My Work is My Protest

My Work is My Protest

Odiri Ighamre

My Work is My Project

I was observing the world for a long time before it evolved into what has become my life’s work. A 1964 African baby, born in Britain, my first experience of Africa in world news was the horror pictures from the Biafra war. Amira Bakara’s film the Dutchman – alerted me at 9 years old to a racialised world. Something had gone down in history and I sought to understand exactly what. I still remember the shock of watching the series Roots, it made me look at the human race with a deep sense of shame and sorrow, 400 years, how had this happened? 

Finding my leadership purpose was a cycle of research, reflection and action; I spent time in the 90s visiting black led organisations across London, Liverpool and Leeds, watching and learning and evaluating what seemed to be working and what I definitely felt was not working. As I grew in my artistic work as an African Storyteller, my query was ‘how do you create a sense of community for young black people, how do you inform them about both a glorious and bloody history, how do you build their talent and passions, spark their agency, enable them stand tall, aware and balanced and connected in themselves, their communities and the world? Big questions.  

It’s been a journey of life long learning, first co-founding Evwreni Productions in 1999 to train and market black artists to deliver workshops in schools, colleges and prisons. Then the next step was founding KORI Youth Charity. We envisioned strong young black people leaving enriched, resilient and ready for life. 

This work has been my protest, it has stopped me imploding and used my anger, fear and indeed, my trauma, to fuel positive action. Our work has been quietly doing the rounds for close to two decades now and the young people that have blessed us with their participation are such astounding bright seeds. They shine in their self leadership, working across a range of fields, all with a heart for creating change and pushing back at the world’s wrongs. They are much more amazing than we dared to hope. 

KORI is focused now on strengthening its finances and building up the skills and capacity of our young leadership so they can achieve more in their work with BAME young people across London and be properly paid and valued for their commitment. A key moment in what has been a tumultuous year was when the Pan-African organisation we co-founded in The Gambia with Pauline Bailey: ‘The Daughters of Africa Foundation,’ was finally awarded International NGO status. This has embedded our continuous work in the continent through our Vessel UK programme and also enables the growth of African youth and community leadership through partnership.  The vital work continues…

Tags: Africa, The Dutchman, Community, Protest, BAME, The Gambia, Daughters of Africa Foundation

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