Monday, September 29, 2008

Wordpower Literature Festival - Emmanuel Amevor Interview

On Tuesday, 30th September, I begin my Black History Month programmes with a preview from Mia Morris of Black History Month UK. Plus, Emmanuel Amevor of Centerprise will tell us about the forthcoming Wordpower International Black Literature Festival, which is now in its second year.

Wordpower 2008 will include events about African spirituality, identity and the effects of the media on the African self-image.

The show goes out live at 8:00 p.m. UK time. To listen and to phone in with your questions or comments, visit:

To read a previous interview with Emmanuel Amevor, visit

German Death Camp in Namibia

Warning: Some of the information in this blog is shocking and disturbing.

I saw a very powerful Black History presentation on Saturday at the Imperial War Museum. Tony Warner of 100 Black Men of London presented this audio visual history of Black people who had served their countries in the armed forces, including the two World Wars.

If you have ever been to any of Brother Tony’s presentations, you know they are very good. Highly informative. But he doesn’t just hit you with the facts, although he gives loads of factual information. He also puts it into context.

So usually, when we think of Black people coming from the Caribbean in the 1950s, we think of them finding it hard to find anywhere to live, and experiencing racism at work. We have heard this same story many times before. But Brother Tony contextualised it by saying that many of these people had served in the armed forces. He showed a TV discussion where ex-servicemen and women in the studio spoke of their experiences.

They thought they would be welcomed when they came to Britain. I still find it very hard to get my head around this. After all, they had experienced racism in the armed forces and even in the Caribbean. But for some reason, they thought things would be different when they arrived here.

Anyway, it was an excellent presentation, as we have come to expect from Brother Tony. He also showed film of people in Africa fighting for Germany, France and Britain in the two Word Wars. Again, I find it difficult to comprehend why they did so, when they were treated so appallingly by the European powers. I understand that in Kenya, the British told the Kenyan people they were fighting for their own country. So I suppose they expected that, after the war, they would be treated better. See also:

Kenya’s Colonial Past

One thing I did not know was that the first death camp the Germans built was in Africa – in Namibia in the early 20th century, just over 100 years ago. First, the Germans committed a genocide against the Herrera people, wiping out 75% of their population. Then, they built a death camp on a remote island named Shark Island. They shipped the Nama people to Shark Island in cattle cars. In other words, they tried out many of the methods which were later used against the Jews under the Nazi regime.

But these practices were carried out by the German government long before the Nazis came into existence. Hitler was not involved, he came along much later.

Brother Tony showed photographs of Shark Island which showed men, women and children living there in shacks, in slum conditions.

50% of the Nama people were killed at Shark Island. The surviving Nama and Herrera people were sold into slavery to German settlers.

Probably the most disturbing thing for me was that Brother Tony showed photographs of severed heads – on Shark Island, people were decapitated and their heads were studied to try to prove that African people were inferior to Europeans. In point of fact, they sought to prove that African people were animals.

Brother Tony Warner will be a guest on my Success Strategies radio show at some point during October (Black History Month UK), talking about Black British and European history. This will be one of several programmes I will be doing for BHM (African Heritage Month). I hope you will join us. To tune in, visit:

To find out more about his work and his Black history walks, visit:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black/African British Identity and Young People

I read a piece in the Voice the other day which argued that young people in Britain lack a sense of identity.

They may have been born in the UK or come here at an early age. When they go back to visit their parents’ homes in Africa or the Caribbean, the place seems foreign to them. But in Britain, they don’t feel as if they belong.

Identity is clearly an important issue. In the 1970s, many young people turned to Rastafarianism as a way of reclaiming their cultural identity.

The article glossed over some factors. For example, a young person living in a big city might feel out of place on a farm, whether that farm is in a rural area of Britain or in the Caribbean or Africa.

Still, the article states that “nearly all youth projects only offer musical or sports-related activities”, which “reinforces the stereotype that Black males can only be successful if they are sports figures or musicians”.

It is so important that we reinforce positive cultural values and a sense of their African heritage and identity with our young people. Without this, many of them are lost. They often don’t do well in school, join gangs which offer a feeling of belonging, get involved in crime and end up behind bars.

In my book, Black Success Stories, I made a conscious decision to avoid featuring people in the fields of sports or entertainment. After all, people of African heritage are good at everything. I celebrate Black success across a wide range of fields. All of the people I feature in the book are based in Britain. To order your copy today, visit:

We also celebrate Black success and talk about the need for positive Black role models on my Success Strategies radio show every Tuesday. To listen in, and to hear recordings of previous shows, visit:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Paulette West MBE - Growing Aspiring People

My guest on Tuesday's show was Paulette West MBE.

Paulette spoke about how she started out as a typist at Barclays at the age of 16. She moved into a management position. She then used Barclays’s considerable resources to benefit the Black community, by holding events where she profiled role models and offered Black businesses the opportunity for start-ups and mentoring.

She is still holding role model events now, and young Black people have been inspired to start businesses as a direct result of this work. She has now left Barclays and runs her own project, the g.a.p. network – Growing Aspiring People.

Sometimes, people assume that successful people had it easy. I think people give up when they reach difficulties. When we see a Black role model standing up there talking about the difficulties he or she encountered, then we realise it’s not going to be easy. This inspires some people to take risks which they might not otherwise have taken.

Paulette takes these role models into the community. She hires community venues so Black people could feel comfortable attending these events. She is doing this work internationally, in African countries.

We can learn strategies from those who have been successful, which we can then apply in our own situations. When I interviewed people for Black Success Stories, I asked them what mistakes they had made, and how they had overcome them.

Click here to listen to my interview with Paulette.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Judith Germain: Surviving and Thriving in the Corporate World

My guest last night on the Success Strategies radio show was Judith Germain. She mentors CEOs and has a particular interest in working with mavericks.

Amongst other things, Jude spoke about
  • what being a maverick is like for a Black person
  • bad managers and how to change their behaviour
I don't know about you, but I've experienced loads of bad managers in my time, so I found this very interesting.

Click here to listen to the recording.

Rene Carayol MBE, whom I interviewed in Black Success Stories, also has a particular interest in mavericks. In my interview with him, he shared his five steps for corporate success. Click here to order your copy.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I Am a Community Organiser

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities.- Sarah Palin, 2008

I have been involved with community organising for my entire adult life. I have been a member of the African Health Forum for several years. Our members work within African communities in South London, providing health education and awareness around HIV prevention and testing, and supporting those with HIV to get the best treatment available. We also now work around other health issues including sickle cell and teenage pregnancy. People from the voluntary sector work alongside those in the NHS to provide these services, and we share knowledge and skills with one another.

I am both proud and humbled to be a part of this work. (Search this blog for more information.)

People in many different African countries are part of this community effort, organising in their towns and villages, in places where there are few resources but an abundance of ignorance and stigma around HIV and other illnesses.

I am also involved with the Black Parents’ Forum and I lead workshops for African Caribbean parents, to support them in getting the best out of the education system for their children, and in working to stem the gun and knife crime which is dramatically increasing both in London and across the UK.

This work is obviously vital to our communities. We are saving lives. For Sarah Palin to be so dismissive about community organisers is to say that she doesn't care about human life.

When the Jena incidents began, who was it that brought this to the public’s attention? Community organisers on and offline.

Similarly, campaigners on and offline are challenging the excessive use of tasers and other forms of violence by police officers.

I don’t know if Palin is really that ignorant, or if she just does not care. Or if she is running scared because she sees the power of Senator Obama’s campaign. By networking with, drawing on and channelling the energy of community organisers, Obama has put the Presidential campaign back where it belongs – in the hands of the people (a/k/a voters). The churches, the synagogues, the mosques, the schools, the PTAs, the small groups and organisations and forums all over the world that are doing their bit to make life better for those around them.

This is what it’s all about. Senator Obama has tapped into that energy. African American politicians and African politicians internationally have been doing this for many years. Telling people what they need to do, telling them how to bring about change.But this time it’s different. Obama does not just tell people what to do. He asks us what we want. And that is scary. To people who don’t want to see change happen, real, fundamental change, this must be absolutely terrifying.

Obama’s people are on the case. They are out there right now, signing people up to vote. Young African American people, who normally don’t cast ballots, or register to vote. Those in the inner cities, who are the most likely to end up in poverty, in jail, or dead. They are signing up in their thousands. This could mean a real future for those who, up to now, never had a chance. At last, they have a voice, and somebody who is listening to it.

I still don’t know how much change Obama can or will bring about if he is elected President. But I can see how much change he is bringing about now. Drawing on the strength of the community, and the organisers within it, can potentially create massive change.Yeah, Sarah Palin. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Many members of the AfroSpear and the afrosphere are blogging today to challenge Sarah Palin’s disrespectful remarks about community organisers. Please join us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Report Back from the Democratic National Convention

Last night, on my "Success Strategies" radio show, two Black bloggers, African American Political Pundit and Adrianne George of Black Women in Europe reported back from last week's Democratic National Convention in Denver.

They described the "electric" atmosphere at the convention. They had expected only seven Black bloggers to be present, but there were at least 12 (out of 150). But at least 40% of the people there were African American, including delegates as well as people who had just come along because they wanted to be present.

They also talked about whether, and how, Obama will be able to represent the disenfranchised, particularly the homeless.

To hear the recording of the show, visit