of Melanin, there is Colloquialism of the Black Man, Colloquialism of the Black Woman, Haven which is more the entertainment section, and then there are interviews with all different professions discussing the definition of ‘success’, as we know success is different for everyone.
What role do you think your work has in society?
Right now I feel all my work is separate, one day it will intertwine. The impact I want it to have on the world is togetherness. Being able to bring people together from whatever walks of life they are in, that we can work all together as one to make a better world for everybody. So I want my work to wake people up, to empower and encourage people to follow their dreams and never give up on life. You know all our dreams are valid no matter how big or small, they are valid. No matter what you think about your dreams, it can make an impact. I hope to impact people to make people want to do better, even if it hits one person then that’s enough you know.
If you could choose one super power what would it be?
You know I’ve always thought about this question but I have never given myself the answer. Wow..maybe it's a superpower that hasn’t been created yet?
Maybe it's to have the disease of Love and Empathy, and to touch someone and they become overwhelmed with Love and empathy. Then it is a domino affect, so they pass it on to someone they touch. Like a virus. Because I think only with love will we heal this world, and a mantra that I wrote is “Love is the incandescent light of the soul”, I wrote that so quote me on that.
Is there a particular work that you enjoy the most?
Well there is a brother and sister, it is Tomi Adeyemi who is an author and Tobi Lou is a musician. Tomi wrote Children of Blood and Bone which is the most epic series I’ve read In my life. I just finished the 2nd book in the series and am eagerly waiting for the next book. Tobi is a freaking mind blowing Hip Hop artist. The way he puts words together is just so beautiful.
What is the last thing that made you belly laugh? Can you share it with us?
It was in 2017 and I was with my partner. I think this isn’t even that funny but I was baked. We were chilling and watching silly videos on Facebook or something, then a video came by, the original video was some people fighting and someone did a voice over saying ‘oh you need some milk!’ And my partner re-enacts it and the funny bone went off, to the point that he had to ask if I was ok and legitimately worried.
So you’re trapped on an island and you can only have 1 meal for the rest of your life. What would that be?
Oxtail, rice and beans, and plantains. For the rest of my life I would eat that.
If you were not being a poet, musician, curator or author, what would you be doing?
I would get into politics, and then try to become a president of a country in Africa. Then try to bring all the presidents of all the countries in Africa, and try to make the continent great. Bringing it back to a state of greatness.
Do you have a favourite neighbourhood in Berlin?
Umm yeah I guess, I like Charlottenburg. I like not being bothered, I like nature, I like quiet, I like cleanliness and Charlottenburg provides that.
At what age did you realise this was a voice or medium of expression you wanted to explore, or develop?
I think 24 was a big shift for me. That time I separated from my daughters father, we had been together 9 years that point, I was single for the first time since being a teenager. I was really exploring myself and the world, I was travelling alone as I was living in the Cayman Islands, I had bought my car, I bought my house. I had my own things, not to say he gave me stuff I was always self sufficient but there was a shift for me.
That was the time I started gradually figuring out really what I wanted to do, and I had to take risks and steps to do what I am doing now. One of those risks was moving to Germany and changing my lifestyle. I was like if I can take this risk and then I might as well take up more risk to do what I want to do. When I came to Berlin I started sharing my work and that led me towards a clearer vision of my goal and mission.
What was the last song you remember singing in the shower?
Simmer by Mahalia and Burnt Boy.
What message would you leave to other black and brown people in Berlin or coming to Berlin?
Do whatever the hell you want to do. Don’t let anybody stop you, especially racist. Don’t let the city break you.
What is the most favourite thing about yourself? What is the least favourite thing about yourself?
My favourite thing is my drive, and ambition. The fact that I am a strong headed person and I am able to uphold my boundaries. The least favourite thing I like about myself is that sometimes I get instagram envious, where I ask myself could I do that if I didn’t have a child or a partner, but I am changing that mindset. I am not envious of the people succeeding, I am more envious of me not reaching my goals as it appears that those people are already reaching their goals.
Thanks to Cassianne Lawrence for sharing their story with us.
Feel free to find out more info of Cassianne Lawrence
and check out her album release party, Breaking Cycles on the 9th Oct 2020.