This is a 10 minute excerpt from the NARM double-DVD, which highlights 32 African British male role models. You can grab a copy of the NARM DVD and companion booklet at BTWSC events. You can download the book from btwsc.com/NARM. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Produced by BTWSC
Directed by Kwaku
Filmed by Anslem & Kwaku
Edited by Anslem & Tianyi Chu
DVD authoring & post-production by Trevor Hughes
© 2010 BTWSC
Preface: the journey to NARM
The NARM (Naming And Role Model) project is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, and delivered by Brent-based, pan-London voluntary organisation BTWSC. NARM highlights African British male role models from 1907 to 2007, in various fields of endeavour, including Academia, the Arts, Business, Civil Rights, Education, Faith, Law, the Police Service, Politics, Publishing, the Sciences, and the Community & Voluntary Sector.
The term African is used to describe all people of African descent, whether they come from the continent of Africa or its diaspora. And as NARM is a heritage project, the achievement of the role models has to go back at least ten years.
The project demonstrates that contrary to what is put out by the mainstream media, there are countless positive male role models in the community, and that we do not need to continually look outside Britain, to places like America for role models.
Because many of our so-called role models are presented from the usual fields of entertainment and sports, NARM focused on other fields to show that we achieve in various fields.
In addition to highlighting role models, NARM, in its small way, serves as a history primer, filling in some of the gaps left in mainstream British history. Indeed, the role models featured in the NARM photographic exhibitions have provided opportunities to tell some of the ‘other’ British histories.
NARM’s genesis stems from BTWSC’s Because… Youth Crime project, which started in 2005 with a series of consultations and workshops. The outcomes and 15 recommendations were published and launched in 2006 at City Hall.
In 2007, BTWSC polled Londoners in order to whittle down the 15 Because… Youth Crime reduction recommendations to 4. The top 4 recommendations included support for parents/families, and highlighting positive male role models. BTWSC decided to address the former through Voice Of Responsible Parents (VORP), and the latter through the NARM project.
Although BTWSC values the contribution of women, and indeed a number of the role models indicated that their mothers were their role models, NARM focuses on males because we wanted to correct the erroneous notion that there are not enough positive African male role models. BTWSC has somewhat redressed the gender balance, by
producing the ‘What They Said I Should Be: The Story Of African British Female Movers & Shakers’ DVD.
Notable Africans have been in this country for a very long time. For example, in the second century AD, there was Septimius Severus, the first 'African Roman' emperor. At the time, Britain was a Roman colony, and Septimius ruled from Britain. There was Olaudah Equiano, an enslaved African who bought his freedom, became a leading anti-enslavement activist, and in 1789 published ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African’, which became a best-seller.
However, NARM looks at the period 1907 to 2007, and although the video highlights thirty-two contemporary people, the booklet highlights role models going back to the turn of the 20th century.
We’ve also included the ‘unknown role model’ who represents the thousands of unsung fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, nephews and friends.
This project is not about celebrities, nor is it a power list. Although celebrities can be role models, that is not necessarily the case. The NARM role models had to have demonstrable community engagement.
At the start of the project, BTWSC asked for nominations from the community, had consultations, and also conducted research led by NARM consultant Kwaku with youth and adult volunteers. BTWSC worked with
Brent Archive, and also organised an open discussion on role models - one of the role models offered at that event was British Rail train guard Asquith Xavier, who is little known. His fight in the 1960s for justice within the workplace ought to be better known. This is another reason for having projects like NARM, as they broaden our knowledge of history, which is often rooted in
Nominations were also made through the project microsite – btwsc.com/NARM - we hope to update and continue the dialogue through this microsite.
As there are countless notable men in the African community, it is impossible to acknowledge every person who has made a contribution. All the DVD and booklet can do is to demonstrate that there are numerous African male role models, highlight a few and invite readers to visit the microsite and highlight nominees of their choice – learning and discovery should be on-going.
We acknowledge the fact that some people have difficulties with the term role model. For those who are unhappy with the term, perhaps achievers, trail-blazers, or unsung heroes, may be more palatable. Whatever one calls them, these people have achieved and have contributed to the betterment of the community.
BTWSC appreciates the fact that we need a holistic approach to the difficulties facing the African British community, particularly the youths, and that role models or mentors alone will not solve the problem, if other issues, such as parenting, racism and lack of opportunities, are not addressed.
However as KB Asante, the Ghanaian former teacher, Secretary for Education, and High Commissioner to the UK said at BTWSC’s Black S/Heroes Award in 2003: “What those discriminated against need above all else is inspiration, restoration of self-confidence and hope.”
We believe that it is important, especially for young people, to have role models who can inspire them to achieve in whatever field they choose to pursue.
Finally, the importance of role models is best articulated by Guardian columnist Gary Younge: “Employed subtly and judiciously, role models present us with route maps by which we can begin to contemplate not only possible destinations in life but also, more importantly, how we might actually get from where we are to where we would like to be. By exposing us to our potential, they can be empowering.”
That is what NARM aims for - we hope it helps to inspire.