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Forward Thinking – Ayo Wallace reflects on our Second Young Emerging Leaders Event

August 1st, 2016

In light of the recent murders of our brothers and sisters in the USA and the continued violence on the streets of UK and within mainland Europe in response to Brexit Backlash, we need to find real solutions to our struggles. How do we and respond to our needs with real purpose and intention? How do we positively channel our energy, now and in the future?

I have been part of The Ubele Initiative for 3 years and I have a passion for intergenerational work. Ubele observed a disconnect between the generations and wondered how we might attract more young people to grass roots activism and engaging with their communities. So, we hosted our first Emerging Leaders event on April 5th at Cockpit Arts, attracting over 50 brilliant young minds. We looked at what leadership meant to the younger generation, where they saw themselves within it and what support they might need moving forward. One of the things we recognised was the necessity of establishing a network that connects different parts of our community to create greater visibility about the amazing work young people are already engaged in nationwide.

May 14th marked the second African Diaspora Emerging Leaders event which was held upstairs at the Market House pub in Brixton. A few of us met beforehand at the Black Culture Archives to prep and ready ourselves for the day ahead. How many young black activists would be before us, would those gathered have the same goals and desire to harness the opportunities in our midst?

We started proceedings with a powerful performance by poet, actor and community activist Nat Nye. He works tirelessly to highlight the plight of our brothers and sisters in Africa and dispels myths about how Africa is represented in the media. His messages of inspiration, integrity and standing in Kinghood were a welcome and necessary affirmation.

We did a customary round of introductions with both the young leaders and elders. This was about the emergence of new leaders but with the guidance and wisdom of the elders who have fought for greater change in the African Diaspora. In the room we had representatives of community organizations, activists, writers, designers, youth workers, entrepreneurs and consultants to name a few. How apt then, that Elder Devon should remind us of the history of the pub we found ourselves in. He told us that it was the first black owned pub in London and possibly the UK. It was a safe haven for the community in perilous times, suddenly this room held more power and possibility.

Ubele member Althea and intern Tamara led us in a skills audit exercise, to highlight what skills were already in the room. It was important to recognize what we had to offer each other, too often we down play our strengths or don’t find adequate ways of working together sustainably. Then Sekai and Yvonne Field delivered a presentation on Ubele’s 6-year journey from facilitating community conversations to being commissioned to produce a 72-page report for Locality. The ‘A Place to Call Home Report’ looked at African Diaspora owned community assets in the UK and gave recommendations on intergenerational leadership to allow the baton to pass to new generations and bridge the gap for collective community building.

Food is an aspect of many African and Caribbean cultures and so the spread of chicken, rice and peas and veg was well received! During the break people had a chance to network and find out about different initiatives happening across the country.

Next we had the ‘Tell A Story’ exercise as a way to share intergenerational experiences as well open up dialogue on our collective visions for the future. We split participants into groups and asked them to respond to the following questions:

  1. Where is home?
  2. How do you identify yourself?
  3. What hopes do you have for the future?
  4. Do you have any regrets?

After discussing in groups we handed out profiles of 5 different time periods from 1986-2056. We wanted each group to create a story using the questions they had discussed and imagine a person in that time and space e.g. Kofi in 2022. Each group shared their profiles and reflections, it was interesting to see the generational differences and similarities. How can we bridge the gap and do we want the same for our futures?

In closing, we had community bulletins about upcoming projects and events. This is the beginning and the continuation of a journey together. ‘Ubele’ means ‘The way forward’ in Swahili, and we intend to keep moving forward.

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