NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is funding ethnic minority
community projects in an urgent bid to raise awareness about organ donation.
‘Organ Donation: A Conversation Young BlackPeople NEED to Have’ taking place on May 18th is one of many NHSBT-funded events across the country to dispel myths around organ donation among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
Before Donald Trump bulldozed into the UK last week, everyone knew there would be drama. Waves of protests in support of and against the US president were seen in England and Scotland.
Donald Trump was only in the UK for a few days, but his presence led to an estimated 250,000 protesters marching through London, along with the famous inflatable ‘Donald Trump baby’. A far-right protest was also happening in the capital and some of those protesters were singing Donald Trump’s praises (of course). Wherever he goes, the Trump effect is palpable.
After criticising UK Prime Minister Theresa May, then sitting down to dinner with her and having tea with the Queen, Trump went to his luxury resort in Scotland for some downtime. However, Scottish protesters made it clear that Trump was ‘not welcome’ in their country because of his views, interpreted as racist and misogynistic.
As the leader of what is said to be the most powerful nation on earth, I get why Trump is constantly served to us on a platter by the media. Usually upon hearing his name I do the classic eye roll and sigh. Sometimes I actually laugh in moments of disbelief at what comes out of his mouth. Trump’s comedic value is up there with the best of them. All jokes aside, I am aware of how dangerous Trump is.
It was a quote from one of the most candid political activists of our time, Angela Davis, that made me think Donald Trump does serve a purpose. While many are repulsed by his views, there is no doubt that Trump has awoken the social consciousness of everyone.
Last year during a speech at Florida Atlantic University, while condemning Trump, Angela Davis stated, “maybe we need a Donald Trump to wake us up”.
Davis has been a political activist for decades and played a key role in the civil rights movement in America. However, it was in the early 1970s that she became infamous after being linked to the ‘Soledad Brothers’ case and listed as a fugitive on the FBI’s most wanted list. Davis was imprisoned, but during one of the most captivating trials of its time (hence inspiring a documentary), was exonerated by an all-white jury.
In addition to affiliation with the Black Panther movement and more recently Black Lives Matter, Davis has also been described as a feminist. As a staunch adversary of Trump, at the age of 74, Davis shows no sign of her political activism abating.
There’s no doubt Trump’s presence on the global political landscape has inspired many. Trump inspires his supporters, who claimed they didn’t have a voice before him and everyone else who was wrapped up in apathy but now forced to stand against oppressive ideologies.
The last film I saw at the cinema was Black Panther and before that, it was Girls Trip in July 2017! I am into films, but there just hadn’t been many that resonated enough for me to leave the confines of my house and take a trip to the cinema. Before this I went to the cinema regularly; one of my most memorable cinema experiences was when I saw Titanic, because I cried. My friends still remind of that little fact until this day!
Over time I’ve become more selective about what I watch, because I got tired of the same old faces and narratives. I wanted to see more people who looked like me and stories that I could relate to, such films were not easy to come by.
I hadn’t heard about Block Party Cinema until a few weeks ago and wanted to see their interpretation of the pop up cinematic experience. The 90s RnB chilled out vibes evoked a welcomed nostalgia and was met with contemporary beanbag seating. I was a bit apprehensive about sitting on a beanbag throughout the whole film, but to my surprise, they were comfortable and afforded lots of leg room (well enough for my legs, anyway!)
The film, A Moving Image, was about gentrification in Brixton (a subject I have touched on before). Followed by a panel discussion with Lisa Maffia (of Solid Crew and former Brixton resident), Community Leader Michael Smith and the director of the film, Shola Amoo.
I was a bit conflicted about watching a film about gentrification in Pop Brixton, which some may deem as the epitome of gentrification in the area, but I wanted to see how the film would approach the issue and the setting in POP Brixton was nice, with a bar and free popcorn.
The film touched on some interesting points, including the Reclaim Brixton protest and the protagonist who once lived in Brixton, being conflicted as to whether she was now part of the problem. The film highlighted that gentrification is a class issue and not just about race. This is true, but for a place like Brixton with such a distinctive racial heritage, if the community is depleted of African and Caribbean people regardless of socio-economic status, Brixton as we know it will be no more.
Whether good or bad, which I don’t think the film made a final decision on, gentrification has it merits and drawbacks. Maybe that was the take-home message of the film. By leaving the ending open-ended (in my opinion) provided food for thought on a complex issue affecting many parts of London.
Should I be embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of Veganuary until I saw the advertisement on the London Underground (subway) at the end of December 2017? Well I’ve admitted it now and just glad that I came across this social movement. It’s opened my eyes to so many things about food, health and animal welfare.
I ate relatively healthy, but after my mum’s cancer diagnosis (she is in the clear now, praise God), my family decided to walk with her on a healthier lifestyle journey. I follow a few vegans on Instagram but didn’t think it was something I could do myself. I only have one vegan friend and it (going vegan) seemed to be something other people did. After watching the Netflix documentary ‘What the Health?’ (I know, I’m probably late to the party on this one too!), I had all the fuel I needed to try veganism.
I signed up to Veganuary and received all the helpful daily emails and recipes. I can’t say it’s been easy, I probably should have gone vegetarian first, but I thought it’s only for a month so I’m just going to do it! I had to be organised and think about what my vegan meals would be for each week, so it did feel like a bit more effort than before.
I was keen to find good vegan food places that were not high street chains, for the days I just couldn’t be bothered to make something myself. On my quest, I came across a new Caribbean vegan eatery in South London. I don’t know why I was a bit apprehensive before my first vegan takeaway, but I was. Anyway, I walked into the intimate Eat of Eden setting and went through the menu with the waiter.
I ordered a platter because I wanted to try a bit of everything; that way if I didn’t like something I would find out then rather than later. I can honestly say I enjoyed everything, but if I had to pick two things I would definitely recommend the pumpkin curry and seaweed fritters – they were just yum!
I know a lot of people associate Caribbean food with heat / pepper / spice, however, the food was savoury but still had the signature Caribbean flavours. The spice level is fine for any palate and there were people from a range of ethnicities there. I make that point because sometimes I feel ‘people’ think Caribbean (or African) food is just for black people. I want to dispel that myth as I think food is food and for everyone. We don’t think Chinese food is just for Chinese people – If you live in the Western world I’m sure you’ve had a Chinese takeaway more than once! While I’m happy to see more independent Caribbean and African food establishments become a permanent feature on the UK food scene, I also want to see people from other ethnicities embracing Caribbean and African food because it’s amazing!
Eat of Eden is a small spot with al fresco dining (only 5 tables inside), which isn’t ideal during winter but after tasting the food I understand why it’s popular. The staff were helpful, the service was timely and now I’ve found this little gem I’ll be going back and taking some friends with me to! If you are in South London and feel like trying some wholesome Caribbean plant-based food, Eat of Eden is your spot.
The first annual ShoutOut Live Festival was definitely live! Real talk, reckless talk, conscious talk, (some) political talk, banter and crowd participation. The festival had something for everyone, giving black and ethnic minority British podcasts and more established African-American podcasts centre stage.
I only started listening to podcasts at the end of 2016. ‘But podcasts are not new’, I hear you say. Yes, you’re right they aren’t new, podcasting has been around for years. I was lured into the podcasting world because I found relatable people sharing opinions and stories that I was interested in. Simple! As a so called ‘minority’ in the UK, finding discourse that resonates with me in the mainstream media is like trying to find plantain (my fave!) at Sainsbury’s. I can get bananas there, but I want plantains… Not that I’d ever look for plantains in Sainsbury’s (I get mine from a market) but you catch my drift!
Thank the Lord for Twitter (I love Twitter), this is where I stumbled across Melanin Millennials podcast and from that discovered many more.
When the ShoutOut Live Festival was announced I was excited and intrigued. I’d never been to a podcast festival before and didn’t know what to expect. There was something for everyone (from aged18+), with the main stage hosting more established podcasts and the ‘discovery stage’ hosting up and coming podcasts…so much choice!
I spent most of my time at the main stage, so unfortunately didn’t really get to see any of the podcasts on the discovery stage. The day was running a bit behind schedule so it was tricky keeping track of who was coming on when.
I arrived just in time to see The Friend Zone and Another Round podcasts.
Of course, things got a bit more reckless when the headline act entered – The Brilliant Idiots podcast, co-created by Andrew Schulz and Charlamagne (aka Lenard McKelvey) who is also co-host of the more widely known Breakfast Club radio show in New York.
Before going to the festival, a couple of people recommended Charlamagne’s book – Black Privilege. I was surprised because they are not Charlamgne fans, so I decided to put all preconceptions of what I thought the book would be like (if you watch the Breakfast Club, you’ll know what Charlamagne is like!) and bought it at the festival to read for myself!
My main regret on the day was that I missed the Mostly Lit (love that name!) podcast. Discussing their love of literature, pop culture and wellness, I quickly became a fan.
Come alone, leave with friends…My supper clubs have a networking vibe, if you come alone you won’t feel out of place. There are games, communal dining where you share a plate of food and get mingling, saysTokunbo – founder of Tokunbo’s Kitchen.
I came out of Angel tube station and immediately tapped in the address of the Starbucks where Tokunbo and I agreed to meet. I have the worst sense of direction and only had 10 minutes to get there, so I didn’t have time to get lost!
But by anxieties where unwarranted, the Starbucks was just across the road from the station and I was 5 minutes early. I bought a herbal tea and found a table. Notebook and pen ready, red record button on my iPhone begging to be pressed. I waited for ten minutes then Tokunbo rushes in flustered and apologetic for being late. Selfishly, it made me feel more at ease because I wasn’t late lol. Anyway, after big smiles and greetings exchanged we got started…
African food is becoming more popular in the UK, why do you think this is? Social media! Our generation isn’t shy about documenting their food experiences. People create hashtags like #jollofwars, giving African food publicity!
Why did Tokunbo’s Kitchen start? My mum taught me to cook Nigerian food from a young age with the expectation that I’d be cooking for a family one day. I saw that you can do so much with it and wanted others to experience it. Friends always commented on my food and I’d spoken with a friend about getting into the street food business. So, I did it!
I love being in the kitchen, making things happen and the freedom of running my own business.
I do everything myself, so creating a permanent team would help. The hardest part of running Tokunbo’s Kitchen is doing festivals and market stalls – I get around 5 hours sleep, cook, set up, on my feet all day, and do the washing up!
When did you start Tokunbo’s Kitchen? In 2015 I went to a festival and queued for over an hour for jerk chicken! That’s when I thought I can definitely do this myself, and started Tokunbo’s Kitchen in September 2015.
What was your first Supper Club like? At my first supper club, I served pounded yam in a communal setting, with a big bowl of Egusi stew (the same way you would get it in Lagos). That way people can try as much as they like. Many Nigerian dishes are vegan based and we cook with palm / coconut oil.
Nigerian food is a burst of different flavours. I make a chilli sauce as a side, so people can add spice themselves – anyone can eat my food.
What do you think about ‘African fusion’ food? It’s fine, but I also like to keep food authentic especially when introducing it to a new audience. My non-African customer base is increasing, so I wouldn’t stray too far from my roots. If I did I would lose what makes me special.
What’s Tokunbo’s Kitchen ethos? Bringing people together through great food, giving them a taste of Nigeria.
“When people are thinking about what to have for a takeaway I want them to think of Nigerian food and say ‘Let’s go to Tokunbo’s Kitchen and have some Jollof rice’”.
Have you eaten anything interesting lately? The other day I had suya chicken and puff buns, it was like the Nigerian version of Chicken and Waffles. ‘Suya’ is the name of the popular beef snack but suya chicken is quite new in Nigerian cooking. The spice yaji used to make suya, is very versatile.
Most Popular dish of 2016 from Tokunbo’s Kitchen? My Jollof, Ayamase stew (with green chili) cooked with palm oil and Iru (locust beans). Akara, which is black-eye bean fritters, was also quite popular last year.
What’s new in 2017? There’s a lot in the works: A meal subscription service, more supper clubs, and pop-up venues across London. My first of the year will be at Craving Coffee on 3rd February, in Tottenham, London. I’m interested in doing a series of networking talks, on running a business, women empowerment and other topics, where of course there will be good food!
This year fashion took centre stage at the Africa Utopia Festival. Directed by Agnes Cazin, the #AfricaSquad fashion show put the spotlight on amazing designers across the African diaspora and the Continent. We caught up with one of the UK’s fresh new talents, Elizabeth-Yemi Akingbade, founder of Yemzi, a sustainable street-luxe bohemian fashion label.
…inspired by African and European art, culture and creativity; made with love in London for the active dreamer. Elizabeth-Yemi
We first heard of Yemzi through Africa Utopia 2016, how did you get involved with the festival?
I was invited to take part in the #AfricaSquad fashion show by the creative director Agnes Cazin. My SS16 collection showcased, was based on animal skin prints, in blue, orange and green. I’ve worked with Agnes before; she used some of my pieces for House for Koko.
When did you want to be a fashion designer?
From a very young age. I’ve always been creative, I won various art competitions at school and when I was 14, attended Bournemouth Arts Institute on Saturdays.
When did Yemzi officially launch?
I like the idea of being a young business owner, so in 2013 during my final year at London College of Communication, in South London, I decided to open Yemzi.
My Nigerian name is Yemi; Yemzi was a nickname people called me and was just a natural progression.
How did you start Yemzi?
My only 2 official collections, were SS16 and SS17. Before that I printed my designs on ready-made T-shirts sold in Soboye Boutique, giving me exposure to other markets like Paris. Now I source and cut fabrics myself.
Prints are the foundation of Yemzi…Because I like using timeless prints and textures that can be worn in any season. I create my own prints telling my story through drawing. Many African designers use Dutch wax prints, but I don’t. It’s boring to see the same prints everywhere.
What fabrics do you use?
Any sustainable materials, like Bamboo and organic cotton. But when I created the high-end gold collection I used silk chiffon and silk satin.
Are you concerned about being pigeon-holed as an ‘African’ fashion designer?
I describe myself as a British-Nigerian designer. I’m not really concerned about categories and labels. If people want to call me a British designer or a Nigerian designer, both are fine with me!
What does sustainable /ethical fashion mean to you and why is it important?
Fast fashion can cause a lot of damage to the environment and for those at the bottom of the fashion food chain. It doesn’t have to be like that. All my collections are made in London, everyone is paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment.
Are sustainable fashion businesses like Yemzi, becoming more common?
Yes, people are becoming conscious about what they consume and are aware of alternatives. If mindsets change and people buy quality clothes they can buy less and have something that lasts longer.
What inspires you?
Life. I like to express my struggles, joys and culture, through my collections. I was fostered by an English family but still have a connection with my Nigerian culture, so everything I do is a fusion of that. Being fostered made me more determined to stay connected to by Nigerian heritage and part of the reason I studied African studies rather than a fashion course.
After learning some Yoruba I went to Nigeria and met my Grandmother, before she passed away in January this year, and learnt important aspects about Nigerian culture.
This is the mood board for SS17 – I combine my inspirations and then draw my prints, which are digitally printed onto fabric.
Continuing with the theme of combing my British and Nigerian culture, I used Yoruba symbols / tribal marks and imagery I found though researching, as the main source of inspiration. I went for a darker theme, as my collections reflect how I feel. I was invited to show some of the new collection at a fashion show, on Nigerian Independence Day, but didn’t have an official launch.
I’m based in a converted shipping container and the SS17 collection was shot in a World War II bunker underneath my office. The styling is London inspired but I have some silhouettes which are very much African. I take traditional African shapes and make them commonplace in the London environment.
Fela Kuti’s wives inspired the bold unblended eyelids and dotting make-up framing the eyebrows.
Why was the theme dark?
Working a second job 6 days a week, completing my MA in African Studies and trying to grow Yemzi has been challenging. The fashion industry can look very glamorous but there is an ugly side to it. The collection reflects this contrast between the different faces of fashion and the personal challenges I face.
What’s the Yemzi ethos?
I have a ‘green and clean’ ethos, using fabrics which are not toxic to the environment.
You recently did another shoot for your SS17 collection?
Yes, again outside my shipping container with 2 models. I only use models with natural hair (it’s part of my green and natural ethos). One is white with ginger hair and the other is of mixed African and Asian heritage.
I am a huge advocate of natural hair since doing the big chop in July 2010. Textured hair should be embraced.
The most challenging aspect of running your business?
It’s a lot more expensive running a sustainable fashion business, the fabrics I use have an impact on the cost of my collection.
The biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting Yemzi?
Ask for help. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Whether it’s an MUA or photographer, you should be willing to ask for help when you’re on tight budget. The worst anyone can say to you is ‘no’.
The main highlight of running your business?
When people appreciate the clothes!
Any exciting developments on the horizon?
My unisex Capsule Collection launching in February, will be my first AW collection. Very excited about that!
Any advice for other aspiring fashion designers?
Make use of what you have when starting out on a tight budget, I’ve connected with people who’ve helped along the way and for shoots used the space outside my office, rather than using studios all the time. You must be financially creative as well as artistically creative.