Last month I had the pleasure of being invited to be a panellist at my local Black History event held by Brent Council, and I must say it was an evening filled with magnificent talent and entertainment.
The event celebrated Black Excellence and it was great being able to showcase my books and talk about life as a young entrepreneur, however there were some other brilliant highlights on the night that has encouraged me to come out of hiding and share what went down.
Sam Olagbaju did an amazing presentation on Akon’s Lighting Africa initiative which I’m sure everyone is familiar with, but Sam gave a good breakdown on the scheme and his views on why he feels it wasn’t as appreciated by the media as it should have been.
“I found out about Lighting Africa earlier this year and the scheme had been up and running since 2014. It occurred to me that if Akon had shot someone or had been arrested I would probably know about it. With the way the mainstream media works, specifically the way it stereotypes black males and the general stereotyping of black people in Western society I thought that this was an important story to tell. As this year’s Black History Month was a celebration of Black Excellence I thought that this was a very appropriate choice. I like the fact that this scheme counters the image of self-serving, oversexualised, thuggish image of the modern black music artist.”
When asked how he felt about Black History Month he said,
“I have mixed feelings about Black History Month. On one hand it’s great that the exceptional contribution of our people is finally getting acknowledged by society. On the other hand, I take issue that we have to sub-categorise it into ‘Black History and not just ‘History’ as if it doesn’t make the cut and then offer it one month out of 12. Ultimately it should be part of regular history and be learned all year long and as much ingrained as what we learn about and see every day, which is essentially White History. What a lot of people don’t know, and I believe this gets worse with every generation, is that black people built this country. They helped to win both World Wars and have a grand history preceding slavery. These things are important for young black people to know from a young age as I believe that there is a direct link to their poor self-image and low self-esteem. I believe that ‘our place’ in Western history as it is currently told is linked to our place on the world now which is far from where it should be.”
10 year old Zara, who performed a powerful poem that took the audiences breath away, was another beautiful highlight of the night. It is so inspiring to see someone so young tapping into their creativity the way she did, and she is definitely a young creative that people need to keep an eye out for as she flourishes.
Alongside showcasing my books and my fashion brands, there were a range of other great business displays including ILRAMIK by my good friend Kimarli Allen, and MotivArt which fuses photography and motivational quotes together to create captivating pieces. Be sure to check them out across all social media platforms.
I could actually go on forever about the talent that moved me that night, and how amazing it was to be acknowledged and celebrated for what I do. I was happy that I could be a positive representation of young black people, but the final highlight I have to share is the presentation that allowed people to talk about a person that has inspired them, in which Rickele spoke about Kalief Browder. I’m always up for learning something new, but why this stood out to me is that this story has similar storylines to my own. I haven’t been in trouble with the law, but I understand the conflicts one can face when you are great at something but are fighting personal demons at the same time. Rickele was inspired by Browder because,
“After watching the documentary on Kalief Browder and knowing what he had endured after being wrongly imprisoned and regularly beaten in prison, the fact that when he was released he still tried his best to rebuild his life with his knowledge and talent is what inspired me to talk about him this Black History Month. He suffered mentally after prison as a result of his experiences, and eventually killed himself despite family trying tirelessly to clear his name even after his release.”
Kalief Browder’s story is an example of how the system can be cruel to black people, but also highlights the strength of our race. If you would like to know more you can find the documentary on Netflix.
Black History Month means the world to me. Black people feel empowered in October. Black people embrace every part of their culture in October, but it’s time for us to feel like we can do that every month of the year. It’s one thing to wait to be accepted in the way that black people would like to be, but this starts with black people accepting themselves, and shouting it from the roof tops all year round!
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