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

Nigerian Independence

It’s that time of year again: Black History Month. Although I don’t really agree with the idea, the opportunity to blog about people who have helped to shape the world we live in today was too great to pass up. So I’ve decided to blog about a different person everyday for the duration of Black History Month. I hope by reading this, you can learn some more about some amazing people, and appreciate our shared history. Feel free to comment and share!

Independence

On October 1st 1960, Nigeria declared independence from the UK. Located in West Africa, the capital city is NOT Lagos, but Abuja (it was changed in 1991), and it is the 32nd largest country by land mass. It is the most populous country in Africa with nearly 175 million people, with over 250 different ethic groups and over 500 different languages spoken. #epic

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Nigerians have actually taken over the UK, leading Tescos to stock Palm Oil in the ‘ethic section’ and Ofada Stew and Rice ready meals. An Afro-beat musical (Oliva Tweest) was performed earlier this year, showcasing some of the best young Nigerian talent such as T-Boy and Vicky Sola. Their football team isn’t very good, but their Moin Moin (steam bean pudding) is amazing.

#bringbackourgirls

John-Okafor-Mr-Ibu

Any other facts or information about Nigerian and its independence?

On Africa and the World Cup

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One thing that has always caught my attention is how Africa and African football teams are spoken about at the World Cup. It seems as though the last African team left in the tournament somehow carries the hope of not only their nation, but the whole continent of Africa. Headlines such as ‘Ghana – Africa’s Best Hope in Tough World Cup Pool’ and ‘Why do African teams underperform at the World Cup?’ are common and go without questioning if the idea itself makes sense. The idea that African teams are spoken about in very different ways to teams from the rest of the world. Listen closely at how many times commentators and presenters will say things like ‘These players are not just representing their country, but also they are representing Africa’.

When Ghana were knocked out of the 2010 World Cup by Uruguay, it was seen as not only a triumph, but a possible glimpse into the future, as Ghana equalled the best result by an African team in World Cup history. Watching Luis Suarez’ handball and sending off, Asamoah Gyan’s subsequent penalty miss and Abreu’s audacious chip to win it, was one of the most heartbreaking events in recent World Cup history. It endeared Ghana and in particular Asamoah Gyan, to hearts all over the world; not just African hearts.

In last nights BBC World Cup preview show, Reggie Yates spoke about the history of African sides at the World Cup and about the chances of Ghana escaping the group of death this year. He quoted the African saying ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’. I’m sorry but on a continent where approximately 2000-3000 different languages are spoken, not to mention possibly 8000 dialects, the idea of the African proverb makes no sense. Africa is not a country. The proverb European or South American proverb makes no sense, so how can a proverb from Africa be acceptable? It just seems as though Ghana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Algeria get lumped together when the need to explain how they perform and where they come from arises. Speaking of under-performing, do African teams really underperform?

If we go by appearances in the last 16 (that is countries that qualify from their group), we see that Africa is actually the 4th most successful continent over the last 6 World Cups. The 3rd most successful is North America, with 9 appearances in the knockout stages to Africa’s 5 (Asia has 4 while Oceania has 1). If we look at quarter-final appearances however, Africa beats North America 3 -1, with quarter-final appearances by Ghana (2010), Senegal (2002) and Cameroon (1990) to the one appearance by the USA in 2002. So in terms of progression in the tournament, African sides come in 3rd to Europe and South America. South Korea earned Asia’s only spot in the quarter finals of the 2002 World Cup and Oceania’s furthest foray was in the last 16 with Australia in 2006. So do African teams really under achieve? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Did Germany carry the hopes of Europe when they reached the final of the 2006 World Cup? Do the defending champions Spain go into this years tournament being spoken of as Europe’s best hope of a World Cup? Much has been made of the socio-economic problems that Brazil has, and we have heard over and over again, that failure for Brazil to win the World Cup would be a disaster for its people. Would it be a disaster for the rest of the South American continent? Of course not. Perhaps many Argentinians would relish seeing Brazil knocked out before them. After all, Brazil represents Brazilians. Greece for Greeks. Iran for Iranians. Cameroon for…Africans? Sure many Africans will hope that other African side do well, but I’m sure an Ivorian would much prefer to see Ivory Coast progress rather than supporting the African nation with the best squad, out of a sense of ‘Africanism’??

If Nigeria reach the World Cup final against Brazil on the 13th July, many Africans will be cheering for Nigeria. Maybe, just maybe, there will also be some Africans watching the same game wearing Neymar Jr on their backs.