Brenda, Akala, Winnie, Sabbiyah and Jasmine at Mandela Lectures at the BBC.
Copyright Jasmine Dotiwala.
To end a week of diversity focused events, the BBC hosted Mandela Lectures- three speakers, three ideas, One quote.
Our three esteemed speakers were; founder of The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company - Akala,exec director of Oxfam international - Winnie Byanyima and philosopher and writer Sabbiyah Pervez, who were tasked to talk about Nelson Mandelas quote ''it always seems impossible until its done''.
Seminal broadcaster Brenda Emmanus hosted the intimate gathering, on the BBC's top floor of their newest, multi-million costing, shiny building New Broadcasting House.
Winnie kicked off proceedings and was a calm, paced empowering speaker. She made parallel comparisons between Mandela and her organization Oxfam, highlighting that they both stand in solidarity with lone men and women.
She implored ''I have seen first hand that small weapons can inflict horror. It took ten years of hard campaigning of Oxfam supporters to build public support for what we knew what was right. Lives will be saved now because there's an international law and we can make change''. Oxfam's vision is a just world without poverty where all are treated equally. This new world is within reach. Nelson Mandela taught us that with willpower and mobilising to stand together, we can change the world".
Winnie reminded us of imbalances like the fact that the 85 richest people in the world own the same as a third of the world. She informed us ''Exclusion and discrimination creates deep social problems. It keeps poor people poor and powerless. Here in the UK the gap between rich and poor is back at the great depression degree in 1920s. This is sixth richest country in the world, yet people here are turning to food banks. Is this morally defensible?''
She continued ''we need goals for ending poverty in every country. We need to crack down on financial secrecy from banks and tax havens. This is money that should be going towards lifting the poor out of poverty. We need decent jobs for young people and to remove barriers to rising for women''.
It was inspiring to hear about her own journey where she revealed
''I fled Idi Amin's regime in Uganda in the 60s. I found asylum here in the UK and now run a huge company. Everyday I stand on shoulders of giants. A young African refugee like myself has been allowed to thrive. Be part of the movement for social justice. That's what Nelson Mandela is saying to us. "It always seems impossible until it's done".
Our second speaker Saabbiyah from 'Make Bradford British' fame is determined to create change within her community. She was very fast paced in her Bradford accented prose, but her passion was clear. ''In the first generation of UK Muslims, they were told right from the beginning what they can and can't do. They now can't let go of the old rules or they'll lose their identity, so us, in the next generation has conflict. Asian women are brought up to feel inferior to their brothers. If you're constantly being told your only role is to serve as a mum and wife, how can u grow as an individual?''
She also challenges the misconceptions about Muslim youths living in Britain today
''The Muslim youth are also very marginalised. Apparently they're all terrorists!''
Finally highly articulate, knowledgeable Akala finished the evening, with his very many deep facts and stats to blow your mind about black history around the globe. He's proven himself as one of the most dynamic and literate talents in the UK, and spoke so fast that I had barely been able to digest one fascinating fact, before he hit us with another. Akala is one of the UK's most revered spoken word talents because he is a paragon of rapping excellence.
He noted that
''Nelson Mandela was in prison for almost as long as I have lived. It's easy to view Nelson Mandela's story from cinema seats. However not one single corporation after slavery ended was forced to pay out reparations. South African bank heads still kept their jobs after apartheid ended. To this day whites still control most of the African land. The ending of political apartheid is to be celebrated. But apartheid did not end. It was altered but not shattered. Currently, The third world is literally paying with their lives for the super rich of the first world''.
I recall having conversations a decade ago with Akala, when I was heading up a top music brand and when the rest of his young, black musical peers were having hit single success in the UK charts.
I respected his passion for making change in his highly literate manner, but also used to suggest that he make a catchy hook driven pop smash that could make him a household name, and then preach to his audience once he had his foot in the door. I used to implore that we all had bills to pay and he could return to his mission after making some cash. He was never interested preferring to keep his art really real. Now years down the line I can see that his vision was strong and he has carved a niche for himself walking in the footprints of his own inspirations like Saul Williams and Gil Scott Heron.
His Hip Hop Shakespeare Company has done wonders for the perception of hip hop as an art form and fans are already buzzing about his latest production of 'Richard II LIVE'' at the Southbank Centre on March 27.
Like Mandela's mission, Akala's dream always seemed impossible to me until it was done. And I am more than happy to be proved wrong. Such is his knowledge for all politics affecting the global BAME community and its history Akala should be a regular on Question Time. Mr Mandela would be proud.
It's impressive that the BBC Black & Asian forum can bring together such incredible minds and voices offline. But what would be even more impressive is if they put these names front and centre of its broadcasting programmes.
It always seems impossible until it's done.