An Audience with… Akala.

An Audience with… Akala.

Last Tuesday, the Union was abuzz for no ordinary guest seminar, with the queue snaking through the Union foyer, not too dissimilar to the ticket queue to get into Fruity on a Friday night; however this was in fact to hear Akala host a seminar as part of a series of Black History Month events at LUU. 

The seminar was titled ‘Africa In History’; he spoke about the prevalent separatist view of history but rather to encourage the integration of Africa into history as a whole and highlight the largely euro-centric manner in which we are made to view history through our education, when really; all world histories have collectively led up to the world we live in now.

Setting the record straight… Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 15.41.41

Short on time, Akala spoke quickly, articulately and enthusiastically about the misrepresentations of certain aspects of Africa and African achievements in history backed up by extensive archaeological and anthropological evidence he had researched and analysed, also making reference to Afro-centric scholars and recommending relevant books to read on the subject.

Akala is well known as an artist, writer and historian and is also the younger brother of artist, Ms. Dynamite. The interest shown in his recent seminar at the Union shows just how relevant he is as a public speaker; as he voices ideas which people want to hear about regarding hidden gems in African history such as the numerous pyramids in Sudan: older than those in Egypt. Akala vocalises these ideas in a comprehensive way, making him appealing to young people, as he is an award-winning MC yet remains poetic, a historian but throws in slang to keep you tuned in, a writer as well as an excellent rhetorician as seen on various television debates such as Question Time.

Shining Black History in a positive light…

Black History Month started in the UK in 1987, by Akyaaba Addai Sebbo, who at the time worked as coordinator of Special Projects for the Greater London Council and established Black History Month in London, and then nationwide, with the month aiming to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions made by African and Caribbean people to society today.

The important point that Akala raised in his seminar regarded the misrepresentations of Africa and African achievements both in and out of the African continent that has led to the euro-centric view of world history we are taught today. He also highlighted that these misconceptions are often used a tool to misrepresent black people today and have led to a number of racist stereotypes of black people in contemporary society due to what Akala called ‘distortions’ of Africa and black people in history.
Jacob, a second year studying Biomedical science, who attended the seminar, said:

“I’ve always been a big fan of Akala, I know he’s getting to be quite a political music figure and I’m also a fan of his which made me come down for the talk”

In light of the points raised by Akala’s talk, this begs the question why we need to re-think black history for everyone’s benefit?

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 16.04.17Lack of multi-cultural education in the UK…

According to LSE, the London School of Economics, over twenty-five percent of school-age population is of an ethnic minority background however, Ofsted, the Schools inspection service for England, affirms that cultural diversity and multiculturalism is poorly taught in schools in England. LSE also found the issue with this lack of education was due to:

“The UK Coalition Government has placed history as central to the formation of British identity and citizenship and has redefined the national curriculum, placing greater emphasis on British ‘island’ history and neglecting the contribution of Britain’s ethnic minority communities to that history and to British identity.”

The Gryphon also spoke to Melissa Owusu, Education Officer for the Student Exec, about why we need to have speakers who are as relevant and interesting as Akala, why it should be necessary for people to be educated about a more balanced world history, and also more about what is in store for Black History Month in Union:

“The Union needs to be able to listen to students who aren’t always able to speak out. With the success of the Akala talk, the union also needs to understand that extra-curricular activities need to perhaps be more education based as Fruity and nights out aren’t for everyone! Also, the union is actually setting up an Advisory board for events and speakers such as Akala and to help students voice their ideas for events at LUU.

In terms of the curriculum, we’re subconsciously taught euro-centric thought and history is somehow ‘more valuable’ or necessary, but in reality this is creating inequalities and perpetuating an unequal society essentially. At university, you want to get the best learning experience possible, and a more balanced curriculum would make help to make it a more-rounded learning experience.”

The LUU Launch of ‘Why is my curriculum so white?’ campaign, on 26th October in the Conference Auditorium at 7.30pm.

The popularity and excitement surrounding the talk Akala gave about Africa within history, shows the interest in an accurate world history, including people from all kinds of backgrounds and understandings of history, rather than the euro-centric worldview currently offered in the national curriculum. This highlights the need for people with an interest in a wider knowledge in history to read books on the subject to help correct our own beliefs on the euro-centric history we are used to and work to expand our understanding.

If you’re interested in helping the Union organise more events like this please outline in no more than 500 words why you’d be great and email to leadershipsupport@leeds.ac.uk by the end of the week.
Find out more and download a full application pack at https://www.luu.org.uk/governance/joinus/

Stephanie Uwalaka

Images: Jack Roberts, @tusolondon, @akalamusic

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