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United African Diaspora

Connecting Africa to the Diaspora Worldwide

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Kasalina

• Awele Ajufo, currently studying a Master of Public Administration at The London School of Economics

• from USA / Nigeria

What does Black History Month mean to you?

For me, Black History Month is a time for us outside of just everyday, to be proud and celebrate what it means to be African and be a part of the African Diaspora. I think now, as much as it is important to be inclusive of Africans in general, there is a sense of feeling lost in what that definition is; feeling the need to fit into the African stereotype or black stereotype. There is such a large amount of diversity even within that. Black History Month for me is specifically starting to embrace the different forms of culture that we like to tie back to Africa as a continent.

Being from the US, you celebrate Black History Month in February. How would you compare Black History Month between America and the UK?

I will say I was quite surprised that it was in October. I feel it isn’t as prominent in the UK. In the US it’s so big; everybody celebrates it! Whereas in the UK it’s almost siloed to the black African community. In the US it’s more in your face which makes it little easier to fully embrace everything. In the US, people of all colours are celebrating Black History Month and even though this has taken time, everybody is being educated about Black History – although of course it has a lot to do with what community you’re in or subset.

The company I work for is a large corporation and they made sure it wasn’t just the black community which was celebrating it. They celebrated Black History Month as a company.

How do you feel LSE has done with regards to creating and advertising Black History Month events?

I think they could have done a better job. I think a lot of people don’t understand why Black History Month is a thing. LSE is an institution where you could really use the breadth of knowledge and expertise to educate so many people as to why months like this are so important. I did feel like it was siloed within the LSE community to ACS and other various minority groups so I did wish there was more.

What kind of events would you like to see more of or introduced at LSE with regards to Black History Month events?

I mean considering LSE has events almost everyday, I would like to see more black speakers across the board and outside of Black History Month. I think this should be a thing because representation is really important. Even within our curriculum; our classes and readings can be more inclusive.

As someone of Nigerian heritage, how often do you travel to Nigeria and could you give a perspective on the importance of Black History Month there?

Unfortunately I haven’t been back for ten years. But I don’t know if Black History Month is necessarily important in Nigeria. Black History Month is about recognising oppression in terms of racism and perhaps colourism. While I appreciate that such prejudices do exist in Nigeria I just don’t think they are so tied to what you look like. I think Black History Month is more important in communities and countries where black people have been oppressed. So while I don’t think it is as important in Nigeria, I do still see the need for it with regards to educating no matter what subset of the world you’re in. Everyone should know what black culture is and what it means to us.

• Zahra, currently studying MSc International Social and Public Policy at The London School of Economics

• from Jamaica

What is your perception on Black History Month?

I’m from Jamaica and I think Black History Month is very important because it’s not to show the people outside the black community, that we have great people in our history who have done amazing things in all different fields; it’s mostly important to show those who live within and identify in the black community, that they can defeat the systematic prejudices and viscous cycles that have been set in front of them. That’s really what it’s all about! It’s just as important in Britain and any country as it is in America.

Do you celebrate Black History Month in Jamaica? Is it very important out there?

Black History month is not celebrated as much, which is celebrated in February in Jamaica, because it’s also Reggae month!

How do you feel LSE is implementing Black History Month within the LSE community?

There are a lot of events happening but the problem with the events (which is a problem we see in many institution with diverse political actors) is that there is not enough marketing. People don’t even know events are happening. For example, during the first week of Black History Month it was also #DecoloniseLSE which is becoming a buzzing hot topic – decolonising education – and I had no idea it was going on! I had been looking and scouting for things for weeks prior to that. That just goes to show you they’re not doing enough to educate us.

• Clementina Nyarko, currently studying MSc International Social and Public Policy at The London School of Economics

• from the USA / Ghana

What does Black History Month mean to you? Do you feel it has been well represented in British society since coming to England?

Well, I haven’t been here too long but I am really glad that I have been able to kickstart my journey here in October which is Black History Month. It has been beautiful seeing how the events during this month have been lined up to really incorporate a number of different identities including people who are ethnically from the continent or just the diaspora in general and not solely people who identify as Black British people for example.

That is so important because I think being at a place like LSE, there are not a lot of black students and the ones that are here, are from so many different places. So it is nice to be here in this month and have events specifically geared towards celebrating people who look like us and also being able to participate in it regardless of the fact that we are not from London / UK.

I would say London on a whole, could do a lot better with the advertising and the events that are lined up. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of academic events; not just within the LSE community but with organisations such as Black History on Eventbrite. They have a number of things happening pretty much everyday this month but a lot of it is academic and educational. I do think these aspects are important, but I think it’s also important to have these conversations outside of academia and elite spaces and be able to take these celebrations and conversations into local communities for people that may not have access to institutions like LSE or wouldn’t come across this area in general.

It would be great to incorporate a lot of people that wouldn’t necessarily find themselves here; I think that would help us in our pursuit to really celebrate us this month.

• Carmen Palmer, MSc Strategic Communications student at The London School of Economics

• from UK / Sierra Leone

What are your views on Black History Month?

Black History Month is very necessary especially in the Diaspora. it’s hard for us sometimes because we go to our home countries and we are not accepted as full natives, then you come back to the UK and again you are not fully accepted. Therefore, a month like this to commemorate, discuss, celebrate and educate ourselves about our own culture and history is really important. I do think however that we need a more nuanced debate particularly because Black History Month started in America which has a very different history in comparison to the UK where most of us are first or second generation immigrants so we know a lot more about our culture and history. As the Diaspora whether Black-African or Black-Caribbean we can do more to separate the debate and solidify our identity.

 

Is LSE doing enough?

LSE and particularly the Student Union have organised events to celebrate Black History Month, which I think is really good because there is definitely an onus on the university and places of education in general to put on events for BHM. The fact that LSE has on a variety of events for BHM is good and I will be attending some of those!

 

How often do you travel back to Sierra Leone?

I was last in Sierra Leone about 3 years ago, so it has been a while but I used to go every other year.

 

UAD has been having a debate about race and ethnicity and how people in Africa identify themselves. Do you think Black History Month is important in places like Sierra Leone?

No, I don’t think so. The concept of blackness is from the white gaze and it does not exist without the white gaze and this is why I say we need more nuance in the debate. Blackness is constructed and from my experience in Sierra Leone the need for BHM is not a prevalent issue. In Sierra Leone, colourism is more of an issue as opposed to needing to identify yourself as “Black” because ultimately everyone around you is black. I think BHM is much more important to Diasporic Africans and Caribbeans as it’s a good way to solidify our identity, especially because now there is a generation of Black Brits. Now that we are really establishing a Black British identity, BHM is very important for culminating that and give it more of a historical, political, academic and cultural grounding as opposed to just having a “Black Twitter” for example.

 

In the UK when someone asks about where you are from, how do you respond? Would you identify as British or Sierra Leonean?

That is such a hard question because it really depends on who is asking; where, why and when? I think identity is fluid and multi-layered because you can be Black and you can British and you can also be Sierra Leonean and they all don’t have to exist exclusively and I think us as Black Brits need to acknowledge that. Some people are almost ashamed to identify as British despite the fact they are born and raised in Britain but let’s call a spade a spade. I am Black British and I am fine with that but I am also Sierra Leonean.

• Bukosia Odongo, Mathematics undergraduate currently doing a year abroad at The London School of Economics

• from Uganda

What does BHM mean to you and how do you think it has impacted you now that you are in Britain?

 

Well I’ve only been in the UK for 4 days now. However, I do think it’s absolutely important that we celebrate Black History Month. I think it’s important to raise awareness about it and for it to be highlighted a bit more at LSE because I personally don’t really know what is going on. Being from the US, our Black History Month is February so I am excited that I get to celebrate it twice this year. BHM is very important because there is a lot to learn especially because history in general does not highlight the great things black people do. During BHM we usually learn about Black pioneers in various industries.

 

How well do you think LSE as an institution is doing in terms of raising awareness for BHM?

Well I have only been here a short time but I am not aware of any events so far.

How important is race in a place like Uganda? Do you think BHM should be celebrated there?

In Uganda it’s different because you don’t really realise your blackness until you are outside the country or interact with someone who is not black. However, I still think that celebrating BHM in Uganda is important. Uganda has a lot to offer and it would be nice to celebrate black history. In fact, I personally think BHM should be celebrated everywhere.

As someone who is half Ugandan, half Kenyan, raised in the US but currently residing in the UK, how do you identify when someone asks where you are from?

I say I am Ugandan but of course if it’s a conversation I would bring up the fact that I am also half Kenyan.

Tlou

• 2nd year PPE undergraduate at The London School of Economics and Political Science

• from South Africa

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a time for people to celebrate their heritage. Often in places like LSE and England in general, there’s quite a Eurocentric feel especially with regards to the people around you. So this is a time for us to learn about the successes of black people. This is a time for us to learn about black people’s important impact in history. Although black history has been written in many different ways from a more so Eurocentric view, there are still Afrocentric stories to be told and for us to know about.

How does Black History month differ in London in comparison to South Africa?

I wouldn’t say it is a massive thing in SA because we have Heritage month / week. In terms of Black History Month at LSE; I think they have been quite good about it. In terms of the rest of the UK however, you wouldn’t really know it’s Black History Month at all.

I Think I Was Born A Feminist

#HOTAD | Performance, Academics, Pageantry and Change

Sudan your time will come…

We are the freedom fighters,

We are the democracy warriors,

We are the peace keepers,

We are the peace makers,

We are the WEST!

We stood in unity with Paris,

We stood in unity with Manchester,

We stood in unity with New York,

We stand in unity with all our friends,

We are the WEST!

We stayed silent on Rwanda,

We stayed silent on Burundi,

We stayed silent on Ivory Coast,

We stayed silent on Libya,

We are the WEST!

We benefited from Rwanda,

We benefited from Burundi,

We benefited from Ivory Coast,

We benefited from Libya,

We are the WEST!

Ohh Sudan, we will come for you,

we will speak of your dead children,

we will bring you our justice,

We will bring you our peace,

We are the WEST!

Ohh Sudan, be patient with us,

your oil will become our oil,

your gas will become our gas,

your labourers will become ours,

We will become one.

By Joannitah

____

Sudan my child …

Speak softly, move swiftly,

work hard, work smart,

don’t rush, take your time.

Potential is lethal,

Success is dangerous,

Poverty is profitable.

My child look at the comics,

they gaped in millions,

they yelled Wakanda forever.

A hidden treasure,

working hard and smart,

working quickly and quietly.

Those are the stories they like,

they marvel at fiction while blind at reality,

they scramble for our treasures while they marvel at poverty.

My child hush, don’t let the West see you,

don’t let the West feel you,

it doesn’t have to be a dream.

Hush my child, I know you have potential baby,

potential is dangerous,

know your friends,

work quickly and quietly.

Love Mama Africa!

By Joannitah

During a time of bloodshed, fear, uncertainty and unrest, these poems show solidarity, responsibility, empathy and hope.

Joannitah is a law graduate, currently working in Project Management. She is passionate about development and currently undertaking a Masters, part time.

“At the beginning of the year I decided that I would start to publish my writing to shed some light on various issues across the African continent.

Having worked with refugees at an NGO, I heard multiple stories of young boys who often ran from Sudan due to Bashir’s regime; making the tiring journey from Sudan to Libya and then used a boat to get to Europe. I feel that the lack of attention on the current situation in Sudan is unacceptable and heartbreaking. I have decided to stand with Sudan and use my writing to bring attention to the current events.

I have watched as the citizens of Sudan have fought for democracy through various peaceful protests. The killings of pro-democracy protesters is a direct violation of human rights and we should all demand for more action from our leaders and the African Union to protect them.

As a Ugandan, I cannot sit and watch because these events are not happening in my house. I want to encourage everyone to speak up on this issue because if this was happening in my country, I would hope that others would advocate for my people.”

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