I recently met Bristol (UK) author Roger Griffith who has released his first book during Black History Month in America, entitled My American Odyssey - From the Windrush to the White House.
Having spent a few years working in America developing much of the material and inspiration for my courses and books I was interested by Roger's perspective on the special relationship between Britain and America via his Caribbean heritage. In his book he links the journey made by his parent's generation of pioneers known as the Windrush Generation who came as invited guests from the West Indies to Britain after World War II, to the inauguration of the first black president of America which he witnessed six years ago in Washington.
Roger's story is full of the things I talk about. His personal story is about resilience, rebuilding your life, being positive and true to yourself. Through understanding his own heritage and discovering his identity he found the value of education. In particular it was the story of civil-rights struggle led by Dr Martin Luther King that inspired him.
As a boy he and his mother moved from multi-cultural London to a white working class suburb of Bristol and encountered first-hand racism, poverty and little prospects. With little interest or understanding of education he left school without qualifications during the harsh economic times of the 1980s. This was also a time of civil unrest tensions between young black men and the Police that led to many inner-city riots in the UK. Roger realised his own power to change his life and reach his potential. Aged 25, he re-trained and studied hard. Entering a large local authority as a trainee housing officer he rose to become a senior manager before accepting redundancy in 2009. He has moved into media and leads community radio station Ujima Radio in St Pauls, Bristol where he has his own show and works on a range of projects to provide opportunities to enter the media and engage with organisations such as the Police.
A keen traveller, Roger had a desire to visit the places he read about in America and bring them to life. He followed Dr King's life in the famed Deep-South from Dr King's first breath at his home in Georgia, Atlanta to where he was slain in Memphis, Tennessee. This included visits to Selma, Alabama scene of the award winning film where he met Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton and took part in the annual bridge crossing commemorations which is the first Sunday in March.
At his debut event at the Watershed in Bristol last week, Roger was interviewed by Director of Bristol Festival of Ideas, Andrew Kelly and illustrated the book with film excerpts relevant to his travels and book. These included To Kill a Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning and Nelson Mandela's speech in Spike Lee's biography of Malcolm X. An audience of over 100 attended, including his mother and sister sitting proudly in the front row.
In August Roger will return to America to begin writing the follow up to his book. He will start his next odyssey in New Orleans exactly ten years after Hurricane Katrina claimed nearly 2,000 lives and caused billions of dollars' worth of damage.
We look forward to seeing and reading more from Roger as he travels around the Deep-South a region rich with folklore, culture and inspiring stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
From the Windrush to the White House is available via Amazon and all good online booksellers or direct from firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter rogerg44