BLOG: Reflecting on Black History Month

As Black History Month draws to a close, Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson writes about how honoured she was to meet renowned activist Dr Julius Garvey who has further shaped her understanding of anti-racism activism.

Having spent the last three decades speaking and working around race equality, I have never felt it necessary to get involved in Black History Month; after all, it was what I lived and breathed every day throughout the year. 

But this year was different. I consider myself hugely privileged to have had some incredible experiences which have deepened my knowledge and profoundly changed my understanding as I continue on my journey of anti-racist activism.

I was lucky enough to attend a talk in Liverpool from Dr Julius Garvey. He took my understanding to an even deeper level, offering up his vision for the future; a new paradigm based on African humanism. 

He began his talk by talking about how Africa was the most important continent in the history of humanity and civilization with the oldest archaeological evidence of modern humanity having been found in four different areas of Africa.

Evidence suggests that for 150,000 years, humanity consisted only of Africans who created the first cultures. The Egyptians created the basic disciplines of human knowledge, developing the original ideas of government, science, art, philosophyand religion. 

However, following invasions over thousands of years, the wisdom and knowledge of Africa was destroyed. Libraries containing over 900,00 books were burned by the Romans and following the introduction of slavery, at least 60 million Africans died or were transported to Europe. The dominance of Europe over African people then happened over centuries via global institutions that introduced the dominant capitalist world system. This system promoted individualism and greed which led to  polarisation, conflict, unemployment, marginalisation and exploitation.

He talked about a new paradigm which returns to the original principles of African humanism – rather than a way of life constructed in the libraries of London. This African renaissance would be based on the wisdom and sacrifice of our ancestors that ‘unifies life, the person and society in an ongoing communication to co-create with the divine, the just society and the righteous person.’

Central to his message was that each and every one of us have all the apparatus within us to be whatever we want to be. Free of self-limitations that only serve to sabotage us, we have unlimited potential to be whatever we want to be – we just need to free ourselves of an inbuilt and ingrained belief system. 

We need to prioritise learning about self as this is the basis of all knowledge – which, in the words of Dr Julius, is part of the universal spirit, and therefore all creation. This is a knowledge born of experience, rather than superficial.

‘By studying our history and engaging self-consciously in our history, we begin to understand ourselves and then to speak our special truth not only to ourselves, but to the world.’ 

I will never forget this month that has taken me deeper than I ever thought possible in my understanding of things I have been studying for decades. I will be forever grateful for what these experiences have taught me and the layers that have been unwrapped, exposed, enabling me to journey yet deeper.

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