Reclaiming our roots through history and culture

Jacqueline Sowah

*Disclaimer: This post was written by the author of the post in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of United Nations Association Youth Platform (UNAYP).*

I grew up in a little town in the city of Accra, Ghana, and never really took much importance on black history nor my culture until I came to the UK 11 years ago. It has been a tumultuous journey of trying to find the balance between maintaining deep connections with my roots to learning to assimilate into the western world since then. Nearly a decade after coming to the UK, I think about the city I left behind with nothing but fond memories. Even if they are from the ignorant mind of a child ignorant to the day-to-day struggles of the rest of her family around the world. I have learned to stay connected with my black history through my mother, grandmother, my many and endless number of relatives. I have managed to make black history a part of my daily life through remembering small gestures such as greeting everyone in the household, receiving and giving objects with my right hand making sure I am honouring my family back home. There has never been a moment when I did not miss listening to my grandfather tell me Anansi stories after he came back from work or buying me Chin chin. The month of October has only ever made me miss my home more. 


Looking back at my life over the past decade I have come to appreciate the importance of a month dedicated to learning and celebrating all aspects of the black experience. It is important now more than ever to reflect back on our own roots and give this recognition a place in our core sense of identity. This month reminds us that there is a larger community for those of us who may feel otherwise isolated. 


Through celebrating the works of black authors such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ama Ata Aidoo, Chinua Achebe, Maya Angelo and Toni Morrison, we may learn more about the many perspectives of the countless unheard voices of black people around the world. There has never been a time where solidarity and union amongst black people from all over the world than now. In 2021 we are being forced to have conversations as a result of the attack on many of us enabling the momentum in the Black Lives Matter movement. Anger is no longer acceptable. The time for change is now and the only ones who have the power to do that are all of us collectively. 


We cannot overlook that a huge part of black history is unknown to many black people. We cannot forget that history is written by the victor during centuries of colonisation and foreign occupation. A lot of history is lost. It is not as accessible as the history from 1066 – to the Second World War. For a lot of us, a large part of the black history we learned was the Atlantic Slave trade which was largely told from a Euro – American point of view. Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah gives a quintessential starting point on African history from an African point of view. It shifts the focus from the past colonialists to those who endured and survived through compliance. 


Although there is no one black experience, there is more to see when you look closer at the points of appreciation and celebration. Black culture influences so much of modern media and pop culture; from music and dance to TV and writing. We may not hold power in the traditional sense but we have had centuries of adapting, evolving, surviving and thriving. Centuries of development, rich history and culture yet still so much more to learn.