We Build To Our Beat: Reflecting on Black History Month & Those Who've Shaped It.
It spans lifetimes, all the way to the beginning, back to the Eve gene. It encapsulates legend, myth and a truth that has shaped the way of the world. It is rich, like the skin that holds it, this history of ours. It spans continents, refuses to be a monolith for we are a multitude; born of different cultures, traditions, countries but all meeting here and all being told as one, as Black history.
In the melting pot that is Black history, there is a man whose story starts in Accra, having been born in a family of photographers, he himself took on the craft, travelling to England to fulfil the promise of further education and on the way diligently documenting the African diaspora; James Barnor.
There is the story of a woman, who at 30 left her hometown, her children, in search of a greater purpose. Her children would later follow her and continue in the construction of her legacy; Mildred Kasirori.
There is a man, having travelled to England from Jamaica amid the Windrush generation, founded the West Bromwich branch of the Bethel organisation, the first Black Pentecostal church in England. In so doing becoming a beacon for his community, a path he lit so well, his grandchildren would walk it too; Terrence Landell.
There is a Caribbean woman, a pioneer, who was one of a few who owned Black salons in South London; Esmie Cooper.
All throughout history there are stories such as these, some loud and widely reiterated in this month. Some as quiet as the millions who diligently make lives for themselves and their children on a daily basis. Imbuing the small magic into their jollof rice, sadza and curried goat, foods that carry within them, a taste of home. They build lives that embody a tenderness that fuels resistance and a passion that leads to dream fulfilling.
What does it mean to be Black, to know and to celebrate that history when so far removed from the starting point?
Reflecting on Black History month and all the months that follow, we trace our stories back to their origin. They take us to back to Ghana, the villages of Nigeria, the ruins of Zimbabwe, the safaris of South Africa, the motherland, the place where Black history, Black stories, start.
We acknowledge all the ways in which we are different and all the ways in which we are the same.
In so doing it becomes clear that Black history is the everyday, it is the first notes of “Candy’ at the end of a party followed by the steps we all know. It is the nod when we acknowledge each other in a crowd. The way so many of our lives are a template for each other. The ways they weave in and out and we share an identity as opulent as the things that set us apart. We share an identity not rooted in pain, but in the joy that I have only ever found in Blackness. In the rhythm and the jokes, the washdays and the inexplicable understanding.
Black history is every day, past this month and its limitations. It is the foundation on which the future will be built, spanning more lifetimes still, carrying with it the joy, oh the joy.
- Coco Majari