Friday, July 21, 2006

African Caribbean Diversity

Still on the subject of me doing too much, on Wednesday night, I went to the launch of African Caribbean Diversity's new year. Every year, they take on a new intake of young people who will be mentored by people in major institutions such as the Bank of England.

The event was held at J.P. Morgan and, as usual, I arrived late. This is something I need to look at and probably tap on. Not just 'I arrive late', but also 'I feel guilty and ashamed'. Even though I arrive late, I deeply and completely accept myself.

For more about tapping, visit Emotional Freedom Technique.

When I arrived, Trevor Phillips OBE was speaking. He looked up and recognised me. This is starting to happen to me more and more - the person on the stage recognises me as I slip in. More guilt and shame.

He stressed the importance of the young people staying in touch with each other. He said, 'Yes, there will be rivalry among you. You will be upset because the other person got the job you wanted'. But, he said, it is important that you have a network of people who have been through the same experience you have had. Over the years, these friendships will be increasingly important to you.

Hearing him speak made me remember why I interviewed him for Black Success Stories. This is a man who cares deeply about the African Caribbean community, about our young people and about their future in this society.

He advised the young people to be grateful to their sponsors and mentors, 'but not too grateful', and he reminded them that they are doing these institutions a service. Every institution in the Western world is having to get used the fact that there are people working there who don't look like the Chairman. And these young people are helping them make this adjustment.

He said, 'You will learn things that nobody else knows. It will be like being a Martian'. And he reminded them that there will always be something they don't know, and that they should not be afraid to ask.

I may be doing too much, but I am getting loads of inspiration. I am having an amazing time.

One person in the audience asked why so few successful people are willing to share the secrets of their success. Trevor Phillips and Henry Bonsu, who presided over the evening, have both shared their secrets in my new book, Black Success Stories. For more information and to order your copy, click here.

Click here to visit African Caribbean Diversity

See also: Linton Kwesi Johnson

Keywords: Trevor Phillips, African Caribbean, Henry Bonsu, young people, Black Success Stories

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Having spent part of the day at a conference on HIV and sexual health in the Caribbean community, I went to the Arts Depot in North Finchley last night to see Linton Kwesi Johnson. North Finchley is so far away that, in the past, those of African American persuasion would have referred to it as 'North Hell'.

I first met LKJ at Brixton Art Gallery last year, where he was being interviewed by Henry Bonsu. LKJ informed me that he had once been on the Board of the gallery, which has now sadly closed. Lambeth Council suddenly raised the rents in Brixton Station Road to more than double their previous rate, and several small businesses, including the gallery, suffered. I think this is part of a government policy to raise these rents to 'commerical' rates. But I digress.

I got to the Arts Depot really late and felt very guilty and ashamed as I took my seat. Its Not My Fault!!! I kept silently reassuring myself. I had called a cab at 7 p.m. but it did not arrive until 7:40. The driver then told me he had been sitting around for two hours waiting for work.

It's not my fault!

I got home from the conference before six, plenty of time to get to North Hell for 8 p.m. But I decided to do something on the computer and it should only have taken five minutes, 15 minutes, etc., but it took far longer. Doesn't it always?

Of course, I kept saying 'I should switch off the computer and go now', but then my other voice would say 'This will only take another couple of minutes'. Yeah, right.

Okay, it is partly my fault. Serves me right for listening to the voices.

I know the real problem was that, having sat inside working all day when, outside, the sun was brightly shining, I just could not face the journey up to North Hell, so I distracted myself.

I am just doing too much these days.

I got there in time to here LKJ do three poems, including New Word Order, and to hear him say that the term 'ethnic cleansing' is 'very disturbing'. He made reference to Nelson Mandela, Chief Butelezi and the Holocaust, all in a few short minutes. That's a poet for you.

I spoke with him afterwards adn he remembered me from the gallery! Wow!

LKJ goes for quality, not quantity. Some say his output is small, but I say, who cares when his words have such power? Such weight? Such penetration? And he stands on the stage and delivers them - on an empty stage, just him and the podium - as if it takes no more effort than asking for a cup of tea.

Keywords: Linton Kwesi Johnson, poetry

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

African Health Forum

The African Health Forum is an African-led organisation of voluntary and public sector groups. Membership is steadily growing, facilitating effective networking, information sharing and partnership

We work in the area of health, particularly but not exclusively sexual health and HIV, amongst African people in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. We also promote research and evaluation which is leading to improved service provision and uptake amongst African communities.

Health workers in London are finding that HIV infection frequently occurs in Africa. The HIV-infected person comes or returns to the UK and is treated here. Therefore, as part of our work, we are liaising and working with workers within African countries to raise awareness around sexual health and prevention of HIV.

We provide opportunities for networking and information about funding and other resources.

If you are a healthcare worker based in Lambeth, Southwark or Lewisham, in the voluntary or statutory sector, you can join the African Health Forum. For more details, visit the African Health Forum or contact

Maria Loizou, Health Promotion Specialist - African Communities on 020 7188 2837 Ext. 82846

or Anna Aguma, Senior Health Promotion Specialist - African HIV and Sexual Health on 020 7188 2837 Ext. 82846

Thursday, July 13, 2006

When We Ruled

When We Ruled is a new book by Robin Walker which has been described as by far "the best general work on the ancient and medieval history of Black people there has ever been".

The launch is tonight, 7.00 – 9.00 PM, at A.F.F.O.R.D., 31-33 Bondway, Vauxhall, SW8 1SJ, Vauxhall Tube (Victoria Line, Exit 2, 1 minute walk)

Call (07875) 186 695 or (07984) 759 506 to confirm that you are coming.

Meanwhile, Ligali's annual African Remembrance Day is next Saturday, 22nd July. Ligali remind us that "Whilst African history includes the injustice and travesty of enslavement, there are substantial and significant elements of our history that have occurred outside this era and it is essential and indeed respectful that the people and culture outside this element of history are also acknowledged and remembered".

Click here for more details and to register for this event.

See also: 2007 Commemoration

Keywords: African history, African heritage, Ligali, Robin Walker

Monday, July 10, 2006

African Caribbean Parents

We had several speakers at the Parents' Personal Development open day. A few of the many points they raised included:

Dr. Kimani Nehusi
The Importance of Identity: Problem and Solution

For us as Afrikan people to form alliances with other groups, we first need to be clear about our own identity. That way, we will know what will benefit us and our community. Only when we are clear about our identity can we effectively determine which groups we want to ally with, and on what basis to form these alliances.

When you have your identity, you know what is in your interests. You will unify with those people who share your values and your interests.

History is an engagement with our ancestors.

Ancestors are a storehouse of knowledge. We will continue to confront the same problems from a condition of ignorance because we refuse to learn from our ancestors and our elders.

Clarence Thompson
The Importance of Supplementary/Complementary Education

The campaigns against discrimination and for equal rights began in the African Caribbean community, amongst grassroots people and organisations.

We need to take over the regular schools, not just complementary education. Where our young people are in the majority, the community needs to take over the school and ensure a high quality of education.

We need to know our history in order to take pride in ourselves.

Dr. Lez Henry

Black children are failing because the educational system is not for them.

A qualification is a tool – that is all it is. It is certified by the dominant society.

Black self-empowerment, elevation and upliftment can be achieved by understanding how you can use knowledge to better your life chances.

Councillor Martin Seaton

The final speaker on the day was Councillor Martin Seaton, who related how he had become a school governor for a school situated across the street from where he lived. The school had poor test results, but he worked to improve the school’s performance and got other Black people to join as governors.

The school is now doing so well that they train governors at other schools. He is actively recruiting more Black people who have an interest in the community to become school governors.

He made the point that the Council and the education system believe that Black parents don’t care about their children’s education. They are surprised when they see us taking an active interest.

To join the Parent Personal Development Programme, contact:

Pamela Hamilton (020) 7525 5504

See also: New Course for Black Parents

Black Community Criticizes Government's Plans for 2007 Memorial

Community groups met last Friday to discuss strategies to counter government plans for the 2007 Bicentenary, which are said to 'dishonour' the memory of African people who fought for their freedom and resisted enslavement.

Black Britain reports today that groups have branded the government's plans as "propaganda" and see them as an insult to the memory of our ancestors. Click here for more info.

They also pointed out that the Maafa, or enslavement, exploitation and mass murder of African people, has had long-term psychological effects on us and our community, and that what is needed now is healing and emanipation from mental enslavement. This is the same thing I have said in my work for many years.

However, I certainly do not agree with the assertion that "the [black] child from the age of six learns to understand that I was a slave and therefore being black means being inferior". I learned at a young age that my ancestors had been enslaved by white people, and I certainly did not and do not consider myself to be inferior. On the contrary, I have always been proud of my ancestors because they were survivors, and I have inherited their genes. My ancestors did not enslave and exploit African people, so what do I have to be ashamed of? It is the enslavers and their descendants who may wish to hang their heads in shame, not us.

The knowledge of the history of our enslavement helps us to understand why Africa is in the position it is in today - why the richest continent on earth is beset with poverty and disease.

As African people, we must take the initiative in deciding how the memory of enslavement and emancipation is commemorated. The British government and governments of other western countries which participated in the trade in African people fail to even begin to understand how to mark the anniversary of the end of the Transatlantic trade, and why this is important to us as African people in the Diaspora.

See also: poem - "The Blood"

Slavery Memorial Day

2007 Commemoration

Soul Survivors

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bristol Group Criticizes Slavery Memorial Plans

A Bristol-based organisation, The Consortium of Black Groups (COBG), have called for non-compliance with the City of Bristol's plans for commemorating the bicentenary of the UK abolition of slave trading.

Bristol was one of the UK's major centres for the trade in African people. The transatlantic trade in, and enslavement of, African people led to multi-billion-pound profits being made by UK and international shipping and other industries including the sugar trade of the Caribbean and the American cotton industry.

The UK's banking system was founded on profits of the trade in African people.

The COGB have condemned the City of Bristol's plans as a "PR exercise". Click here to read more.

See also: Slavery Memorial Day

2007 Commemoration

African Heritage Links

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Slavery Memorial Day

Respected community activist Esther Stanford has spoken out against the proposed slavery memorial day.

She states that this would be a token gesture by government, and that the African community should choose a date which is relevant to us to commemorate our experience of enslavement, rather than a date which is relevant to the government, who wish to focus on William Wilberforce’s actions.

Click here to read more.

The reason why the trade ended was that it was no longer economically feasible for European ships to trade in African people. The insurance companies were refusing to pay when cargoes were lost, so this trade was no longer financially viable.

Remember that the ship captains often tossed their entire cargoes overboard in order to claim the insurance. The floor of the Atlantic is carpeted with the bones of African people.

Next year, we will mark the 200th anniversary of the ending of the Transatlantic trade in African people. This is obviously an important date for our community. But I agree with Esther - why should we focus on Wilberforce? Enslaved African people fought for their liberation continually. We should not be grateful to Wilberforce or any other white politician for stopping doing what they should not have done in the first place.

"The UN proclaimed August 23 of every year should be recognised as the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. This date was chosen in reference to the War of Independence on the night of August 22-23 1791 in Saint-Domingue (today Haiti and Dominican Republic) which was to play a pivotal role in the abolition of chattel enslavement and the emancipation of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean." - Black Britain

Billions of dollars and pounds were made by Europeans from the trade in African people. African people want to mark the end of the trade in a way which reflects our experience, and which preserves our dignity and restores the dignity of our ancestors. We want an apology from Blair and from all of the governments of the countries that profited from our exploitation. More to the point, we want to be financially compensated for the atrocities commited against our ancestors.

See also: Maafa Photographs

2007 Commemoration

Bristol Group's Criticism

Soul Survivors

African Heritage Links

Keywords: Slavery, Enslavement, Slave Trade, Emancipation, African History, African Diaspora