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Being true to who we are

AT ONE: Our African heritage should be celebrated among all generations

OVER THE past few weeks, we have touched on the importance of mental wellbeing, astrology, yoga and diet - all of the super tools that have assisted me on my journey to self-realisation.

To be honest, I’m sure there will still be more to add to that list. That is what the journey to evolving into our greatest potential is all about. But, learning how to put the acquired knowledge into action is where we go from self-realisation to global revolution. Thinking, to doing, to being – which brings me to the topic of culture and education.

A big part of wellbeing is understanding who we are inside and out, right down to the 20,000 genes in our gene pool. We are learning about our make-up through our history. Through the information in our blood. The history in our genes, which the DNA has recorded from ancestral connections to the present day, is our history that has bought us here in this present now.

Learning to love my my culture meant learning to love myself and embracing the events from my historical timeline – both good and bad. But growing-up being proud of who I am was a struggle, mainly due to the fact that being black and female wasn’t particularly celebrated and, if it was, it was low profile.


EXPLORATION: Nai Davina and her friends during their trip across north east Africa and Mexico

We’ve all watched the infamous reconstruction of historical events streamed through films and series such as Roots, Amistad, Djanjo Unchained, 12 Years a Slave, The Birth of a Nation, and more. They all highlight the issues surrounding slavery and the misfortunes of our history – as if we need the constant reminder. The problem was, I was always unsure if this was where my history started.

What we focus on expands more and if this was the only association to my history then is it a wonder that so many fall victim to an identity crisis. Does revisiting these storylines create a complex? An inferiority complex? A psychological uncertainty about oneself? Skin tone becomes an issue, skin bleaching becomes the rife resolution, and we begin to get particular about hair texture and all sorts of identity issues.

We see people distancing themselves from their culture because we have no legacy to identify with, and the question comes to mind: 'If we knew the origins of the inspiring attributes of our history, would this really be happening? And why are we not being taught these legacies in school?'. The African history that happened before slavery, where we see ancient kingdoms thousands of years BC in north east Africa, from Kush to Egypt when African people were living in their glory – where are they? Marcus Garvey said, "A people without knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree with no roots.” I make him right.

ORIGINS

In 2008, a small group of us – three inquisitive friends – founded Back 2 Roots with a quest to take our learning into our own hands. We traveled and documented a journey that became a monumental educational tool to our development and others’. Our travels took us to Ethiopia, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana and Mexico, constructing the missing links to our story. We found archives of African kings and queens, emperors, and empresses, inventors, and creators – and with each trip we discovered more about the legacy of our history.

It later became a not-for-profit organisation and a hub for young people to explore their culture in real time using arts, media, theatre, and travel. We worked hard to sustain creative tools through youth-led productions such as Skin Deep, an international cultural exchange programme in Ghana working with young people from the UK, linking them with young people in Ghana and sharing the stage with the honourable Julius Garvey.

Traveling alone is like waking up a sleeping giant within. The world is filled with incalculable information. We go from being informed, to obtaining a first-hand education. The results inspired success and we began to see a shift in mindset, not only in ourselves but the young people we worked with. There was no doubt that this type of education was essential. This is the kind of knowledge you just cannot receive in traditional education.

The thing is, education is so broad, and there are so many ways to teach and learn. The western approach is almost one method suits all – and if we don’t understand that method, we fail. But we can never solely rely on one method to begin to touch the surface of a deeper exploration.

First-hand education means we go out, find and seek the answers to the questions and measure our results. Let’s put it this way – if the television was the only source of information to rely on, my scope on so-called ‘third world countries’ would be saturated with negative imagery.

There has been a quantum leap in the uplifting of this generation of young people. The transformation to date in the celebration of black culture is fast-expanding, and the restoration of self-love and self-acceptance is a growing course.

The more we begin to explore who we are on every level, the more we take the steps to becoming the greatest version of ourselves. That is our soul’s purpose.

Back 2 Roots won a Contribution to Education award at the MBC (Media, Business, and Community) Awards in 2014.

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