Black to the Future – A Sankofa Exploration of Youth Work Practice. Developing the Workbook

Dr Yansie Rolston

It’s Thursday 10th August, Michael, Yvonne C – who gets the extra letter to distinguish her from our other Yvonne who is Yvonne F, and I are having a skype meeting.

We think, we ponder and wonder what should be included in the workbook, we are not yet sure how we want it to look, but spend time working out the content.

We have seen some examples – some good, some excellent, and some were definitely mediocre but they have all been useful guides on how we want to proceed. We must be creative and innovative so that our time is not wasted, the task is to create a tool others will use, that is helpful, insightful and informative.

We begin with History!! Yes, history because after all, the whole premise of Sankofa is about going back to get what was taken. The Black to the Future Project is based on looking backwards at youth work practice in order to move forwards from a position of knowing. Therefore we need to document what happened in the past, and use that knowledge to shape the future. So yes, history will is the key that weaves in and around everything the project explores.

Enquiring minds will wonder about history in all the project activities, History will be included in the visits made, in workshops delivered, even in the meals we eat, yes history will be grounded in everything we do.

And then there is Social Change. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know who was steering youth work practice before? Who were the key players then, and equally interesting who is coming into youth work now – what drives them, what motivates them, what keeps them engaged in it? What do they get from it? Those are just some of the questions we are seeking to answer.

But, what else should be included in the workbook? How will it look?

How about Identity and Identity politics? Maybe others want to know how black youth engaged with LGBTQI+ spaces, or maybe how religion and faith influenced those engagements. We know from experience that it was only later on that black youth could feel engaged in some places, and it was not easy for them to be accepted, so how difficult would it have been with sexuality as a dimension?

And what about Gender, what’s the knowledge around females and youth clubs. Were the youth club activities gender biased? What was the gendered make-up of the youth workers and of the participants.

There is so much to learn about the African Diaspora youth work experiences in Europe. Do we know what models were used, how they were developed, and who were and are the key players in that arena? We wonder about the issues that are experienced by the migrant communities, issues such as navigating the terrain as a refugee who does not speak the local language. How does that play out in terms of youth work practice, what are the experiences of having to learn a second or third language.

There is so much we want to cover in the workbook, but most of all we want it to be engaging, visual and interesting.

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