FOR THOSE of you who have been kind enough to visit my blog, you will have noticed – and hopefully enjoyed – my daily tributes. My intention was to pay tribute to individuals, organisations, events and achievements that I feel we don’t know enough about.
As much as I love and respect our icons; Bob Marley, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther king Jnr etc, I really wanted to focus on tributes that we don’t often see. I wanted to remind us that we have greatness around us. It is all too easy to despair with surveys and news channels constantly churning out information on prison numbers, gang members, knife crime and academic underachievement. It is also all too easy for our children, (whose icons are rap stars and singers; and whose formative education is a Eurocentric curriculum) to feel they are destined to fail.
Of course, surveys and reports are fundamental to our progress; they offer guidance on where our young most need our support and guidance. However, we have so many bright young people who are doing amazing things in the world around us.
Success does not usually belong solely to individuals. Most of the individuals I paid tribute to this month stood (and stand) upon the shoulders of ancestors, parents and support systems. We still have community spirit in our veins; if we gather together, spur each other on and celebrate our progress, we can shake off stigma and create a feeling of hope for our children. And for ourselves. The African proverb says: ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
So, let us acknowledge the greatness we have all around us. Together.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share a small selection of my Black History Month Tributes with you this week, in three key areas: invention, leadership and grass-roots work.
William Kamkwamba is a modern day child prodigy, whom is rarely credited or acknowledged by western media.
In 2002, at the age of 15, he constructed a windmill so that he could power his family’s home in Masitala, Malawi. With very few available resources, he did this using blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard. William had a limited formal education, but he was incredibly intelligent. He took all the information he he could find from a dated science book and singlehandedly designed a contraption that would change the lives of everyone around him.
Since then, he has built a solar-powered water pump that supplies the first drinking water in his village and two other windmills and is planning two more, including one in Lilongwe, the political capital of Malawi. He wrote a book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Leadership is a vital element of a our progress as diaspora. Bad leadership destroys entire nations and good leaders inspire positive change. As someone who prides myself on mentoring the next generation of leaders; the leaders whom paved the way before us fascinates me. I am also excited to meet and celebrate the young leaders who are sprouting up around us.
I believe Kenny Imafidon to be one of the brightest ‘rising stars’ of modern Britain. Certainly the most exciting political name to have emerged in recent years, a teenage Kenny was already making significant strides in the political sphere before life took a devastating turn. May 2011, just weeks after his 18th birthday, Kenny was wrongfully remanded in custody for a total of seven serious charges (including murder) with four of his closest friends.
Facing 30-years in prison for a crime he had not committed, he knuckled down and became the only person to have ever achieved A levels in Feltham prison. When he was released, he made a remarkable comeback. He had soon turned his experience into a positive by penning the award-winning The Kenny Reports. He is now considered a leading-edge, political commentator, social entrepreneur and campaigner on socio-economic issues affecting young people in the UK.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing this young lady and I was absolutely blown away by her energy and drive for hands-on, grass-roots work. Her name is Temi Mwale and this young Peacemaker of the Year 2014 (and winner of Ultimate Women Awards 2014 for Cosmopolitan Magazine) is making a difference. This vivacious north west Londoner, founded Get Outta The Gang in 2012; a campaign targeting gang culture, youth violence and surrounding issues, using innovative and creative, youth-led methods. At just 19, Temi has already made significant headway in addressing London gang issues. Check out Tea & A Chat at the end of this month to see my interview with her.
My leaving point is that in order for us to succeed as a global community, Black History Month must be more than just a month, it must be a lifestyle.
I believe we must fill our homes with literature (I was privileged to have a black literature bookshelf in my childhood home, its impact on my psyche was immeasurable), actively patronise and support exhibitions and plays. And to be blunt, we must cease to complain about the lack of black history etc in the curriculum and fill the gaps ourselves. Balance out our children’s formative influences with some of our own. This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the bright rising stars we have among us today. We also have a plethora of trailblazers and pioneers upon whose shoulders we stand each and every time we succeed. Let’s draw from our ancestral achievements and celebrate our living leaders.
This is a just a snapshot of the living pioneers whom I admire enormously. There are millions more but I would like to share just a few of my own with those of you who aren’t yet aware of their work:
I’m going to end this month with Kid President. An unlikely choice perhaps but he stands for everything I believe our future depends upon. Aged just 10-years old and having suffered with ‘Brittle bones’ disease all his life, Robby is determined to inspire others. President Obama is a fan. Check out his video blogs, share his inspirational view point with your children and show them that we have incredible people in our midst.