No account of Afro-Caribbean sojourn on earth would be complete without the Slave narrative:
“If you don’t learn from history you are destined to repeat it.” Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
I’m firmly in favour of Black History month. The history of a people is fundamental for the joining together of culture, customs and identity, and also for giving one a springboard of confidence to assert oneself in the arena of the day.
We know our intimate selves from the myths, rites of passage, and EindrucksPunkte (impression, strong feeling or idea left by an experience) that inform us how to operate going into our future. But I suspect the challenge we have is getting Black History month away from a small little enclave of myopic self interest, and to really look at the wider picture today of men and women of colour making massive advancement in GB PLC.
When my children where growing up they used to walk past 5 murals that I had hanging up on our wall at home, depicting the African Slave narrative:
1. Place of un-walled villages
3. Forced to submit but never submissive
4. Free for, of, from?
5. Builders of Eternity
I wanted my children not only to be fully aware of my interpretation of how the Black Diaspora was propagated, but also how people of colour adapted to the communities around them and made massive contributions to the infrastructure of GB PLC. Remember Oladuh Equino, Ignatius Sancho, Mary Seacole, Phyliss Wheatley, Mathew Henson, Fredrick Douglas and many more. They all found their way onto my fifth painting as Black people who made living history and showed their posterity that regardless of initial circumstances, they could release a potential within that enabled them to leave a legacy down the annuls of history.
In this month of October there is a plethora of events and awards evenings celebrating Black people’s achievements in Arts, Education, and Business. Within schools, clubs and associations there will be examples of African slave history toted, and I suspect Wind-rush and the Jamaican/West Indies influx in the late 40’s and 50’s will come into play. There will be flirtations with Elizabethan Britain and the African people that made the UK their home, and of course those solider, airman and seaman who contributed in both world wars.
Cool! It’s great, looking backwards. But I’m not so sure we are so good at looking forwards. Who are the movers and groovers, makers and shakers of today, emerging from the Black community like Colossus striding the known world of the host community?
They are there, individual Black men and women making phenomenal strides and contributions into the host community, law, finance, commerce, industry, third sector, politics and of course sports, arts, music and entertainment. I think there may be a challenge as to whether the “Black community” recognizes these pioneers as part of themselves; or whether they (the achievers) see themselves as part of a homogenous Black group; or indeed whether the BRITISH within them has long superseded any sense of race, colour or creed.
And that begs a question all of its own. What is the “Black community” today, and does that so-called community have a culture? If so, what is it? I can readily identify a Nigerian community in the UK and I’m sure likewise Zimbabwe, Ghana, Uganda etc. have their own. Jamaicans also I suspect would be able to pinpoint some aspects of community/culture so defined by a common history, language, art, literature, religion, mores, vision and values.
I have a great job that takes me all over the United Kingdom and I see, meet and work with British men and women of Afro-Caribbean descent. I think it is imperative that we place more emphasis on establishing and presenting role models from amongst these fine people for the next generation to emulate – and to inspire them to see how their potential has infinite possibilities now and in the future.
Ken Scott is a great example of so many Black men and women who are really making waves in their arena and who should, in my opinion, be held up as living history makers for the next cohort of people emerging into the market space. Ken is CEO of ILX, an AIM listed e-learning classroom training company. There will be no mention of Ken in any way shape or form this month but here you have a Black man making big waves in the business community.
James Zang is a young man going places; he is founder and co-director of a global brokerage service provider in the energy markets specialising in over-the-counter derivatives within the energy complex. Its primary focus is in Crude Oil and Products markets. James is confident, articulate and well-respected in the business community, but I doubt he will be getting any awards or recognition this autumn season.
Elizabeth Van Geerstien is a woman in big demand on mainland Europe, born in Enfield – the scene of some of the London riots in 2011. She is a leadership and management expert with a PhD who constantly invests in MBA programmes in Rotterdam. http://youtu.be/aqT5sMJVPaU She is also an accomplished presenter and moderator in the David and Jonathan Dimbleby mode as seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0K-bGz9WEg
To create a real sense of community people like these must be brought into the fold and held up as examples for young Black men and women as to how possible it is to infiltrate and migrate up the echelons of GB PLC. In fact I think a real service Black History month could provide would be a think tank or Government Quango set up just to unearth gems like these above … highlighting their journey and looking at their lifestyles to get an understanding of how diverse and colourful the Black community really is.
And remember “people don’t look up to role models, they look into them.”