Written by Steve Stephenson
Steve Stephenson MBE is a former Principal Equalities Officer in Local Government. He is the Author of “Cold Arrival Life in Second Homeland” He has been actively involved in numerous projects in the Black Community for the past 30 years.
Steve has a tale or two to tell to about the Black Contribution to history; there is also a Black History Quiz with a prize at the end of the article.
Steve has been teaching Black History for the past 30 years, long before Black History Month became the norm in 1987. Steve said “I first became interested in teaching our history when I worked as a Voluntary Youth Worker in Luton in the early 70s. He taught his first course in 1976 at the Starlight Youth Club, after attending a course that was taught by Black History pioneer Sam Morris from Grenada. At the time many Black youngsters with whom, I worked, were alienated and marginalised and appear to have an identity crisis. The vast majority of these youngsters were aspiring to be Rastafarians.
In addition Steve background gave him a good understanding of the issues. He was born in Kingston and was lucky to be taught Caribbean History at O level. He went to school with and was in the same class as Robbie Shakespeare of Sly and Robbie fame. He played football in the same park as Bob Marley. “I had friend in the band, Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rasta Fari and I used to visit Count Ossie’s home as well as listening to Rastafarian reasoning in Wareika Hill.
Steve tells the following tale;
For instance, he points out that a Black man who was able to go to school only because his parents was bought out of Slavery, he helped plan the layout for Washington DC, his name was Benjamin Bannekar and he lived from 1731-1806.
Steve said, “Bannekar is best known for his part in planning the lay –out of Washington DC, the capital of America. Disaster struck when the chief planner return to France after a row, taking all the plans with him. But, lucky for America, Bannekar was able to draw them again from memory.
“He even chose the site for the White House. In 1791 he wrote a famous letter to the President of USA. It said, however variable we may be in society or religion, however diversified in situation of colour, we are all the same family and stand in the same, in relation to god. But for luck this man would have been a slave.
Steve adds, it is generally accepted that Commander Robert Peary was the first man to reach the North Pole in 1909, but this is not true, it was a Black man American Matthew Alexander Henson. Peary lost nine toes and could not go on any longer, so Henson plant the American flag on the North Pole.
Another slice of Black history Steve talks about reveals that, a West African people discovered the star Sirius B before Western Scientist new of its existence.
He said the Dogon people lived in Mali, West Africa.
In 1931 two French Scientist went to live with the Dogon. Sixteen years later the Dogon began to reveal their secrets about the stars and planets. The dogan knew about the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter and that the earth’s moon was dry and dead.
It was a surprise to the European that these so-called primitive people had such scientific knowledge. But what really shocked them, was that the Dogon also knew of a star called Sirius B, because the star is not visible to the naked eye. The Dogon knew more about the movement of the invisible star than Western scientist.
“What was more Dogon scientist had known about it for seven hundred years. Western scientists only discovered Sirius B in the 1890’s”.
Black History Quiz
Africa suffered the twin effect of Slavery and Colonisation that still affect the continent today.
The seeds of this were sown in the year 1441, when the Captain of European Country and his crew land on the West African coast and capture two African a man and woman.
They return and raid two Villages and 12 Africans were captured and brought to Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal. Before the Slave Trade started, this incident contributed to the enslavement of African people. What was the name of the Captain?