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Brian Jones becomes a British Citizen

22 Jun

I became a British citizen on 22 May of this year in a ceremony at Bromley Town Hall in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The photo with the blue border was taken by the official photographer who was on site that day. I would credit him but I did not get his name. The other man in the photo is the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Mohammed Abdus Salique. The day he swore me in was his first day in office and this was the first public ceremony he officiated as mayor. To the right of the mayor is my wife Rachel, and to her right is a portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizababeth II

Brian Jones becomes a British citiizen

I was amongst a group of between ten and fifteen other people who also became British that day. My fellow inductees were from countries as diverse as Iraq, Rwanda, Korea, China, Australia, and Nigeria among others. The woman next to me in this photo was from Iraq.



Joining me that day as witnesses, in addition to Rachel, were my friend Nick Masters, and Rachel’s mum and step-father, Lally and Cecil Chapman.


After the ceremony we went to Victoria Park to have Monmouth coffee at the Pavilion.


Rachel was the photographer that day. Click here to see the rest of her photos.

Why did I become British?
I have been living here for about four years and intend to live here indefinitely. I wanted to be able to fully participate in my community and the affairs of my new country. Not being British meant I could not vote to elect the people who determine the laws under which I live, how my taxes are spent, and the foreign policy my adopted country employs. I can now vote and will be able to enter the country much more quickly once I have applied for and received my British passport. I am also now eligible to serve on a jury! Woo hoo!

What criteria did I have to meet to become British?

  • I had to be married to a British citizen. (Other people have other criteria to meet.)
  • I had to have lived in the UK for at least three years.
  • I had to pass the Life in the UK test.
  • I had to fill out a form and pay around £600 to the Home Office.
  • I had to find two upstanding citizens who were not relations to vouch for me. (Thanks Purba and Katherine.)

What did I have to say to become British?
I chose to affirm and declare, rather than “swear by Almighty God”.
These are the exact words of the Oath of Allegiance, as its known:
I, [name], [swear by Almighty God] [do solemnly, sincerely and truly affirm and declare] that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs, and successors, according to law.

I was also asked to pledge my loyalty to the United Kingdom:
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

Am I a dual citizen?
Yes, I am now a citizen of two countries, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Is that allowed?
Well, it is not disallowed. Neither the United Kingdom nor the United States of America have any laws that prevent someone from holding another citizenship.

The American view of dual citizenship
According to the U.S. State Department website, “U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. “

Here is the State Department article on dual citizenship.

According to Wikipedia:
Based on the U.S. Department of State regulation on dual citizenship (7 FAM 1162), the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual citizenship is a “status long recognized in the law” and that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both. The mere fact he asserts the rights of one citizenship does not without more mean that he renounces the other . . . ”

The British view on dual citizenship
According to Wikipedia:
Since the British Nationality Act of 1948, there is in general no restriction, in United Kingdom law, on a British national being a citizen of another country as well. So, if a British national acquires another nationality, they will not automatically lose British nationality. Similarly, a person does not need to give up any other nationality when they become British.

Mpozi Mshale Tolbert – 1972 – 2006

15 May

One of the people who inspired me along my path of becoming a photographer died at the young age of 34.

While I was in the US last week I found out that my friend Mpozi Mshale Tolbert died two years ago after collapsing in the newsroom of the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

Before I met him I was already familiar with his work as he had a ‘photo of the week’ in the Philadelphia City Paper. The first thing I would do when I got my copy of the paper was look for his photo. Then one night I was having a drink at Dirty Frank’s bar and chatting to this enthusiastic young man with dreads who, after about an hour of conversation, introduced himself as Mpozi.

He was one of the first people I had met who made a living from photography; and he was only 20. I can only hope to be as successful and prolific as Mpozi was in his short life. At 16 he sold his first photo to a newspaper, during his early twenties he was an Associated Press staff photographer and at the age of 26 he secured a staff job at a major city daily newspaper, the Indianapolis Star. He was also a good friend of the members of the Philly hip hop band the Roots and documented their rise to prominence throughout the early 1990s.

I took the above black and white portrait of him back in the early 90s when I was taking a photo class at the University of the Arts in Philly. When I showed it to him he liked it so much that he offered to buy a copy from me. I declined payment as his appreciation of my work was worth more than money.

I took this photo the last time I ran into Mpozi in Manhattan on Union Square during the Republican National Convention in 2004. He was busy shooting a protest while fielding calls to photograph a delegate to the convention. Despite being very busy he greeted me with a big hug and lots of questions. Upon parting he said he would send me a mix of some of the Bossa Nova music he was spinning as a DJ.

I sorely miss his presence on this planet but am so glad to have known him.

I pledge to lead my life to its fullest – as I know Mpozi did. And if I don’t then it will be a waste.

Here are some photos of Mpozi from Flickr:

Have a listen to this audio memorial to Mpozi that was broadcast on NPR shortly after his death.