Ubele Initiative’s – Black to the Future: A Sankofa Exploration of Youth Work Practice

The Coming Together – 16th May 2017

Dr Yansie Rolston


We meet, we greet, we stand, we sit, we eat, we drink,
We stop for a second to take it all in.
We were in a circle but now we are not.
We are learning about each other, but we still don’t know a lot.
What are we meant to be doing, why are we here?
Who is missing, are they coming or not?

What are we meant to be doing – That what is causing some anxiety, That what is causing excitement, That what is the journey we decided to take together.

We have come together to look backwards, inwards, forwards and outwards, to strip, to critique, to congratulate, to contemplate, to acknowledge, to twist it, and turn it and work out ways to make it better. But who is the WE, and what is the IT?

The We is a collective of youngsters and older than youngsters – some may choose to call us elders but I choose to disclaim the title because the energy in the room is vibrant and youthful. The We is an eclectic mix of youth worker, youth leader, youth work tutor and student from the university, former youth project funder, those who attended youth clubs and those who set them up, all coming together for a common purpose – to work on the IT.

So what is the IT? – The IT is a Key Action 2 Erasmus+ funded Black to the Future Project that takes an inter generational Sankofa approach to Youth Work Practice within African Diaspora Communities in Bonn, London and Amsterdam. The IT is a project using ethnographic type research to find out how first, second and in some instances (such as in London), third generation youth workers, understand the experience of African Diaspora migration, resettlement and integration and how that is developed within youth work.

The We came together on the 16th May with the purpose to start the ball rolling because in 18 months the collective are committed to have produced:

  • a Digital Map – that places the information such as photos, interviews, links to other websites, and stories from youth workers and older than youngsters to a geographical location;
  • a tool kit – a users guide targeted to a diverse audience in terms or race, ethnicity, culture. A guide that is visually engaging with a clear methodology and purpose; and
  • a report with clear objectives, recognising people’s individual and collective experiences, that looks at the differing perspectives, and acknowledges emerging patterns.
  • The We will embark on a series of transnational study visits and training opportunities to help in the processes of collecting and documenting good youth work practice developed by African Diaspora communities. The first of which will be to Bonn, Germany in June hosted by the MigraAfrica Project.

The We decided that the project journey will involve digital mapping; story telling; recording; artistic interpretations; oral story capturing; creative approaches; and engaging with young people and older than the youngsters in Europe.

It will involve visiting libraries to collect experiences; identifying places young people can go to learn about history such as the Black Cultural Archives and the V & A Museum in the UK, and that it would identify migration points and the stories from the other European partners – Stichting Interlock and MigraAfrica.

But the coming together also brought up memories and the We noted that young people have developed an increased sense awareness of the issues going on around them and they are become more radical and critical in their thinking.

The coming together reminded us of the New Cross fire that occurred during a house party south-east London where thirteen young black people died in the blaze and one died by suicide two years later,

It reminded us of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racially motivated attack and the mishandling of the case and the institutional racism that prevailed at the time and still does,

We remembered the Battle of Lewisham when 500 members of the far-right National Front attempted to march from New Cross to Lewisham and the counter-demonstrations,

We spoke about Linford Christie wining gold and becoming the first man in history to hold the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles in the 100 m, and

We reminisced about the late Muhammad Ali who has continually been recognised for his humanitarian efforts and achieving 56 wins throughout his career.

The IT is taking shape by the WE coming together and starting the learning journey on Youth Work to find out the what, why, how, when, who, where, and why.

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