Celebrating Black History is about embracing who we truly are each day, honouring our cultural heritage and our contributions to the world.
“To be Young, Gifted and Black”. These simple yet powerful words from African-American singer Nina Simone epitomises, who, we as Black people truly are, because geniuses come in all skin colours, and why we ought to continue celebrating Black History Month beyond a few days in the calendar year.
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Celebrating Black History all year round is about embracing who we truly are each day, discovering and honouring our kaleidoscopic heritage and culture – both past and contemporary, and our incredible daily achievements and contributions to the world.
I very much understand that Black History Month began being celebrated here in Great Britain in October 1987 as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
And, I believe we need to build on such a laudable concept everyday in our own little ways to deepen our knowledge of Black History, shining the light on our brilliance, being rainbows in each other’s clouds, and keep loving people of all shades and walks of life.
After all we come from Africa – the cradle of humanity. Here are a few ideas on how we can continue to remain connected to our heritage whilst keeping our hearts open to the world.
Learn about Black History
The wise people were right when they said, if you want to know who you are and where you are going, you first need to understand where you have come from.
Knowing your history as a Black person, the good-the bad-and the ugly, is very much about understanding yourself and the incredible legacy that you inherited from your ancestors whom, whether you realise it or not, contributed in shaping you into who you are.
Reading about Black History will restore your sense of self and faith in your own abilities, and it will definitely give you hope to know that there is way more to Black History than 400 years of the 16th/19th centuries transatlanctic slave trade. Getting to know Black History which spans millennia will change your life perspective for the better.
House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons
by Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason
Available at Amazon
House of Music is a story of hope and a joyful celebration of the Kanneh-Mason family musical talents. It also highlights issues of race and class in twenty-first century Britain. This is the fantastic story of parents reminding their children that they can achieve anything regardless of prejudices.
I was privileged to have been born and raised in Cameroon – Central Africa, and to have moved to the UK a month before my 24th birthday. Growing up surrounded by people who looked like me and who instilled in me everyday that I could achieve anything I wanted with faith and hard work, had a tremendous impact on my confidence and self-esteem. I grew up dancing to Afrobeats alongside African-American, Afro-Latino, and Afro-Caribbean zouk music, deciphering at a young age how Africa has influenced the global music scene.
Moreover, the rigorous education system I took for granted at the time was structured to offer us an extensive knowledge of Back History, spanning from the pre-colonial ancient African civilisations to the history of the African diaspora. I was introduced to Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech at school at the age of 9. And that speech stayed with me to this day.
The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality?
by Cheik Anta Diop
Available at Amazon
This classic presents historical, anthropological, and archaeological evidence to support the theory that Ancient Egypt was a Black civilisation
In the secondary Jesuit school I attended, it was compulsory to learn one of the two main languages “Douala” or “Bassa” of the predominant coastal tribes living in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon where I grew up. In Cameroon alone we have over 250 languages and various tribes, traditions, belief systems, and culinary heritage.
And for those of us who specialised in Philosophy & Literature, each month we had to read and summarise the books of 3 African (including Diasporan) authors alongside European classics. From the groundbreaking books of Pr Cheikh Anta Diop, Mongo Beti, Birago Diop to Pr. Chinua Achebe’s African Trilogy, and Toni Morrisson’s, I was exposed to an array of brilliant Black historians, philosophers, and novelists in my formative years. So, I have always known how much Africa has positively shaped the literary and academic worlds.
Precolonial Black Africa
by Cheik Anta Diop
Available at Amazon
This book provides road maps for historians and others who seek a scientific understanding of Precolonial societies in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Europe and their links with the earliest known stages of human development.
None of those educational initiatives in high school was part of the National Curriculum. These were educational standards imposed upon us by the school I attended to prepare us for the future, as our teachers,many of whom were Diasporan, knew that at least 80% of us will be pursuing our education or careers overseas at some point in our lives. And they had full authority from our helicopter parents to discipline us to ensure those African writers’ books were indeed read and succinctly summarised, which got us extra grades and granted us the right to partake in some fancy extra-curricular activities.
So, educating ourselves and the younger generation about who we truly are and where we come from is an important part of helping them develop a deeper sense of cultural identity and self-confidence.
Explore Black Culinary Heritage
Black Culinary History is very extensive, spanning from Africa, Europe, to the Caribbean and the Americas, just to name a few. The limitless and flavourful dishes you will enjoy will broaden your food repertoire and will delight your sophisticated palate.
Wherever you live in the world, try to make the effort to discover Black culinary dishes that are different to the part(s) of the world you come from either through colleagues, family and friends, at farmers’ markets, and via upscale food experiences. I can assure you that you will be pleasantly surprised by how much you can learn about people and their cultures through your culinary adventures.
Speaking of random street food outings, I was introduced to Ethiopian Flavours in London’s Borough Market last year when I was looking for something tasty and different to try out at lunch time. I highly recommend you check the place out. Bear in mind that the queue could be long due to the incredibly tasty vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes on offer. Their injera bread with Misir Wat (Ethiopian spiced red lentils) are simply to die for.
For a boisterous experience with family and friends, head to the Shaka Zulu in Chalk Farm, Camden. Shaka Zulu, London’s largest two-floor South African restaurant with a total capacity of 850 in the dining area, a bar and club offers interesting food, drinks, live music, dancing and daytime family entertainment worth exploring for some parties.
You cannot fully experience Black British History without having a taste of the exquisite Afro-Caribbean cuisine. From Camden, Vauxhall, to Shoreditch and Notting Hill, Cottons Restaurants with their colorful exotic vibes are my favourite go-to places to enjoy the best Caribbean food in town, bringing tropical island flavours to the heart of trendy London neighbourhoods.
Add live music, fabulous cocktails, a collection of over 300 types of rum, and DJ’s playing sunshine vibes every weekend, and I promise you that you will return home happier, after a delicious jerk chicken or curried mutton stew with rice & peas or fried plantain.
For an upscale culinary experience as a personal treat or with your significant other, head to Michelin Star Ikoyi London restaurant in 1 St. James’s Market to enjoy one of the capital’s innovative restaurants. It is named after the prosperous neighbourhood Ikoyi in Lagos, Nigeria.
The foundation for the restaurant menu, put together by two childhood friends, blends home-grown ingredients with a vast collection of carefully curated spices from sub-Saharan West Africa. Kick off with Moin Moin with prawns or the buttermilk-soaked plantain with a scotch bonnet dip. Aged beef and carrot maafe or wild rice and finio are the chef’s specialities worth trying out. When the lid is lifted you’ll find the gorgeous food aromas intoxicating.
Take a Holiday Trip to Black Africa
The best way you can authentically experience what it feels like to be Black in the positive sense of the terms is only by taking a trip to Africa to see for yourself the true and very safe Africa I grew up in that the mainstream media hardly shows you.
Have you ever experienced the gorgeous sands of Cabo Verde or Lamu in Kenya? When was the last time you sun bathed in Zanzibar, Tanzania, or explored Cape Town, Botswana and Namibia? Have you enjoyed the breathtaking landscapes and peoples of Ethiopia? Have you ever experienced the Teranga (hospitality) from Cosmopolitan Dakar, Accra, and Kigali, or danced the night away in Lagos?
Open your heart space, your mind, and soul to new life-changing travel experiences that will disrupt your life perspective for the better, and it will give you a bigger vision of the world and life possibilities.
Support Black Owned Businesses
Supporting Black-owned business is a habit that we definitely need to embrace more in order to create more business leaders and entrepreneurs, who in their own ways will create opportunities for themselves and others way beyond their community of origin.
Next time you upgrade your fabulous makeup products, check out Uoma Beauty and Pat McGrath Labs. These two female-owned Black British makeup brands are serving international excellence and inclusivity in their makeup lines, their messages and their beauty campaigns. I can guarantee you that you will find products that meet your high standards.
Visit SIKA Designs for that drop-dead gorgeous handmade-in Ghana dress with authentic African textiles such as Batik to turn heads at your next party. Just be aware that there is a five-to-six week waiting list for the highly popular fashion brand outfits.
Head to A A K S Online to grab your fabulous raffia bag designed and hand-crafted in Ghana by Akosua Afriyie-Kumi and her team of women artisans. The fashion designer is increasingly collaborating with other women artisans across Sub-Saharan Africa to showcase their superb collections on the international scene.
For your soft furnishing needs, check out our shop section to discover our stylish Eco-friendly cushion cover and other fabulous home goods to add a touch of colour, sophistication, and joy of living into your home.
I hope I have managed in my own way to bring you a little hope and joy in your heart, and to remind you that you are not alone. There are billions of “Young, Gifted and Black” people out there, who just like you, keep shining their lights in the darkness to remind the world of the humanity inside us, particularly in these trying times.