Akala in Homerton: Young Hackney Concorde youth centre hosts rapper, writer and activist for Black History Month

PUBLISHED: 17:40 28 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 28 October 2019

Rapper, poet, writer and activist - Akala. Picture: Georgiana Chitea

Rapper, poet, writer and activist - Akala. Picture: Georgiana Chitea

© 2019 Georgiana Chitea, All Rights Reserved

A Homerton youth centre invited rapper and activist Akala to speak about music, race, class and the culture of education in Britain in celebration of Black History Month.

The black history event was sold-out. Picture: Georgiana ChiteaThe black history event was sold-out. Picture: Georgiana Chitea

Djembe drumming filled the Young Hackney Concorde centre's hall as a sold-out audience took their seats.

Akala told the audience at the youth centre: "On paper I ticked all the stereotypes of the youth who should've ended up in jail but also I was culturally very rich.

"My step-dad was the stage manager of Hackney Empire. When I was growing up I'd go for free five times a week - I saw every play imaginable and comedy shows for free."

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He spoke about his new book - Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire - as well as the importance of education and not taking it for granted. He also praised Saturday schools like the special pan-African school he attended as a child.

"There's an English culture of taking education for granted and not realising how important it is to pay attention in school," he said. "None of this is exclusive to black kids; in fact, the group that fails most in schools in Britain is poor white kids. In Jamaica, for all its other problems, it's very normal for kids, even from the ghetto, to get into the top schools."

Teenagers from the centre noticed similar cultural differences on a volunteering trip to the Gambia, they told the audience. They were surprised at how grateful Gambian schoolchildren were to receive gifts like pencils.

Nyah Buffong said: "Everyone was really welcoming to us. It's like one big family wherever you go - it's quite different to over here 'cause people tend to be isolated and they don't really want to talk to people they don't know."

Akala spoke about his new book and answered questions from the audience. Picture: Georgiana ChiteaAkala spoke about his new book and answered questions from the audience. Picture: Georgiana Chitea

Since the trip, youth worker Jeanna Sanderson has set up Journey Before Success CIC to sponsor children from the school the youth group visited in the Gambia. Eight young people have already started sponsoring children there after finding out that some kids could not afford school lunches.

Young Hackney Concorde has also begun running identity and pan-African study sessions on Saturdays for eight- to 13-year-olds. Email for more details.

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