Magazine article African Business

Let Us Embrace the African Diaspora

Magazine article African Business

Let Us Embrace the African Diaspora

Article excerpt

Every year in Britain and the US, one month is dedicated to 'Black History'. The idea behind Black History Month (BHM) is to reconnect the very large communities of African descent living in Britain and the US with their own history. A good number of white people also attend the various functions and events and in this way, gain insight into the lives of their black country folk.

Black people make up no less than 15% of the population of London and BHM, it is hoped, will help the integration of the various ethnic groups which make up the population of present day Britain.

BHM has had an enormous impact particularly on the Caribbean people. It is quite amazing how many of them did not know their own histories; they had no clue how they ended up in the UK except that their parents or grandparents had migrated to the British isles. How did they get to the Caribbean? Quite a few, before the advent of BHM, refused to accept that their ancestry lay in Africa.

The situation is far worse in the US. I have personally met several well educated African-Americans whose only concepts of Africa were derived from those awful Tarzan movies. Although they knew they were descended from slaves, they found it very difficult to relate to Africa or Africans. Some of them actually dismissed any connection because, in their eyes, the Africans they saw on their TV and movie screens were 'primitive'.

One can only feel a sense of sadness for such people; by rejecting their ancestry, they become a people without a history and therefore without an identity. Fortunately, the numbers of such people are declining and, in fact, there is a renewed interest within the diaspora for all things African.

Even in the US, events like BHM celebrated every February (later replicated in the UK in October) began to fill the huge hole in black people's knowledge about themselves.

Initially in the US, black history was confined to the history of African-Americans in the Americas, from their arrival as slaves to the present day. Then came the extraordinary TV hit, Roots, which took the story back to Africa. For the vast majority of African-Americans, that is where the story has stopped. The story of their connection with Africa tends to end with the slave trade. There is little interest or concern about contemporary Africa.

Africans, on their side, also show little or no interest in African-Americans or Afro-Caribbeans. "There are too many cultural gaps," some say. …

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