Credit should be given where credit is due. Generally speaking, conversations about civilisation tend to revolve around western civilisation. We live in a world where majority white nations and continents have classified themselves as ‘first world’ or ‘developed’ and labelled the African countries ‘third world’ or ‘developing’. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, for one, Africans were at the centre of developing many things western civilisation enjoys today. A quick google search will show you that Black people were directly involved in many of the great inventions that we now use in our daily lives. Fundamentals such as math, writing, engineering, medicine and law can all be traced back to early African civilisations. Modern luxuries such as three-signal traffic lights, automatic elevator doors and home security systems are all thanks to Black people. Philip Emeagwalie, the inventor of the world’s fastest supercomputer, is the reason I can type this post up with a few dozen tabs open at the same time.
World history is filled with Black greatness and we are here to reclaim it.
As we know, 2020 has been a year that has dealt a lot of blows to the Black community. This has resulted in many great moments to have flown under the radar, buried beneath all the heartbreak - most notably, Africa’s handling of the current global pandemic. At a time when so many developed nations are grappling with the effects of coronavirus and struggling to contain its spread, scientists are scrambling to understand how the African continent has, so far, managed to control the spread of the virus. Talk of the town at the beginning of the pandemic was that the Continent would be brought to its knees by the virus, but even the hardest hit African countries are posting some of the lowest death rates. What’s more impressive is the fact that this is happening on a continent with over 50 countries, with some of the most densely populated cities in the world, where social distancing is merely a pipe dream. We’re not hearing much about Africa’s handling of this pandemic and that’s a good thing, in this case. However, we won’t let this remarkable achievement go unnoticed here. Let’s hope that when the scientists figure out what the African leaders are doing right, they give credit where it’s due.
Finally, we can’t talk about Black greatness without speaking about sports and entertainment. Unfortunately, much of what was planned for 2020 was cancelled or has been amended to fit with the new reality we’re living in. Nevertheless, there are some noteworthy achievements that we would like to bring to the fore:
Following the NBA’s lead in boycotting games in protest of yet another police brutality incident, Naomi Osaka opted out of playing her semi-final match in the Western & Southern Open and used her platform to bring urgent attention to the “continued genocide of Black people at the hand [sic] of the police”. She would go on to win the US Open just over two weeks later - her face masks constant reminders of and tributes to the Black lives that have been unjustly cut short.
During the height of the social unrest and the Black Lives Matter uprising, Formula One Driver, Lewis Hamilton spoke out about the deafening silence from industry leaders and his peers. Despite the heightened tensions of being the only Black driver in a sport that has been resistant to change and inclusivity, Hamilton continues to break records and is on track to equal the all-time record of 7 world championships this year.
In the summer of 2017, award winning actress, screenwriter, director, producer and singer, Michaela Coel pitched her television series, I May Destroy You, to Netflix. The series is based on the trauma Coel faced after she was sexually assaulted in 2016. Netflix offered her $1 million dollars (US) upfront but declined to give her even 0.5% of the copyright. Refusing to sell out her story and talent, Coel reclaimed ownership of her art by delivering the series through the BBC and HBO where she was given creative freedom and control. I May Destroy You is now a critically acclaimed television series.
In September, Ron Cephas Jones (This is Us) and Jasmine Cephas Jones (#FreeRayshawn) made history by becoming the first father-daughter Emmy Award winners in Academy history. This is an incredible achievement, in and of itself, but even more so in an industry that has long ignored the contributions of its Black members.
It is easy to get caught up in all the hurt and injustices against the Black community and while that’s OK, we believe it’s also important to remember that there is a lot to celebrate too. Celebrating our wins and the achievements made by those who are proudly melanated is our way of reclaiming our greatness.
Next up - Rachel’s Take: Reclaiming My Name