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Black History Month and African Students in Diaspora

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Black history has been pushed into the margins of mainstream thought.

We should put Black History Month (BHM) into a broad historical context to remind ourselves that it is fundamentally a politicized calendar event.

In my opinion, BHM should be about refocusing and rebalancing a deeply imbalanced status quo, going at least as far back as 1661 when the Barbados Slave Code made it legal for human beings to be enslaved based on the colour of their skin, baking racist ideology into an economic law.

If you have never heard of the Barbados Slave Code welcome to the true spirit of Black History Month: Education. The white west, of which we are part and into which you may well have been born, is full of gaps, silences, and omissions.

History is a story that speaks certain identities into power and whiteness has used history to assert and retain its supremacy.

That’s why you might never have been taught about: the Barbados Slave Code; or the Haitian Revolution; or the Scramble for Africa; or the Berlin Conference; or Operation Legacy.

Black history is not generally taught in schools and so I’ve personally learned so much more about world history since leaving school than I did while in school.

If you ask Europeans, African history started from the time Mungo Park discovered River Niger, but you and I know that my ancestors have been living in Igboland for the past 5 thousand Years.

You simply can’t understand the modern world without recognition of racism and the role of blackness in our grand narrative, and accepting that there are things you didn’t know you didn’t know is a huge part of the process.

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BHM is an opportunity to shed the insecurities and arrogance of a system that struggles to be free of anti-black racism, making education and truth-telling one of the most important things we can do.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2023 THEME

I have just learnt that since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month in the USA – where it started- and endorsed a specific theme.

I have also just learnt that the Black History Month 2023 theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms and police killings,” since the US earliest days.

However, we should not continue to lament… and that brings to my invitation to this forum to talk about Black politics in the diaspora and beyond:

As a group of Nigerian students in Oxford University once rightly observed, “The political space is changing. As diversity increases within the UK’s politics it is still painfully obvious that there has been a set back within the black community and how fast they climb those ranks, shown by the fact we still haven’t had a black prime minister. As we live in a melting pot Britain, we see black people from across the African and Caribbean regions with close links to their home countries. Due to this, this conversation is here to facilitate the possible crossovers and ways in which political leaders in the UK can help their counterparts in Africa and the Carribeans.”

THE ROLE OF EDUCATION

African students in Diaspora should consider themselves lucky, in some ways:

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In search of better education and quality of life, a total of 128,770 Nigerian students enrolled in universities in the United Kingdom between 2015 to the end of 2022 – according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency of the UK.

The number of Nigerian students going abroad has continued to grow over the years, as Nigerians try to escape the horrors of bad governance, and the disruption of academic activities by tertiary-institutions-based unions such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, among others.

The latest data available by HESA revealed that in just one year, 44,195 students were enrolled for the 2021/2022 session, the highest so far since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. This year will be higher!

NOW THE QUESTION, WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH YOUR UK ACQUIRED EDUCATION?

International students add wealth and value to the UK economy.

One report stated that, “The UK will not tell its citizens how much value and productive hours Nigerian students have brought to their country. In 2021 alone, Nigerian students and their dependants contributed an estimated £1.9 billion to the UK economy”.

After your graduation, please think about how to add such value to the Nigeria Economy.

AFRICA IS DECLINING.

Africa has contributed relatively little to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions but has suffered some of the heaviest impacts of climate change and the reverberations of human-caused global warming will only get worse, according to a new United Nations report released Feb. 28, 2022.

AFRICA ECONOMY IS GETTING WORSE.

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An IMF report stated that Sub-Saharan Africa could stand to lose the most if the world were split into two isolated trading blocs centered around China or the United States and the European Union. In this severe scenario, sub-Saharan African economies could experience a permanent decline of up to 4 percent of real gross domestic product after 10 years according to our estimates—losses larger than what many countries experienced during the Global Financial Crisis.

Africa is more susceptible to global shocks, including disruptions from the surge in trade restrictions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And now Israel!

If geopolitical tensions were to escalate about half of the black Africa’s value of international trade could be impacted.

Black Africa countries could lose an estimated $10 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) and official development assistance inflows. The reduction in FDI in the long run could also hinder much-needed technology transfer.

For countries looking to restructure their debt, deepening geoeconomic fragmen­tation could also worsen coordination problems among creditors.


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