'No matter where you come from, so long as you are a black man, you are an African'.Akyaaba Addai-Sebo (right), is the man who started Black History Month UK. He shares the reggae star, Peter Tosh's view that you could be born in Alaska or Fiji or India, but so long as you are black, you are an African. This interview is a collaborative work with Kubara Zamani of Nubiart Sound Radio 1503 AM in London, who originally interviewed Addai-Sebo as part of its preparations for this year's Black History Month celebrations. There is a lot here to hold on to.
Q: As an introduction, what will you say is your background?
A: I will say that I am blessed "I Am Blessed" was the second single released from Power of a Woman. The single was released just after the girl group just had scored their third #1 hit in Japan with "Who Are You". and lucky to have been born and brought up during the 1950s, a period of heightened awareness and struggle for the independence of Ghana from British rule. I was a beneficiary of the enlightened policies of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah Kwame Nkrumah (September 21, 1909 - April 27, 1972), one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the 20th century, served as the founder, and first President of Ghana. . He instituted the Young Pioneer Movement to inculcate in·cul·cate
tr.v. in·cul·cat·ed, in·cul·cat·ing, in·cul·cates
1. To impress (something) upon the mind of another by frequent instruction or repetition; instill: inculcating sound principles. the spirit of pan-Africanism and the love for Africa and all its people, both at home and abroad, whether you were born in the Caribbean or in the Americas or in India or in the Pacific. We were taught that we belonged to the Greater African family. We were imbibed with the ideals and potentials of a liberated and united Africa being the home of all people of African descent.
Who would not be moved then by the vision of Nkrumah. "Across the parapet," he said, "I see the mother of African unity and her body is besmeared with the blood of her sons and daughters during her struggle to set her free from the shackles of imperialism and colonialism. I can see springing up cities of Africa becoming the metropolis of science and learning and architecture and philosophy. And the immortals are re-sounding the echo, seek ye first the political kingdom that all things shall be added unto you." Immortal words from a truly great man. In the secondary school that I attended, Adisadel, there were students and lecturers from various parts of Africa, Europe, Asia, the US and the Caribbean. So it was a great moment, a great period that shaped my upbringing, understanding, and acceptance of myself as a proud African.
Q: How did being a member of the Young Pioneers and the African ideals you were taught reflect in your adult life?
A: As young pioneers, we were brought up as future leaders Future Leaders is a UK schools-led charitable organisation that aims to widen the pool of talented leaders especially for urban challenging secondary schools. It was founded in March 2006 by Nat Wei, a former founder of Teach First. of Africa. We were being prepared intellectually for the future safety and development of Africa. We were being prepared to love ourselves as Africans first and foremost and also to take inspiration from what Africans from time immemorial time immemorial
n. pl. times immemorial
1. Time long past, beyond memory or record. Also called time out of mind.
2. Law Time antedating legal records.
Noun 1. had achieved and contributed in the shaping of our modern world.
The religious and scientific genius expressed in the building of the Great Pyramids in Ancient Egypt Editing of this page by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled due to vandalism. and Sudan, the Sudan, The
officially Republic of the Sudan
Country, northeastern Africa. Area: 966,757 sq mi (2,503,890 sq km). Population (2005 est.): 36,233,000. Capitals: Khartoum (executive), Omdurman (legislative). libraries of Alexandria where Jesus Christ Jesus Christ: see Jesus.
40 days after Resurrection, ascended into heaven. [N.T.: Acts 1:1–11]
See : Ascension
kind to the poor, forgiving to the sinful. [N.T. , Joseph, Moses and others went and learned about life and the concept of the worship of one God--monotheism; in short, Africa being the root of world civilisation.
It was for us to love ourselves and memories as Africans who had contributed so much to world civilisation but certain incidences happened and we appeared to have lost track of ourselves. That was what was being inculcated into us.
So I grew up very conscious of who I was as an African. And I quite remember when Nkrumah was overthrown in February 1966. I was about 15 years old then, I was in high school, and the first thing I did was to assemble my fellow Young Pioneers to go into town and resist the army takeover of the government because we saw it as an aberration, a dangerous precedent. I reacted in a similar way on the morning of 13 January 1972 when Colonel Acheampong's coup overthrew Prime Minister Kofi Busia's government. It was A. D. Appea, editor of The Pioneer newspaper in Kumasi, who may have saved my life by locking me up in his office and preventing me from going to the radio station in Kumasi to call for mass resistance against the coup. So I grew up with that sense of self-worth and responsibility as an African whose belief in the African Personality could not be compromised, and I have since held on to that belief.
Q: How did you come to be in Britain?
A: From Ghana, I went to the US to study. I was lucky in the US to have studied at the feet of some of the leading lights of our day: C.L.R. James basically adopted me as his son and he proudly always told people that all that I knew about politics was what he had taught me. I also studied at the feet of Chancellor Williams who wrote The Destruction of Black Civilisation. I studied at the feet of Yosef ben-Jochannan Yosef A.A. Ben-Jochannan (born December 24, 1918, Gondar, Ethiopia) is an African historian.
Ben-Jochannan was born to a Puerto Rican mother and an Ethiopian Jewish father. He was educated in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Spain, earning degrees in engineering and anthropology. , of John Henrik Clarke John Henrik Clarke (January 1, 1915 - July 16, 1998), born John Henry Clark in Union Springs, Alabama to John (a sharecropper) and Willie Ella (Mays) Clarke (a washer woman), was a Pan-Africanist, author, poet, historian, journalist, lecturer and teacher. , and also Rabbi Martin Seagal whose famous book, The Diary of a Rabbi, became a Broadway Show. He was a radical rabbi.
I also studied at the feet of Myron Woolman Wool´man
n. 1. One who deals in wool. , one of the leading systems developers in the world; Richard Barnet Richard Jackson Barnet (May 7, 1929—December 23, 2004) was an American scholar-activist who co-founded the Institute for Policy Studies. Early years
Born in Boston, Richard Barnet was raised in Brookline. , a founder of the Institute for Policy Studies; Rev. Gordon Cosby and Elizabeth O'Connor of the Church of the Saviour Thousands of churches are dedicated to the Saviour's Transfiguration in Orthodox countries, particularly Russia. Almost every historical Orthodox city has (or used to have) a church dedicated to this feast:
prop. n. 1. See the note under mahatma. ; Bob Brown of the All African People's Revolutionary Party People's Revolutionary Party is a name used by several political parties around the world:
I remember quite well Madam Jewel Mazique who also took me under her wing for about three years. She disciplined me to get up at about 4am and go to her house. There was a particular chair that she would ask me to sit on. She would say: "You sit here. That was where Malcolm X Malcolm X, 1925–65, militant black leader in the United States, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, b. Malcolm Little in Omaha, Neb. He was introduced to the Black Muslims while serving a prison term and became a Muslim minister upon his release in 1952. used to sit." So I have been very lucky. Jewel Mazique was the first African-American woman to graduate with a Masters Degree at Howard University Howard University, at Washington, D.C.; coeducational; with federal support. It was founded in 1867 by Gen. Oliver O. Howard of the Freedmen's Bureau, to provide education for newly emancipated slaves. A normal and preparatory department was opened the same year. , and she was a very marvellous woman, very strong and a visionary. She was called Mother Africa. And Julius Nyerere Julius Kambarage Nyerere (April 13, 1922 - October 14, 1999) served as the first President of Tanzania and previously Tanganyika, from the country's founding in 1964 until his retirement in 1985. , who became president of Tanzania, Nkrumah and all of them knew her when they were in the US. They used to go to her. So I was lucky, just lucky. For people like Chancellor Williams, C.L.R. James, John Henrik Clarke, Myron Woolman, Richard Barnet to spend time teaching me, individually, one-on-one basis, I count myself very, very lucky.
Q: So you went to America to study?
A: Yes, I studied there and I was involved in the movement there. I was closely associated with the All African People's Revolutionary Party. I was also engaged in various educational and community development activities. I was the first person to incorporate an Africa Centre in the Washington DC area, and I also gave form and content to a radio programme called African Roots, American Fruits which is still running on WPFW as a format of the Pacifica Foundation group.
Q: That programme is nearly 30 years old?
A: Yes, it is still running.
Q: So what made you come to Britain?
A: From the US, I went back to Ghana in October 1982 and fell into problems with the Rawlings regime. Basically it was a military dictatorship A military dictatorship is a form of government wherein the political power resides with the military; it is similar but not identical to a , a state ruled directly by the military. and I had a history of fighting military dictatorships. I went there after conferring with Chancellor Williams, Jewel Mazique, C.L.R. James and Abdul Rahman Mohamed Babu ba·bu also ba·boo
n. pl. ba·bus also ba·boos
1. Used as a Hindi courtesy title for a man, equivalent to Mr.
a. A Hindu clerk who is literate in English.
b. of Tanzania (he was then at the University of Massachusetts The system includes UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth (affiliated with Cape Cod Community College), UMass Lowell, and the UMass Medical School. It also has an online school called UMassOnline. ). I went home, grounded with the People's Defence Committees (PDCs) and made an impact.
Rawlings then indicated that I was tampering with the moral aspects of his "revolution" which was his to handle. He felt that the country was too small for the two of us. I was declared a "wanted person". The government sent a death squad after me. They looked all over for me, but the ordinary people in the trade unions and PDCs, who were the Achilles heel Achilles heel
a small but fatal weakness [Achilles in Greek mythology was killed by an arrow in his unprotected heel]
Achilles heel n → talón m de Aquiles of the government, helped me, they hid me in various villages and prepared a getaway for me eventually. That was January 1984. I, thus, came to Britain to seek political asylum political asylum n → asilo político
political asylum n → asile m politique
political asylum political n . And I came here because C.L.R. James had moved from the US to Brixton in London. I came here to join him, Darcus Howe Darcus Howe (born 1943) is British based broadcaster and columnist, who lives in Brixton, South London Biography
Howe was born in Trinidad and Tobago, the son of an Anglican priest. and the Race Today Collective. I then got a job at the Greater London Council The Greater London Council (GLC) was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London from 1965 to 1986. It replaced the earlier London County Council (LCC) which had covered a much smaller area. (GLC).
Q: So where did the inspiration for Black History Month come from?
A: The inspiration came from an incident that happened at the GLC where I worked then as the coordinator of Special Projects. A colleague of mine, a woman, came to work one morning, her desk was not very far away from mine, and I realised that she looked very, very downcast down·cast
1. Directed downward: a downcast glance.
2. Low in spirits; depressed. See Synonyms at depressed.
1. and not herself. I asked her what the matter was. And she confided that the previous night when she was putting her son called Marcus to bed, the six-year-old boy had asked her: "Mom, why can't I be white?" The mother was taken aback. She said she was so shocked that she just did not know how to respond to her son. The boy that she had named Marcus after Marcus Garvey Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., National Hero of Jamaica (August 17, 1887 – June 10, 1940), was a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black nationalist, orator, black separatist, and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). had asked her why he couldn't be white!
That set me thinking. I said, "Oh my goodness, what is happening?" In the US, I had initiated a programme within the libraries of the Washington DC metropolitan area whereby I went round the libraries with the approval of the Metropolitan Library lecturing about Africa and demonstrating Africa's contribution to world civilisation. So in the auditorium of the main library, they would occasionally bus in about 300-500 children from the various schools, and I would speak to and interact with them about Africa. I would tell them about the African genius, the appropriateness and validity of our traditions, moral codes, hospitality, and I would demonstrate how we lived in Africa, the food habits and then how children entertained themselves with songs and games. Sessions after sessions, some children and their parents would come to me attesting their new found faith in themselves as Africans. Their joyous faces were a spectacle to behold. Some parents would meet me and express the change that the encounter had brought to their homes.
So when this incidence with Marcus took place in London, it dawned on me that something had to happen here in Britain also. Of course, I was very familiar with Black History Month being celebrated during the month of February in the US. In fact I participated in the movement that caused the Negro History Week to be changed to Black History Month in 1976 in America.
So it set me thinking. Something had to be done here in the UK, because if this was the fountain-head of colonialism, imperialism and racism, and despite all the institutions of higher learning higher learning
Education or academic accomplishment at the college or university level. and research and also the cluster of African embassies, you could still find a six-year-old black boy being confused about his identity despite the fact that his mother had tried to correct it from birth, that meant the mother had not succeeded because the wider society had failed her.
That also meant the world out there, and the happenings in it, particularly in the classrooms and playgrounds of the various schools in the UK, were so strong and powerful that they denigrated that person's identity, which made that child question his identity as an African or being black. That was something that really touched my heart and opened my eyes wider. So I reflected and reflected and reflected on it, for weeks and weeks. And then, the only thing that came to me after these weeks of reflection was that something had to be done here in the UK to permanently celebrate Africa's contribution to world civilisation.
So, I went ahead and drew up a strategic plan and discussed it with my colleagues at the GLC. The plan was to get some resources approved by the various legal committees of the GLC to support manifestations of the monumental contribution of Africa and Africans to the economic, cultural and political life of London in particular and Britain in general. We also did some consultation within the black community.
In the end, we got approval for money to organise a series of manifestations. These resulted in lectures in 1986-87. We brought in here Henrik Clarke, Frances Cress Welsing Frances Cress Welsing (born March 18, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois) is an African American psychiatrist practicing in Washington, D.C.. She is famous for the 'Cress Theory of Color Confrontation', a theory that explores the practice of White Supremacy. , ben-Jochannan, Tony Martin, etc. These series of lecturers were organised London-wide. The halls of the GLC were opened to the community. Lectures were also held in Birmingham, Manchester and other cities across the UK. The seminal outcome of these lectures was a book, Our Story, edited by myself and Ansel Wong.
We also organised some cultural manifestations and brought in great musicians such as Max Roach Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach (January 10, 1924 – August 16, 2007) was a bebop/hard bop percussionist, drummer, and composer. He worked with many of the greatest jazz musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins , Kofi Ghanaba, Hugh Masekela Hugh Ramopolo Masekela (b. Witbank, South Africa, April 4, 1939) is an South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer. Masekela is an acknowledged master of African music. Biography
He began singing and playing piano as a child. , Burning Spear Winston Rodney, OD (born March 1, 1948), also known as Burning Spear, is a Grammy Award winning Jamaican roots reggae singer and musician. Like many famous Jamaican reggae artists, Burning Spear is known for his Rastafari movement messages. , Abdullah Ibrahim Abdullah Ibrahim (born 9 October 1934 in Cape Town, South Africa), formerly known as Adolph Johannes Brand, and as Dollar Brand, is a South African pianist and composer. , Courtney Pyne, Brother Ah, Tania Maria Tania Maria (b. May 9, 1948) is a Brazilian artist, singer, composer, bandleader and piano player, singing mostly in Portuguese or English. Her music is mostly vocal, sometimes pop, often jazzy, and unmistakably Brazilian. and a whole lot of artistes from the US, the Caribbean, Africa, Ireland and India to perform at the Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Royal Albert may refer to several places named in memory of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha:
(at secondary school) → collégiens mpl; lycéens mpl
schoolchildren school for a whole week, from all over Greater London Greater London: see London. . They listened to inspirational music and talks. From this, we said, "if this has been initiated, why not institutionalise Verb 1. institutionalise - cause to be admitted; of persons to an institution; "After the second episode, she had to be committed"; "he was committed to prison"
institutionalize, commit, send, charge it". So the idea of Black History Month was born.
Q: Who were the people involved?
A: Although I initiated it, there was the support of all members and officers of the Greater London Council (GLC). When the GLC was abolished by Mrs Thatcher's government, the London Strategic Policy Unit was established and its entire staff, including the councillors and borough leaders, gave of their best. It will be very difficult for me to single out people and mention their names. It was a collective effort but I can mention Ansel Wong, Ken Livingstone Kenneth Robert Livingstone (born June 17, 1945) is a British politician who became Mayor of London on the creation of the post in 2000.
He was previously Leader of the Greater London Council from 1981 until it was abolished in 1986. , Paul Boateng Paul Yaw Boateng (born June 14, 1951) is a British Labour Party politician. He became the UK's first black Cabinet minister in May 2002 when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. , Linda Bellos Linda Bellos OBE (b. 1950) is a British black, Jewish, lesbian activist and former London politician.
Bellos was born to a Jewish mother and a Nigerian-born father, and raised in Brixton. , Margaret Hodge The Right Honourable  Margaret Eve, Lady Hodge, MBE (née Margaret Oppenheimer; born 8 September 1944, Cairo) is a British politician and Labour Party Member of Parliament for Barking. , Anne Matthews, Narendra Makenji, Peter Brayshaw, Drew Stevenson, Bernard Wiltshire, Herman Ouseley, Ken Martindale, Vitus Evans, Chris Boothman, Lord Gifford, Bernie Grant Bernard Alexander Montgomery Grant (17 February 1944 – 8 April, 2000), known simply as Bernie Grant, was a politician in the United Kingdom, and was Labour member of Parliament for Tottenham at the time of his death. , Shirley Andrew, Edward Oteng, Patricia Lamour, Pat Gordon, etc. without prejudice Without any loss or waiver of rights or privileges.
When a lawsuit is dismissed, the court may enter a judgment against the plaintiff with or without prejudice. When a lawsuit is dismissed without prejudice .
We managed to make this an all-party affair. Politicians from all the UK parties joined in this undertaking. We did not alienate anybody or group from this effort. They all contributed to make it a reality. Without that foresight it would not have happened. The politicians voted money for it. The support was there because of the justification. In fact, its time had come.
Q: When was the first Black History Month event in the UK?
A: The first event was held on 1 October 1987. We brought in Dr Maulana Karenga, the originator of Kwanzaa in the US. He was chosen specifically because of his relevance to what we were doing and because he had launched Kwanzaa which had become a successful part of the cultural calendar in both the US and the UK. He, together with the late Mrs Sally Mugabe, the former leaders of the GLC, then the London Strategic Policy Unit, the Inner London Education Authority The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) was the education authority for the 12 inner London boroughs from 1965 until its abolition in 1990.
The Inner London Education Authority was established when the Greater London Council (GLC) replaced the London County Council as (ILEA) and various politicians, they all came together and we launched the first events of Black History Month UK. This was followed by a series of lectures at the community centres of the various London boroughs. Later, the events spread to other parts of the UK because the African Jubilee Year Jubilee year
fiftieth year; liberty proclaimed for all inhabitants. [O.T.: Leviticus 25:8–13]
See : Freedom Declaration that was launched here in July-August 1987 was also sent across the country, but it took some time for the other boroughs outside London to adopt the Declaration, which formally instituted the month of October as Black History Month in the UK.
Q: What else was in that Declaration?
A: The key was that it recognised the contribution of Africans to the economic, cultural and political life of London and the UK, and it called on the boroughs to recognise this fact and take their duties as enjoined by the Race Relations race relations
the relations between members of two or more races within a single community
race relations npl → relaciones fpl raciales
Act very seriously and also to intensify their support against apartheid. The Declaration also enjoined them to continue the process of naming monuments and parks and buildings after illustrious African leaders, and also to do everything within their powers to ensure that black children growing up here in the UK did not lose the fact of the genius of their African-ness.
Q: In the US, Black History Month is celebrated in February. What was the thinking behind celebrating it in October in Britain?
A: Again, we had to look at what lessons were to be learned from the US experience. In the US, Carter G. Woodson Carter Godwin Woodson (b. December 19 1875, New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia — d. April 3 1950, Washington, D.C.) was an African American historian, author, journalist and the founder of Black History Month. who initiated the Negro History Week in February 1926 which then became Black History Month, had chosen February because of two influential figures he assessed to have impacted the conditions of the negro: Abraham Lincoln, the first American First American may refer to:
But having participated effectively in Black History Month in the US, I noticed that it took place during the cold month of February, and most of the events were held indoors. It was also at a time when children were tasked with schoolwork. There was no warmth to it in terms of the atmosphere.
The concern here was about the children, it was the intellectual preparation of the children, our future generation, that was crucial to the decision-making. Black History Month was directed at the children. And we asked, what period of the year could we really get the attention of children?
We chose October because apart from its significance within the African cultural calendar--the period of the autumn equinox equinox (ē`kwĭnŏks), either of two points on the celestial sphere where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect. The vernal equinox, also known as "the first point of Aries," is the point at which the sun appears to cross the in Africa--October is consecrated con·se·crate
tr.v. con·se·crat·ed, con·se·crat·ing, con·se·crates
1. To declare or set apart as sacred: consecrate a church.
a. as the harvest period, the period of plenty, the period of the Yam Festivals, it was the period from history where Africa, particularly Egypt and Ethiopia for example, were to the rest of what is today the Middle-East and the Greco-Roman era, the breadbasket and cradle of civilisation. And when the Jews were facing famine and pestilence pestilence /pes·ti·lence/ (pes´ti-lins) a virulent contagious epidemic or infectious epidemic disease.pestilen´tial
1. in Canaan, it was always Africa that they came to to sustain and rebuild themselves spiritually and physically. Even the Prophet Mohamed instructed his followers who faced persecution for their faith in monotheism monotheism (mŏn`əthēĭzəm) [Gr.,=belief in one God], in religion, a belief in one personal god. In practice, monotheistic religion tends to stress the existence of one personal god that unifies the universe. to seek refuge in Ethiopia. So it was to rekindle re·kin·dle
tr.v. re·kin·dled, re·kin·dling, re·kin·dles
1. To relight (a fire).
2. To revive or renew: rekindled an old interest in the sciences. that tradition which influenced the choice of October.
Apart from that, October is a period of tolerance and reconciliation in Africa; it is a period of the coming together of the various bodies that entailed the African societies, the kingdoms. The various chiefs and leaders would gather at the capital and all differences were settled. This was also a period to examine one's life in relation to the collective and to see if the targets set for oneself and the group during the past year had been achieved or not. You know that Africa gave the world the calendar. Our ancestors Our Ancestors (Italian: I Nostri Antenati) is the name of Italo Calvino's "heraldic trilogy" that comprises The Cloven Viscount (1952), The Baron in the Trees (1957), and The Nonexistent Knight (1959). built the pyramids, knowing about astrology, mathematics and architecture. So it has a meaning. Therefore, October was chosen because of these factors. Black History Month is therefore a reconnection with our source, hence the chosen symbol of Sankofa--learning from the past, with the benefit of hindsight, in order to shape our future from the present.
We were also thinking about the children and what to bequeath To dispose of Personal Property owned by a decedent at the time of death as a gift under the provisions of the decedent's will.
The term bequeath applies only to personal property. to them. October is more or less the beginning of the school year in the UK. They have had a long summer vacation Summer vacation (also called summer holidays or summer break) is a vacation in the summertime between school years in which students are off for 3 months, depending on the country and district. , their minds are refreshed, and they are not saddled with classroom or home work, or examinations. Their minds are revitalised, so they can take in a lot of instructions. That was one of the reasons why October was chosen.
Q: So, you don't support the pan-Africanists' attempts to change Black History Month next year into an African Heritage Month and move it from October to February?
A: So what am I? Am I not also a pan-Africanist? I will tell you this. The very same people who are behind this move were the people we had problems with in 1986-87. There were some people who were very angry with me, they didn't know me, they didn't know my background. "Who is this person who is doing all this?" they decried. "This should have come from us. He is not part of our community." And they attempted to put up a front to resist the institution of Black History Month UK. But later on, when the event became a force of its own because the wider community had embraced it, they had to go with the current.
I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. the justification for changing the name or moving it to February. If the justification is because Black History Month is held in February in the US, and also the claim that it has been hijacked by the establishment in the UK, then these claims are spurious. Do the traditions of the Carnival enjoin To direct, require, command, or admonish.
Enjoin connotes a degree of urgency, as when a court enjoins one party in a lawsuit by ordering the person to do, or refrain from doing, something to prevent permanent loss to the other party or parties. Rio, Trinidad, London, New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of and Toronto to celebrate carnival on the same day? Without institutional, corporate and establishment support, where would the carnival be today? By shifting it to February, does it mean the content will be different?
The challenge facing us as pan-Africanists is how to make the content of Black History Month more relevant and purposeful each succeeding year. I must reveal that the likes of these agitators attacked me, spat on me and threatened me when I was brought in to re-brand the Notting Hill Carnival Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event which takes place in Notting Hill, London, England each August, over two days (Sunday and the following bank holiday). It has continuously taken place on the streets of Notting Hill since 1965. in the late 1980s. Their contention was that as an African "you have no business running our Carnival". But with the support of Baroness Hanham, Ansel Wong, Claire Holder and Chris Nortey, the team we put together laid the foundations for the present expansion and success in the administration and management of the Carnival which has become a major event in the UK. They did not cow me because I took comfort from the fact that we had rescued the Carnival from Mafioso hands and instituted measures that made it impossible to steal.
Q: Another criticism is the way Black History Month has gone over the last 17 years. People are saying that the local councils promoting it have reduced it to cooking, singing and dancing. The history and lectures have been reduced.
A: Here again, I like to look at solutions rather than criticisms. So if I see that the British Museum British Museum, the national repository in London for treasures in science and art. Located in the Bloomsbury section of the city, it has departments of antiquities, prints and drawings, coins and medals, and ethnography. is holding events to mark Black History Month, I take it as a positive. It is not the British Museum as an institution per se, but there may be a group or individuals there organising the events. So why don't we go to them, maybe in November or January and sit down with them, and say "look, these are our skills, you did a wonderful job this year, what can we do to make it better next year?"
You start from there, and they will welcome you! But they may be limited; they may be doing this against tremendous difficulties even within there. Seek out these soldiers of our heritage and give them your support. They are quietly doing what they can, and we should not condemn what they are doing.
Let me tell you this. Last year, I went to the British Museum during Black History Month. They had invited Hugh Masekela to grace the occasion. After the event I asked who organised it, and they took me to his office. And I saw a white man, an Anglo-Saxon, an anthropologist. He organised it, and has been organising it for some years. I sat down with him, Dr. Ben Burt, curator of the Department of Ethnography and he was very happy to see me. And he recounted the difficulties he had been facing, because he was isolated there.
We have to seek these people out. We should not try to dampen their spirits by unnecessarily criticising them. Yes, you may find some problems with maybe the activities of the Greater London Authority
The Greater London Authority (GLA) administers the 1579 km² (610 sq. miles) of Greater London, England, covering the 32 London boroughs and the City of London. (GLA), but we have to be very careful that we do not throw the baby away with the bath water. We should encourage as well as influence them, particularly the content of the contributions of Mayor Livingstone as he was with us from the inception.
Q: Nowadays, Asians and the Irish are classified as black, and other events are put in the same Black History Month calendar for them. Was that part of the original vision?
A: What we must not forget is that every struggle takes place within the universe. And wherever it is located, it is subject to various impressions. You get solidarity and build allies and you must not ignore that solidarity and support. And also we have to pay homage to our essence as human beings, our essence as the originators of civilisation, our essence as where Eve or humanity evolved, Africa.
So we embrace everybody. And this was very clear in the teachings of Marcus Garvey. There was solidarity with the struggles of the Indians and the Irish. The African Jubilee Year Declaration in the UK also recognised this solidarity. And because of the historical juncture of our struggle in the UK, the term "black" has been used to encompass the struggle and solidarity of all oppressed op·press
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority: a people who were oppressed by tyranny.
2. people, people who have suffered under the whip of colonialism, imperialism, apartheid and all that. So we don't want to lose that essence of solidarity. If blackness carries or brings along all these strands, there is nothing wrong with it, because we cannot struggle alone.
We must note this for historical purposes for we received a solidarity message from the Editor of Dalit Voice Dalit Voice is a political magazine published in Bangalore, India that claims to express the views of the Dalit movement. The current full title is "Dalit Voice: the voice of the persecuted nationalities denied human rights , V.T. Rajshekar: "... On behalf of India's 150 million Black Untouchables untouchables: see Harijans.
lowest caste in India; social outcasts. [Ind. Culture: Brewer Dictionary, 1118]
See : Banishment , I extend warm greetings to black Africans both in the homeland and those studying and working in Britain. Our Untouchable untouchable
Former classification of various low-status persons and those outside the Hindu caste system in Indian society. The term Dalit is now used for such people (in preference to Mohandas K. (Dalit) nationality is partly descended from Africans who migrated to India in pre-history. Our people still suffer from apartheid-like oppression from fair-skinned Hindu racists in many parts of India. In many villages, we are not allowed to draw water from wells or attend schools, or to vote in elections. India's Black Untouchables are struggling for the same human rights and political liberation as Azania's blacks. Their struggles and teachings offer us clear guidelines for our own struggle here in India." This is instructive.
Q: But solidarity is different from the focus of this specific celebration of Black History Month. Was Africa the focus or was it anybody who came under the banner of blackness?
A: Africa is the core or essence of Black History Month. That is why we started in 1986-87 with the lectures on the African contribution to world civilisation. But even then, we used that occasion to let the British people See :
British Overseas Territories know that during a certain period in history when they themselves said that they were being "attacked by the savages" from the Nordic countries, it took an African, Septimus Severus, who was then emperor of Rome, who came here, rebuilt the Hadrian Wall and gave the people of Britain 100 years of uninterrupted peace. Septimus Severus died in York on 4 February 211.
Then, we think about Saint Augustine Saint Augustine (sānt ô`gəstēn), city (1990 pop. 11,692), seat of St. Johns co., NE Fla.; inc. 1824. Located on a peninsula between the Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Anastasia Island; , the first Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the main leader of the Church of England and by convention is also recognised as head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The current archbishop is Rowan Williams. , who was also here. Then the monumental influence of Popes Victor, Gelasius and Mechaides. Then Maurice, the celestial patron saint of the Germans, Swiss and French. These were all Africans! Then in 668 AD, Pope Vitalian selected an African abbot, Hadrian, as Archbishop of Canterbury.
So we put all these together for the British people to understand the import of Africa to their daily lives. And that the essence of racism is stupid, because if you go even further, you get to know about Queen Charlotte Sophia, an African via Portugal who became the wife of the English King George III (1738-1820), and her relationship with Queen Victoria and her descendants up to the present Queen Elizabeth II.
If you look at the present Queen, her hair texture and facial features, you can see the African blood coursing through her veins. Princess Anne's is even more glaring. Look at her hair and the face, you can't miss it! On 8 September 1761, King George III married Charlotte Sophia, a direct descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. All the Charlottes in the British Royal House are named in honour of this African beauty who died in 1818 and is buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor. George III, so besotted be·sot
tr.v. be·sot·ted, be·sot·ting, be·sots
To muddle or stupefy, as with alcoholic liquor or infatuation.
[be- + sot, to stupefy (from sot, fool with his young bride, purchased Buckingham House in London, now Buckingham Palace, for Queen Charlotte where they raised 15 children! The cities of Charlottetown, the provincial capital of Prince Edward Island Prince Edward Island, province (2001 pop. 135,294), 2,184 sq mi (5,657 sq km), E Canada, off N.B. and N.S. Geography
One of the Maritime Provinces, Prince Edward Island lies in the Gulf of St. in Canada, and Charlotte, North Carolina “Charlotte” redirects here. For other uses, see Charlotte (disambiguation).
Charlotte is the largest city in the state of North Carolina and the 20th largest city in the United States. , USA, were named after her.
As I speak, Queen Elizabeth II has mounted a public exhibition on George III and Queen Charlotte at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The exhibition, drawn entirely from the Royal Collection, is--in the words of the Queen herself--"to correct the stereotyped view of George III ... to cover fresh ground and to embrace not only the King's interests, but also those of Queen Charlotte, whose important contributions to the Royal Collection and to the encouragement of female accomplishments have not always been adequately recognised." The exhibition is running until 9 January 2005.
So we have to be very careful that we do not alienate ourselves by being isolationist i·so·la·tion·ism
A national policy of abstaining from political or economic relations with other countries.
i or puritanical in our attempts to define ourselves in relation to our redemption. It is a human endeavour, and humanity has its origins in Africa. And as Peter Tosh sang: "No matter where you come from, so long as you are a black man, you are an African." I firmly believe in it.
Q: So you don't have any problem about not focusing it essentially on people of African descent?
A: Africa is the essence of it. The name or term "black" has become a historical imposition because of Western racial categorisation of humanity. Yet, it is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. It is a communications vehicle. What is important and of relevance to us are the solidarity and the spectre in the rallying call of "Black Power" serving also as a constant reminder of the power relations in this clash of civilisations where the West sees its survival in our subjugation Subjugation
king to whom God sold Israelites. [O.T.: Judges 3:8]
consigned to servitude in retribution for trickery. [O.T.: Joshua 9:22–27]
curses him and progeny to servitude. [O. and unbridled exploitation. When our civilisation was in ascendancy, we did not suffer from such a complex and fear.
Q: Now they want to change the name to African Heritage Month.
A: No, they cannot change the name. It has taken roots. It's just a handful of people. Remember, we debated this and "black" was chosen to bridge, cleanse and heal the African-West Indian historical wounds--the "them" sold "us" virus. Black History Month is therefore a surgical tool to destroy this alienating virus first.
Q: Do you have any comment on the view of the famous black TV newscaster, Sir Trevor MacDonald, and Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission of Racial Equallity, that we need to move away from multiculturalism and embrace integration into the native culture of the UK?
A: Unfortunately I was not here when those statements were made, I was abroad. But that is their opinion. Again, it will not resonate in the black community. It is something that I think he regrets by now. After all the years of struggle, to ditch African Personality and call for integration instead of acceptance and tolerance, the Nkrumahs, the Maurice Bishops, the Garveys, even the Malcom Xs, will be disturbed in their graves by what Trevor MacDonald said. It is a mistake, an error, and I think he regrets saying it. And I will offer an apology on his behalf to our community.
Q: Trevor Phillips talked about language, but how can you express your identity without speaking your national language. How important it is for people of African descent living outside Africa to learn at least one African language and to maintain their culture?
A: Language is the bedrock of a person's identity. If you take a person's language from him or her, you have basically denigrated that person. And this was what was done to us as a people. The colonisers recognised the importance of this, and so they did everything to remove that essential spiritual element from us as a people. So language is very, very, important. For Diasporan Africans, it is crucial and essential for them to try and speak one African language (in addition to the colonial languages of their adopted countries). It's very important.
Q: What message do you have for the black youth of today?
A: I will say that my generation has not lived up to expectation and we have failed you, the youth. I don't think we have applied ourselves diligently to your education. We have let you loose without much guidance. We have allowed the system to consume our sense of responsibility to our own children, nephews and nieces. We don't have time for you. We cannot sit down with you, even at the dining table, eating together, and sharing some experiences. We cannot even read a story about Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey to you. That is our failure. We have failed you. And it is time for you, the youth to challenge us, by asking us: "Why have you let us into this condition that we have become a ridicule, that we have become like tailless rats? We don't know where we are going. When we wake up in the morning, we have no inspiring perspectives to hold our lives on to. We can only sit in front of the television and imbibe whatever messages that come." What is the form of entertainment that my generation has prepared for you, the youth? Nothing, nothing! We cannot hold your attention and make you believe and accept yourselves as Africans, as people who have contributed immensely to world civilisation, as people whose ancestors even during the period when they were banned in the US and the Caribbean from being taught how to read and write, they were able to come up with several hundred inventions, inventions that your ancestors made but their slave masters took the patent for them.
Such is your heritage--the African genius flourishing even in the face of adversity. If you look at the UK, you hear about Electric Avenue in Brixton, London. Do you know that it was an African born in the US who came and set up the electricity system here in this country? Lewis Howard Latimer Lewis Howard Latimer (September 4, 1848 – December 11, 1928) was an African American inventor and draftsman.  Early life
He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848 as the youngest of the four children of Rebecca (1826-1848) and George , one of the outstanding pioneers of the creation of the electrical industry, was his name. He oversaw the installation of lighting systems in London, Amsterdam, Montreal, Philadelphia and in New York. An African!
So we have contributed so much to the world. And it is only when you get to love who you are, because of the knowledge of what those who have gone before you have done, that is when you begin to appreciate the African world you live in. Black History Month is retrieving our stolen legacy.
Q: So, after 17 years of existence, do you think Black History Month UK has been a success?
A: Oh yes, it has become a major contributing factor in the building of tolerance and harmonious race relations in the UK. That is the reality, and it cannot be denied. The African Jubilee Year Declaration which gave birth to Black History Month is a legislative instrument and so the institutions of state are responding accordingly and honouring that duty required of them when they and their officers initiate activities to advance the cause of Black History Month. The celebrations are therefore an established order in local authority function and in the enactment of their duties as enshrined in the 1976 Race Relations Act and subsequent amendments. The foundations of its success, growth and development are founded on solid legal grounds and it is these facts that nourish Black History Month every year in October.
The forward looking ones amongst us would rather work hard to enhance it to cover November and December and to connect Black History Month with the Mother Continent and with Kwanzaa and make the period the Black History Season. Forward ever, backward never! This is what Garvey, Nkrumah, Henrik Clarke, Kwame Ture and Jake Carruthers taught us.
Kubara Zamani is a producer/presenter at Nubiart Sound Radio 1503 AM (www.soundradio.info or www.southwark.tv/quest/aqhome.afp). This interview is also running on www.everygeneration.co.uk.