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Image © Selbin Kabote

Why I’ve launched a YouTube channel celebrating the British African diaspora

I’ve created a new YouTube programme, called ‘UK African news update channel’, which features news articles that will mainly be of interest to Africans - both those in the UK diaspora and those scattered all over the world. As an African-born migrant, it is my intention to use the channel as a public sphere for Africans in the UK diaspora to share their stories and express their feelings, hopes and fears relating to political, social, economic issues and ‘diaspora-ness’. The bulletin also explores and celebrates the achievements of Africans in the UK. 

I launched the channel due to my belief that the increasing permanence of the African population in the UK and their remarkable achievements is, in most cases, a milestone to celebrate. Yet I believe minorities in the media are still underrepresented in general, and disproportionately represented in tales of immigration, terrorism, and crime, which leads these groups to be stigmatised and associated with bad images or narratives.

In particular, the stories of black African people are rarely included in the narrative and usually featured in the media only during the October Black History Month. Part of the problem, I think, is that the media industry is still not diverse enough. For example, Birmingham, where I live, is nearly 45 percent non-white but nearly all industry here - including the media industry - is still dominated by white people, especially at the top. That’s why I strongly felt the need to launch my YouTube channel: I believe that black people should tell their own stories.   

The late Ethiopian-born journalist, Behailu Shiferaw Mihirete, noted that “diaspora-ness is a tricky state of being. In their adopted homes, diasporas are referred to as immigrants, a term that often elicits a sense of unwelcomeness. In their original homes, they are thought of as runaways who want the best of both worlds – the first to trace their roots when it is convenient and exotic, but also the first to pack and leave when the going gets tough.”

It is against this backdrop that I am producing the UK African news update bulletin and the soon-to-be-launched ‘Tales of the African Diaspora’ studio interview programme, for the purpose of discussing the personal dilemmas, challenges and achievements of modern-day Africans who have broken barriers and made significant contributions globally and to public life in the UK.

The ‘in conversation’ series will particularly showcase the massive contribution of African migrants to their adopted home through their skills and how they have contributed to economic growth in Britain. The channel will also celebrate wonderful role models in our African communities.

In his 2018 academic paper, ‘Diasporas: History and Historiography’, Mohammed Bashir Salau noted that UK people of African descent who migrated from their "homelands" were, and continue to be, powerful factors in many African cultures outside of their "homelands," as well as in many other civilizations outside of Africa.

According to the National Portrait Gallery, the presence of Africans in England dates back to at least the Roman period, when African soldiers who served as part of the Roman army were stationed at Hadrian's Wall during the 2nd century AD.  Septimus Severus, a Roman emperor who was born in what is now Libya, spent his last three years in Britain before he died in York.

By the time of the Tudors, African men and women were found in the English Royal Courts and African ladies served in the Scottish Court in 1513. For example, John Blanke was a black African trumpeter in the court of Henry VIII. And of course, many people of African heritage migrated from their "homelands" due to the pre-20th century Muslim or Asian trade and the Atlantic slave trade, as well as globalisation after 1980.

Watch my latest #UKAfricanNews bulletin!

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