No Medal for Liam Neeson

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Liam Neeson’s admission that he went looking for a ‘black bastard’ to kill after learning that the rape of his friend was committed by a black man was only shocking in so far as he admitted it.

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And no John Barnes, he doesn’t deserve a medal. If there is anything he deserves, it’s to be on a poster; a poster showing how his thoughts and actions were not unique. They were the thoughts and actions of many a self denying racist. Neeson sought to seek revenge not on the man who committed the heinous act of rape, but on any black man he came across. An innocent black man’s life was under threat because, for a week, Neeson decided that the act of one black man, justified the killing of any black person.

Neeson’s words should highlight a larger point; that the environment in which he was brought up, had an impact on how he reacted. Not everybody who grows up in an environment produced by British imperialism will feel the compunction to try and find a black person to kill as a method of revenge. Thankfully he didn’t. When black people talk about having better and more positive representation in the media, it is to combat situations like this. Had Neeson not had his bigoted upbringing in Northern Island during the ‘troubles’, perhaps his thoughts wouldn’t have gone to such a dark place. But they went there.

I don’t doubt that there are many people across the UK who heard his confession and could empathise with Neeson, having had similar thoughts on one occasion or another. While they may not admit it like Nesson, or may not have carried out their own brand of vigilante justice, those thoughts and feelings do not just disappear after talking to friends. They surface in the form of off colour jokes, burner twitter accounts, the rejection of a black Hermione Granger and ridiculous stories about Raheem Sterling. The microaggressions and subtle racism that many people of colour often talk about are the outpourings of white frustration at not being able to exact the violent revenge that may take over their thoughts. The lynchings in the US during the mid 20th century, were children were given days off school and the bodies of young black men were left to hang like Strange Fruit, were the result of whites being able to express their anger with no repercussions. To them, taking the life of any black person was justified if there was even a hint of wrongdoing. If Liam Neeson had indeed killed a black man in revenge, it would tantamount to nothing short of a modern day lynching – the killing of an innocent to appease a desire for race based revenge.

When this all happened is irrelevant. The fact that it happened is all that matters. Winston Churchill is well known for being a racist, having expressed his disgust for Indians saying, ‘I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” However, his supporters are quick to point out that he simply held the opinions of his time. Imperialism thrived as the British Empire regarded blacks as less than human 400 years ago. Men, women and children were segregated in the United States 60 years ago because of the colour of their skin. 40 years ago Neeson wanted to kill a man for a crime he did not commit simply because he was black. The New Cross fire in 1981. Stephen Lawerence in 1993. Dylann Roof in 2015.

The opinions of the time seem to be timeless.

Of course, Liam Neeson has learned from that ‘episode’. There would be no way he would have volunteered that information if he didn’t feel as though he could declare that he is now over his racism, like a strong bout of flu. For him, it was a moment in time. For many of us, it’s a daily reality, knowing that there are people walking the streets who want to act out on thoughts that have been influenced by the media and learnt from family members and immediate communities. Their thoughts and actions may not kill us, but they may affect job prospects, our love lives, self-confidence and mental health.

Neeson was right about one thing though. There needs to be more dialogue. But not from us. We’ve marched, protested, debated, written, sung, and preached for years. To quote Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘You can only do so much from the outside’.

And power walking won’t help.

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Where are the Black Classical Composers?

While most boys played games in the streets he was touring Europe. He had become internationally known for his ability to compose for someone so young. It had helped that his father was uniquely positioned to help to guide his son along his musical journey, a world-class musician in his own right. By the age of 30, he had composed some of his greatest works, securing himself not only in the annals of music history but ensuring that his name would forever be synonymous with the word prodigy. His final composition entitled The Magic Flute, premiered a few months before his death.

This was Austria. His name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The year was 1791.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791)

I’ve always wondered why, when studying music in school, we never learnt about music from western Africa or the Caribbean during the generally accepted years of western Classical music (1730-1820). We learnt about many male European composers including Beethoven (1770-1827), Schubert (1797-1828), Hayden (1732-1809) and C.P.E Bach (1714-1788). By contrast, the earliest music the Caribbean we learnt about was reggae and ska which originated in Jamaica in the mid-20th century. When we learnt about ‘West African drumming’, we were merely told that these traditions go back hundreds of years. We were never taught about great African or Caribbean musicians from the 18th century, shown their portraits or listened to their music. Why not?

It was almost as though there were no prominent West African or Caribbean musicians or composers at that time. We were taught that many West African cultures rely on oral traditions. Knowledge was rarely written down but was passed on via griots, through music and stories. How we were taught about oral traditions and customs often implied that these people couldn’t write their music down and that they were too primitive to produce anything close to the level of sophistication of Mozart et al. Where are the composers and musicians of West African and Caribbean descent from 1730-1820?

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The Trans-Atlantic slave trade began to wane during this period with Denmark being the first country to ban it in 1803. What we were failed to have been taught was that the very men who were afforded the luxury to compose and develop their musical craft did so partly because of the resources that were being produced by slaves on the other side of the world. As plantations grew in the Caribbean and West Africans were being shipped in their millions across the Atlantic, the European Classical composers were able to compose, tour and receive critical acclaim for their efforts. Knowing that, will a Mozart concerto ever sound the same to you again?

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For peoples of African extraction, oral musical traditions weren’t born out of choice. They were born out of necessity. Timbuktu was a cultural centre of religion and education in the 16th century with Leo Africanus commenting in c.1526 of the West Africans that, ‘It is their habit to wander into town at night between 10 pm and 1 am, playing instruments and dancing.’ With manuscripts in Timbuktu being destroyed due to fires, the pillaging of towns, cities and villages, and millions of Africans being taken away as slaves to the Americas, it’s no wonder why we find very few tangible traces of music being made in Western Africa and the Caribbean running parallel to the celebrated history of European classical music.

As plantations grew in the Caribbean and West Africans were being shipped in their millions across the Atlantic, the European Classical composers were able to compose, tour and receive critical acclaim for their efforts.

People of African extraction that we read about during 1730-1820 such as Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797), Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) and others, are usually brought to our attention because of what they accomplished in the face of adversity rather than what they accomplished out of the luxury of artistic inspiration and expression.

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Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (December 25, 1745 – June 10, 1799)

Although his father was a musician and he was born near the epicentre of European classical music, Mozart chose to be a musician. He chose to spend almost his entire life writing and performing, with his compositions being safely stored in museums and being recorded by countless performers since the invention of recorded sound. In contrast, the Caribbeans and West Africans we hear about are those who fought against slavery and oppression. We hear of the first doctors, lawyers, nurses and inventors to break colour lines, but rarely musicians. Even exceptions such as John Blanke (fl. 1501-1511), Ignatius Sancho (1729-1780), George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1778-1860) and Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) had at least one parent who was born a slave.

Many people of African extraction at that time start their stories with struggle. Where are the black classical composers? It’s not that Africans or Caribbeans were too primitive to write their music down. It’s not that oral traditions are the best or most efficient way to keep information accurate. It’s not even that music stopped being made and performed before the abolition of slavery. It’s that while some had the freedom and luxury to write, compose and travel, others were being transported across the world to be sold into slavery, raped, beaten, killed or all of the above.

The date of his birth is uncertain. No-one really knows about his parents. His education is also a topic for debate. Although he was born a slave, he became a free man at the age of 33 and was able to accumulate some semblance of wealth. A decade later, he participated in and became the leader of the largest successful slave revolt in history.

This was Haiti. His name was Toussaint L’Ouverture. The year was 1791.

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Toussaint L’Ouverture (9 May 1743 – 7 April 1803)

Should we still have Black History Month? Part 2

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Following on from Part 1

The history is predominantly to do with slavery and fighting for civil rights. There is hardly any mention of the kingdoms of Mali and Cush. No mention of the history of Black people throughout the world before slavery apart from Egypt. Considering that we often go into English history to 1066 and beyond, there is rarely any mention of successful Black people before the 1800’s.
It should come as no surprise as there is only a particular part of British (or English) history taught anyway. Triumphs in war and the Industrial Revolution are taught rather than the horrors of the Crusades, wars in Ireland and the colonisation of India. In short, we don’t learn about anything negative in British history. And if slavery is brought up, it’s framed as ‘history’, rather than a series of events which influence how we live today. We learn about how the Industrial Revolution affected us directly, but as for slavery – everything is ok now. Look, there’s a Black President! What about Sir Trevor McDonald?!

In the clammer for equality and integration, it seems as though Black people want their history to be recognised as just as important as British history. All of the arguments for an integrated Black history range from examples of the contributions to history, to the social influence that Black people have had. Could it be that that notion in itself is actually quite selfish? If it is really true equality we are after, what about an Asian history month or even integrating Asian history into education?
There are over twice as many Asians in the UK as Black people, as they make up 7.8% of the population of Britain. Large parts of India were effectively ruled by the East India Company, and the British took direct control of India in 1858. There was a genocide before the Partition of India in 1947 which killed between 200,000-500,000 people, and displaced almost 14 million people. Prior to this, the region had one of the richest and advanced cultures in the world, with some of the oldest sacred texts in the world (the Vedas) found there. Asians don’t even get a week. Maybe there are more similarities to Asian and Black history than we realise. For example, the fact that the Caribbean is known as the WEST Indies, and India is part of the EAST Indies, shows that the names were given by Europeans, who produced the maps we use today. Notice how the most used maps have Europe at the center? I digress…

Of course there are so many positives to having a Black History Month, and if it was absorbed into mainstream history, perhaps the many debates, discussions and events could die out too. Should Black people stop arguing about integrating their history into this society and focus energies on setting up centers which teach this history to children and people who are interested? There are so many people researching into the history we aren’t told about, and so much more is out there to be discovered. If Black history is integrated or not, what shouldn’t stop is the quest for knowledge and the truth. The schooling system will never give you all you need to know. I mean, there should be more lobbying for things like mortgages, growing your own food, nutrition and money management to be taught in schools? Media analysis: why is Islam always mentioned when someone who happens to be a Muslim commits a crime, but there are never headlines about the Christian male who raped and killed, with pictures of him proudly displaying a cross tattooed onto his arm?

Ok I’m going so far off topic now.

Let’s stop waiting for information to come to us, and let’s go and get it, regardless of the time of year.

Make Black History every day, I don’t need a month – Kanye West

Should we still have Black History Month? Part 1

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With many thanks to Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, since 1987, the UK has been celebrating BHM in the month of October. Schools up and down the country usually put up displays and encourage students to do a piece of writing, usually focusing on Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, or others of that ilk. Should BHM continue to be as it is, or should it be, as many would like it to be, integrated into average history lessons and curricula?

Currently in most schools, history lessons focus on a certain selections of history. We in England learn about the Tudors, the Victorians, the two World Wars, how the Allies triumphed, and how the Holocaust was one of the worst events in history. We even learn bits about the French Revolution and the Middle Ages including the Black Death and the Magna Carta. Sure there have been Black people living in Britain for hundreds of years, they played a part in the two World Wars and struggled for equality, but is that any reason to introduce more Black History? Isn’t one month enough?

At the end of the day, England is a White Protestant country. Don’t let Stratford Westfield or Peckham fool you, of the 80 million people living in Britain, Black people only make up 3.5% (1.8million people). To put that number into perspective, you can fit almost all of the UK’s Black people into the built up areas of West Yorkshire. How then on that basis can such a small minority justify changing how history is taught to everyone in the UK? Majority rules right?

Black History Month was often a time growing up where more questions were directed to you, and if you didn’t know an answer, you were likely to be laughed at during break, ‘I thought you were black’. It was unwanted attention and pressure to pay extra attention and raise your hand a little bit more. It wasn’t a time of pride, it was a time of wondering why people were looking at you more than usual. The content of the lessons were a welcome break from hearing about Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Walter Raleigh. Growing older, and reflecting on the things we were told during BHM, questions begin to form.

There is a heavy focus on the 1960‘s Civil Rights movement in America and slavery, in comparison to mention about the Empire Windrush in 1948. I remember going to history class one day, and the teacher told us to stack tables on top of each other, and line them in a semi-circle around the classroom. We were then instructed to lie, one under and one on top of the tables to simulate how slaves were transported to Brazil, America and the Caribbean. As much as it was ‘interesting’ and somewhat informative, growing older, we start to realise that these few events only show a particular selection of Black History. For example, Brazil is hardly ever mentioned as the country which received the most slaves from West Africa. Black British history? John Blanke, Mike Fuller or John Edmonstone? Never.

First of all, the way BHM is at the moment, it lumps together African, African-American and Afro-Caribbean history into one. There is no real distinction between the many differences between these different groups, it’s a broad and fragmented history or people with dark skin. It doesn’t take into account that the experiences in Black America, were and still are very different from the Caribbean, Brazilian, British and African. But of course in one month there is no time to get into things into detail. Really? No time?

We spend 2 years studying for GCSE History exams, but it seems as though it’s more important to remember how many wives Henry VIII murdered, than how many people perished on those slave ships in the Middle Passage. Knowing other trivia like the disgusting ‘Queen Elizabeth I had 1 bath a year’ is absolutely pointless and currently trumps other relevant facts and events such as the evidence that the palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi had indoor toilets and piped water controlled by taps. Even if these facts aren’t deemed relevant, wouldn’t time being best served by learning about why Britain has become so multicultural, and the reasons behind many people wanting to Keep Britain White?

End of Part 1…

Part 2 here

As Black History Month comes to an end…

When I first decided to write a post a day for Black History Month, I didn’t expect that it would be so time-consuming! I also didn’t expect to have learnt as much as I have. I hope that all of you who have been reading these posts, have not only learnt a lot, but that these posts have caused you to think critically about some of the issues raised. There were many controversial issues discussed this month, for example, the issue of race within the Black community (I don’t rate Rosa Parks), and Human Zoos (Saartjie Baartman).
You may have noticed, that many of the people discussed aren’t the regular people you may find in schools on displays, and talked about in the media at this time every year. People like Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Mary Seacole didn’t make it into this blog precisely because they are so well-known and their stories, though inspirational, get recycled year in and year out. I wanted to acknowledge some people who often aren’t spoken about. Their stories may be well known to some, but to the average person, not so much. After all, Black History Month is a chance to educate those who may not be aware of important men and women who have helped shape the world we all live in today.
This post is a tribute to those who haven’t featured this month, but have played a major part not only in Black history but in the worlds history.

1000509261001_2098673023001_Martin-Luther-King-The-King-YearsMartin Luther King, Jr.  (15 Jan 1929 – 4 April 1968)

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Harriet Tubman (c.1822 – 10 March 1913)

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Patrice Lumumba (2 July 1925 – 18 Jan 1961)

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Hattie McDaniels (10 June 1895 – 26 Oct 1952)

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Muhammed Ali (17 Jan 1942 – )

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Alek Wek (16 April 1977 – )

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Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 Dec 2013)

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Wilma Rudolph (23 June 1940 – 12 Nov 1994)

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Barack Obama (4 Aug 1961 – )

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Diane Abbott (27 September 1953 – )

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Sir Trevor McDonald (16 Aug 1939 – )

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole (c.1805 – 14 May 1881)

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Malcolm X (19 May 1925 – 21 Feb 1965)

Miriam Makeba

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Miriam Makeba (4 March 1932 – 9 Nov 2008)

Miriam Makeba was born in South Africa, but spent the first 6 months of her life in jail after her mother was arrested and sentenced for selling homemade beer. She first started singing in her primary school choir, and was due to sing for the visit of King George VI, but he drove by her and her choir while they stood waiting for him in the rain. At the age of 18, not only gave birth to her daughter, but was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, she was treated successfully by her mother who was a traditional healer-herbalist.

Her musical career got a big break when she was first featured on a poster, and sang with the South African jazz group called the Manhatten Brothers. In 1956, she recorded and released the song Pata Pata, which made her a household name in South Africa, and over 10 years later, her album Pata Pata peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US in 1967. She recorded over 100 songs with the Manhattans, which allowed her to sing with artists like Dorothy Masuka, Abigail Kubeka and Mary Rabatobi. She toured Africa for 18 months after being recruited as a soloist in the African Jazz and Variety Review and became the female lead role in the South African musical named King Kong.

Her career continued to take off and she appeared in a film entitled Come back Africa. She was invited to the screening at the 1959 Venice film festival, and later flew to New York and played the Village Vanguard jazz club. She met and sang with Harry Belafonte at John F. Kennedy’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden and met the President later that night. her South African passport was cancelled and she testified against apartheid at the United Nations, with Guinea, Belgium and Ghana offering her passports. She won a Grammy in 1966 for her album with Belafone called An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba, and other songs such as The Click Song and Malaika became famous worldwide.
This all came to an abrupt end when she married the Black Panther Stokely Carmichael in 1968 as her record contracts and tours were cancelled. She relocated to Guinea where she became their official delegate to the United nations, and in 1975, addressed the United Nations for the second time.

Everybody now admits that apartheid was wrong, and all I did was tell the people who wanted to know where I come from how we lived in South Africa. I just told the world the truth. And if my truth then becomes political, I can’t do anything about that.

Her career includes performances at the Rumble in the Jungle fight between Ali and Foreman in 1974, and the Graceland Tour. She went on to record with artists such as Dissy Gillespie, Hugh Masekela and Nina Simone, performing at Nelson Mandelas 70th birthday tribute, and even appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show in 1991. She was nominated Goodwill Ambassador of the FAO of the United Nations in 1999, and won the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold by the United National Association of Germany in 2001. When she died in 2008, she the world mourned a woman who had stood up against apartheid, one of the first internationally famous African vocalists ever, and recorded music that still has relevance today.

And why is our music called world music? I think people are being polite. What they want to say is that it’s third world music. Like they use to call us under developed countries, not it has changed to developing countries, it’s much more polite – Miriam Makeba

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Althea Gibson

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Althea Gibson (25 Aug 1927 – 28 Sept 2003)

Althea Gibson came from humble beginnings on a cotton farm in South Carolina, but moved to Harlem in 1930 after the Great Depression hit the family hard. It was in Harlem where Gibson began her sporting career, becoming the New York City women’s paddle tennis champion at the age of 12. In 1941, she entered and won her first tournament and after losing in the women’s final in 1946, she won 10 straight ATA women’s titles from 1947-1957.

She became the first black player (male or female) to be selected to compete in the United States national Championships (now called the U.S. Open) and the age of 23. Even though se lost in the second round, the journalist Lester Rodney wrote

No Negro player, man or woman, has ever set foot on one of these courts. In many ways, it is even a tougher personal Jim Crow-busting assignment than was Jackie Robinson’s…

Her first international title was won in Jamaica, and later that year she broke another barrier when she became the first Black competitor at Wimbledon in 1951. In 1956, she became the first Black athlete to win a Grand Slam event (the French open) and won the doubles title at the same tournament. Her partner for that tournament was Anglea Buxton who became the first Jewish champion at Wimbledon.
The next year, in 1957, she became the first Black player to win at Wimbledon, and the first champion to receive the trophy personally from Queen Elizabeth II. She was received as Jesse Owens had been, by ticker tape parade, and was presented with a Bronze Medallion. In total, she won 56 national and international singles and doubles titles and 11 Grand Slams. She also became the first Black woman to appear on the covers of Time magazine and Sports Illustrated. She retired in late 1958.
After all of that, in 1959, she recorded an album of standards called Althea Gibson Sings and after not receiving many offers or invitations like some of her opponents whom she had resoundly beaten, she became the first Black woman to join the LPGA tour. As you do.

She was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, as well as 7 other Hall of Fame organisations. She was the first woman to receive the Theodore Roosevelt Award, and in 2013, the US Postal Service commemorated her with a stamp. When she began playing tennis, less than 5% of tennis newcomers were minorities. Now, nearly 10% of all tennis newcomers are African-American.

I have all the opportunities today because of people like Althea. Just trying to follow in her footsteps. – Venus Williams

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#Legacy

Bob Marley – Redemption Song

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Redemption Song – Bob Marley

There aren’t many songs or artists for that matter, whose music and messages have stood for something much more than music to dance or sing along to. Bob Marley’s Redemption Song was written c.1979 and was part-inspired by a speech by Marcus Garvey. Although much more can be said about the man, his music and this song in particular, in this case, the lyrics say it all.

Redemption Song

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my ‘and was made strong
By the ‘and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but our self can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but our self can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall dey kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom

Watch the great man sing and play it here

Sir Arthur Lewis

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Sir Arthur Lewis (23 Jan 1915 – 15 June 1991)

Sir Lewis was born in St.Lucia and was raised by his mother after his father passed away at age 7. He excelled in school and finished school at the age of fourteen after being skipping 2 school years. He continued his academic achievements by earning his Bachelors (first class honors) and completing his scholarship funded Ph.D at the London School of Economics by the age of 25. He set a record by finishing first in his class with first class marks in 7 of 9 subject. He stayed at LSE before becoming a full-time lecturer at the University of Manchester at 33 years old. He developed important economic concepts and started to become known and sought after during the late 50’s when many former colonies started to gain independence from European countries. He was appointed as Ghana’s first economic advisor in 1957 and helped to draw up its Five-Year Plan (1959-1963). A few years after being appointed as Vice Chancellor of the University of West Indies in 1959, he was knighted for his efforts and contributions to economics. He spent over 20 years as a professor at Princeton University, during which, he was named as the first president of the Caribbean Development Bank, as well as receiving the Nobel prize in Economics in 1979.

His other achievements include:
Member of the Colonial Advisory Economic Council
Committee for National Fuel in Britain
Managing Director of the United Nations Special Fund
First West Indian to head the University of the West Indies
Established the School of Engineering at University of the West Indies
Chancellor of the University of Guyana
Wrote 81 professional articles and 10 books

After his death in 1991, he continued to be remembered. The University of Manchester named a building after him in 2007, there is a college in his native St.Lucia named after him, and he is featured on the rear of the $100 Eastern Caribbean note.

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#stayinschoolkids

Pablo Fanque

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Pablo Fanque (28 Feb 1796 – 4 May 1871)

Even though there is much speculation about when he was born, many sources agree that William Darby was born in Norwich to an African-born father and English mother. He joined a circus as a horse rider and rope walker and became known by his stage name of Pablo Fanque. His performances in 1847 was very successful, with The Illustrated London News raving about this ‘artiste of colour’ and his ‘extraordinary horse training skills’. The circus historian George Speight said that ‘by his own industry and talent, he got together as fine a stud of horses and ponies as any in England’. He even performed in front of Queen Victoria in his run at London’s Astley’s Amphitheatre as well as employing Elizabeth Sylvester who was Britain’s first female clown. He went on from there to operate his own circus for 30 years, during which time he toured extensively through England, as well as Ireland and Scotland. Even the legendary Jem Mace toured with Fanque in 1861. His circus’ were regarded as the most popular in Victorian Britain for 30 years in spite of the fact that he was the first non-white circus proprietor in Britain.

It’s entirely normal to see reference to his African heritage, but unusual to see a Black man in such a prominent position in the entertainment industry not as a performer, but as a businessman. And well-respected at that. A quote in the Blackburn Mercury reads as follows:

I am sure that the friends of temperance and morality are deeply indebted to him for the perfectly innocent recreation which he has afforded to our population, by which I am sure hundreds have been prevented from spending their money in revelling and drunkenness

He seems to be one of the earliest examples of prominent Black entertainers in the Western world along with Ira Aldridge, who performed in London as an actor as early as 1825, albeit as a slave named Oroonoko in The Revolt of Surinam. Unfortunately, his wife died as a result of a structural accident at a show, and Fanque himself died penniless. His story becomes more incredible when noted that a funeral procession, band and four coaches and mourners marched ahead of his coffin when he died.  On their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, the Beatles pay homage to Fanque by mentioning him in a song entitled Being for the Benefit of Mr.Kite!

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