By Tikhala Chimpango
Women Arise join everyone else here in the UK, Ireland and Netherlands as the countries observe, celebrate Black culture, history and contributions to humanity that Black people have made over the years.
In the UK, Black History Month was first celebrated in October 1987. It was then organised through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo who had served and lived in London. The initial aims were for local communities to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about black history which was not and is still not taught in schools.
This year’s Black History Month is more important than ever as it comes at the back of the shocking footage of Mr Floyd’s death which went viral showing a police officer pressing his knee to Mr Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes before his death in May. Here in the UK It is also thought to be hugely important because of the Windrush Scandal, racist incidents such as the death of Stephen Lawrence and Mark Duggan.
And fresh to our minds is how devastating Covid-19 has affected and impacted the lives of BAME community and the issues of health and economic inequalities that it has brought to the fore. This is the reason why as we conclude this month, Women Arise have organised an event on the 31st of October where we are going to have Dr. Kwiyani (IDENTITY), Senior Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University and Dr. Thandi Hara (RISE UP), Strategy Development Executive at Oxford University will lead conversations on how we, the BAME community can re-emerge from this pandemic better and stronger.
We are born and placed on planet earth as masterpieces of our creator. In a world with a population of about 7.7 billion, each baby born comes with its own unique identity code (the fingerprint). This is how special, unique, valuable, worthy and carefully crafted each human being is and yet at birth we are also given a hand that we have to play and in this hand contains things like; nationality, parents, siblings, gender, skin colour/tone, Physical make up, name, language, Religion, background and early experiences, values, beliefs and customs etc.. These all become components of our identity.
MESSED UP IDENTITY
As the baby into toddler, child, youth and into adulthood, it finds itself inenvironments, culture and the education systems which challenges and forces it to conformity hence we end up with a messed-up identity. For black people this is even worse when one factors in the effect and impact that slavery, colonisation has had on us and our progress in life as individuals, as communities, as nations and as a continent.
The education system that we received was Eurocentric and did us more harm than good. We were brainwashed to believe that we were not good, our culture, customs, values and beliefs were not good compared to what the colonialist were bringing to us. This is not to say, some of the things that they introduced were not helpful, they brought civilisation, but this was at the expense of us losing our creativity, dignity and hope as a nation. I vividly remember when I was in primary school in Malawi, where I grew up learning about seasons in a geography class. Instead of learning about the two seasons that Malawi has, we were instead taught four seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) as they were in the United Kingdom as if I and my colleagues lived in the UK.
Nobody is going to come and rescue us; As black people we need to rise up by starting to have open, truthful and transformative conversations with ourselves and how we as a people can use agency to refuse to live under the manmade limitations that have been placed on us and instead use agency to rise up and become agents of change. We need to start questioning things, be willing to not accept inequalities in whatever form they are presented to us.
As it is, our world is still embedded in and is reflective of capitalist social relations- homogenising and assimilatory forces that deny social and cultural diversity among people ie language, culture, and way of life. A recent example of how deep these diabolical ideologies and systems are is the recent incident that happened a few weeks ago here in the UK to 24-year-old black female barrister who went to court to represent a client. The barrister was thought to be a defendant three times in one day by three different people due to nothing else but her skin colour (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-54281111). This is so absurd and sad that in this time and age three different people can automatically place somebody at the bottom of the ladder just because of their skin colour. How does one look at other races as somewhat less human than others or inferior????
As we stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before us, we can become bridges of reconciliation, truth, empathy, kindness and peace to our generation and to those that are standing on our shoulders.
ARise Project #CommunitiesCan
The organisation, Women Arise is managed by Tikhala Chimpango and Mary Kachitsa and has got three trustees namely Barbara Makhalira, Tamanda Kalua and Chrissy Mlota. The project has been funded from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund which is distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund. The funding has made it possible for Woman Arise to hold meetings through the Zoom sessions have helped women to stay connected during this season.
The event will take place on the 31st of October at St Thomas Centre (due to capacity because of Covid-19 restrictions, this is by invitation only to BAME Community organisation leaders). So please join us via Zoom and Facebook live streaming.
ZOOM MEETING ID: 83758967376
FACEBOOK Livestreaming: www.facebook.com/WOMAN-ARISE-103840977983472