When we think of the black struggle and the 300yr atrocity that disconnected us from our native cultures, languages, spirituality and identity, a lot of the emphasis tends to be from the North American perspective. Perhaps it’s because in the UK, the atrocities of the trans-Atlantic slave trade aren’t addressed as a genocide but moreso pseudo-celebrated as a business and trade. I find that conversations about race and ‘unconscious-bias’ seem to be swept under the carpet or dismissed due to awkwardness.
In school they don’t teach kids about atrocities of colonialism, conquest, trade cartels and empire, they teach us as black youths that we are no more than descendants of slaves when we have such rich histories dating back millennia -that were in so many cases covered up and destroyed or disseminated and amalgamated until it’s no longer recognised by the originators.
In my early school days the teachers sent me out of class because I refused to accept their bleached imagery of the ancient Egyptians. I had heard of Equiano however I cannot recall a time beyond my own research pre the last few years when he was mentioned. This guy was kidnapped, put on a ship, sold on and educated, purchased his freedom, wrote and published a book about the atrocities he and others faced, then toured Britain spreading the word about the plight of his people.
Equiano’s book gave people an insight that slavery weren’t so romantic but a tragedy. Fellow humans that didn’t see us as their equal were humanised through his book, allowing people to empathise with the cause. Abolition didn’t come because they suddenly realised it was bad but they realised it was no longer profitable. Black people weren’t just getting whipped and being happy to be mistreated, there were revolts in all colonies such as Haiti which won their independence.
You can’t depend on a system built on a foundation of systematic oppression to educate and uplift your kids, do as my parents did me and teach them their history and heritage at home. If you can’t find the words to uplift them or you want to give them a daily affirmation, Riding Around, track 7 on 0800YOFAM is just that –click here.
For more info about the Exhibition: Equiano.uk