The importance of history was the focus of the book launch event that took place at the Birley Campus at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Professor Hakim Adi, author of The History of The Caribbean Communities in Britain, was there to re-launch the book, first published twenty years ago, to an eager audience of teachers, students and members of the local community. The book is written for children and charts the little known history of African and Caribbean communities from as far back as the Roman conquest of 43AD up to the modern day. Adi said he was inspired to write it to encourage “more people to take an interest in this history.”
The event started with an introduction by Colette Williams, a member of the planning team for the 1945 Pan African Congress, a “historically important event” where people of African and Caribbean descent came to discuss issues. 1945PAC@70 will be a week-long event in October that would recall its importance in the hopes of “recreating inspiration of the 1945 congress to bring about change.”
Professor Adi wrote the book 20 years ago because there wasn’t anything else out there that depicted the history of people of African and Caribbean Heritage in Britain for children. There still isn’t much else, making it all the more valuable as a historical text. He wanted a book that “young people could be interested in but that’s designed for everyone to read.” The book had been out of publication but it was brought back into publication because of the lobbying of one of Adi’s former students.
The event on Saturday was also a trailblazer event for this year’s Manchester Children’s Book Festival and Director, Kaye Tew spoke about the relevance of books like this to the Festival’s schools outreach projects. “Books like this are important, because children want to see themselves and their own stories. On 30th June, we will be holding our Multi-Cultural Manchester day at MMU; a day of workshops that will allow children to explore the many languages and cultures that make up Manchester today. We will be delighted to feature Professor Adi’s book as part of our Migrating Passions project, which collects stories of migration from children who have to come to Manchester from elsewhere, or whose parents have been immigrants.”
Research into Black History was discussed with Jackie Ould of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relation Trust. The archive can be found in Central Library and it specializes in the study of race, ethnicity and migration.
One of the reasons Professor Adi is keen to promote Black History is because “history is the third most unpopular topic with black undergraduates.” He cited his own position as Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora being a rare choice as “very few people of African heritage teach history.” Adi referenced that only five people of African descent teach history in the UK at University level and he is the only professor of History of African Heritage. He is one of the organisers of a conference in London to investigate why there is an under-representation of History teachers and students of African/Caribbean origin. He said that he hoped to “reverse the trend.”
Adi signed his books for the audience. The mix of children and adults at the event was a reminder that history has the power to cross barriers. Books like The History of African and Caribbean Communities in Britain encourages people to take an interest in their own history. Event organiser Colette Williams said that she was delighted at the turn out for the event, adding that, “We hope to have Professor Adi back again in May to discuss Pan Africanism.”
Jamie Ryder is an aspiring novelist with an appreciation for the fantastical and a love/hate relationship with the written word. You can read more of his work on his blog.