Parent organisation of Community Links, Foundation and Bridging the Gap

Blog: Black History Walks Leeds

To mark the beginning of Black History Month, Inspire North’s communications officer Natasha Gelder attended Heritage Corner’s Black History Walk Leeds with walking guide Joe Williams.

Isn’t it fascinating how you can live somewhere for what seems an eternity, yet never truly know the place?

I walked the cobbled roads of the University of Leeds for four years of my life. I was in love with the campus, the libraries, the books, yet for years I remained unaware of the history hidden within the streets and buildings around me. Little did I know that migrants from the Windrush generation had walked those very same streets decades before. Little did I know that African history was interwoven within the walls of my favourite buildings – buildings where I began to learn about colonialism, about Empire, about Black British writers who changed my perspective and opened my eyes to the other side of the story.

My own history is that of the ancient Egyptians and their strong matriarchal deities, such as the goddess Ma’at – the goddess of truth, justice, harmony, and balance. Often depicted with a feather, she played an integral role in the weighing of the deceased’s heart on the scales of justice. This became significant and the concept of Ma’at became the way in which Egyptians founded their moral principles (Ma’at – World History Encyclopedia). Yet stories like this and others are hidden in the walls, disguised ironically in the white spaces between the lines of modern-day history textbooks. But now, thanks to the Black History Walks in Leeds we can hear these stories.

What I have learnt is that nothing is ever fully as it seems, the little cracks in the story are gateways to something beautiful. Nothing really exists in isolation, often our lives are made up of dualities and interconnections. My history is that of Britain and Egypt, interwoven within myself but also in the city I have called home for a decade.

I love that the place where I read about the Windrush generation and Black British lives is the same place that some of those heroines and heroes walked, lived and survived. The University of Leeds continues to teach me new things and how great an experience it was to return to my ‘land’ and see it in a new light.

Rediscovering what we thought we knew can change the way we understand history, understand ourselves and our place but most importantly, it means we can pay gratitude to those who came before us, those who paved the way and helped create the societies we live in today.

I am so grateful to Joe and for this walk. There is so much to learn and discover, we just have to be willing to open our eyes and learn, because the more we know, the more we can change.

If you are interested in attending a Black History Walk in Leeds visit:

Image: Goddess Ma’at of Ancient Egypt – partly restored and partly re-constructed image of a wall-painting. (Creative Commons)