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1 - Oral Histories



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Ahmed Farah (born 1968) is one of the thousands of Somalis who benefitted from the goodwill of the British government to resettle those badly affected by the Somali civil war. The war began in the late eighties and led to the fall of President Siad Barre. Born in the northern region of Somalia into a family of cattle breeders, he initially began by studying the holy Koran before relocating to Yemen where he did his primary to intermediate education. In 1992, with help from his father, Ahmed travelled to the UK and landed in Cardiff, Wales. Like many migrants, he faced a cultural shock and did not see any “gold lying on the pavement.” A year later and only after “thousands” of applications, he got his first job as a mental health nurse. Since then, Ahmed has lived in a few other cities in the UK and Liverpool is now more or less, his home. He has done a wide range of jobs. Since arriving in the UK in 1993, he says he has not visited Somalia. He promised to do so by the end of the year. He is married and has one daughter.

2017-2018

He arrived in the UK shortly before the outbreak of the Nigeria civil war (1967-1970) as an engineering student. As an Igbo, the Nigerian ethnic group at the forefront of the rebellion that led to the war, Chief Chukuemeka (born 1942) suffered an indirect consequence of the war, when his parents could no longer support his education. He had to go to school in the day and work at night to pay his £350 annual school fees and other expenses. On graduation, he easily got different jobs with engineering companies before working with the traffic lights engineering division of the Liverpool City Council. He took early retirement from that position and has been a committed community activist for more than twenty years now. He is now Director of Crawford House, an African community and skills training hub located in Toxteth-the Liverpool neighbourhood with the highest concentration of the black community. He has been involved with the commemoration of Slavery day that the Liverpool International museum organises every year in August. The event was started to remind people of the horrors of slavery and the slave trade and how, unfortunately, this still happens today in the form of human trafficking. He is married with children.

2017-2018

For more than thirty years, he travelled around the world on various ships rising to the enviable rank of Captain. Basile Badoo was born in 1944 in the Gold Coast, fourteen years before Ghana became an independent country. Captain Badoo spent a greater part of his working life as a captain on Ghanaian and British ships. In the 60s, he was impressed during visits to American shores and in turn noticed how black Americans were fascinated by their all black crews. He eventually married and settled in Liverpool where he ran a care home with his wife. He is now retired and has two children and two grandchildren. He still travels regularly to Ghana.

2017-2018

Catherine Maduike: Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1947, Catherine wanted to train as an air hostess or work with an airlines company in the hospitality section because she “loves the uniform”. Her father however had more ambitious plans and suggested she travel to England to train as a nurse, after which she could still serve as a nurse in an airport. Catherine trained as a nurse and after qualification, faced some of the racial prejudices that migrant health personnel from social workers through nurses and doctors occasionally face working abroad. That did not stop her from providing the care to others that she initially wanted to give as an air hostess. In 1975, she moved with her university lecturer husband, Celestin to Zambia where they worked as expatriates in the Southern African country. An entrepreneurial Igbo native of Nigeria, she ran two successful businesses in Liverpool: a Care Centre for children with disabilities and EBONY, the first black hair salon in Liverpool. She is now retired from active service. Celestin Maduike: Celestin Maduike was born in Nigeria in 1940. He was initially a primary school teacher before training as a psychiatric nurse at the Ibadan teaching hospital. In 1962, he joined a long line of Nigerian professionals who travelled to England for better job prospects. He eventually became a university lecturer of Psychiatry in the UK. In search of new challenges, he moved with his family to Zambia in 1975 where they lived for six years. He then returned to England and continued teaching. He is now retired. On a brief visit to Nigeria in 2007, he was almost shot to death by unknown assailants in a country where kidnapping is rife. He is now retired and has four children.

2017-2018

He was in secondary school in 1967 when the Nigerian civil war broke out and his small village Ogun in Okrika was evacuated by the rebel Biafran forces as punishment for supporting the regular Nigerian army. David Derafaka (born 1952) describes the Nigerian war as bad because there are no winners and losers in any war situation and usually, only the vulnerable suffer: women, the young and the elderly. In 1975, he received a Nigerian government scholarship to study transport management but later studied for a human resources qualification. Originally, he planned to return to Nigeria but like most of the participants, remained in the UK and married his English girlfriend. He initially struggled to get a position as a personnel manager because of his migrant background but gradually the jobs rolled in and he could make his own pick. A community activist, he is presently head of the Merseyside Nigerian community organisation. He is married with five children.

2017-2018

Owing to the fact that he could not get a job as a motor mechanic, which was his initial profession, Denis Nnachi (born in 1939 in Nigeria) moved to Port Harcourt and got a job on an oil tanker owned by the Shell Oil Company. When the contract on the ship ended, Denis and all 36 crew members arrived in England. He was the only one retained to work on a much bigger oil vessel. Four years later and while working for another shipping company, he was denied entry into his country, Nigeria, because of the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war. His kinsmen (Igbos) were fighting against the Nigerian army. He was only saved from being arrested by his British Ship Captain. He then returned to England and applied for political asylum which was granted. He eventually settled in Liverpool round about the time the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970) was raging on and took part in many of the Igbo demonstrations organised to protest against the war. After the rebel Biafran army was defeated in 1970, he took a vow never to shave off his beard, which he still maintains today. He however now allows himself the luxury of trimming it off. Denis has since worked in many sectors and is now retired. He has six children.

2017-2018

For 35 years, she worked diligently as a midwife after initially training in her home country, Nigeria, and retraining when she arrived in England in 1974. In recognition for her lifelong services to the NHS and as a community leader, Dorcas Akeju (born in 1945) received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2004. She helped deliver more than one thousand babies, both in Nigeria and the UK. Back when she qualified as a midwife in Liverpool in the mid 70s, nurses used to receive a princely £90 a month which she described as “peanuts”. The sum was still good enough to pay her rents and other bills. A little known law in the UK says midwives can be sued right uptil the time a baby is 21. Though she retired eight years ago, Dorcas still pays protection insurance in case one of the mothers of the hundreds of babies she helped deliver, decides to sue her for any delivery complications. A community activist, Dorcas ran a project to help African girls affected by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and created an African Elders association to help prevent loneliness among the elderly. She is now retired but far from tired.

2017-2018

Edwin Chime: At 93, Edwin is the doyen of the 30 participants in the Project. Born in 1924 in Enugu state in Nigeria, he moved to Lagos looking out for a job that could help him travel the world. He was told he could work on a ship to achieve such an ambition and he set about doing that. He first had to train as a cook so he could have experience and managed to do this at a guest house where many sailors and passengers spent time in Lagos, on their breaks from sea voyages. He worked there for three years before eventually getting a job on a ship. Like a lot of other Nigerian seamen working for British shipping companies, the British Ship Captain and the British High Commissioner helped save him from being arrested by Nigerian soldiers when they did a stop-over in a Nigerian port. When their ship returned to Britain, Edwin and all the Igbo seamen were granted political asylum in the UK. After settling in Liverpool, he worked for multiple companies often facing some of the difficulties that migrants face in a new land. He saw off all these challenges with stoic resourcefulness. He is a proud Igbo man who says he managed to pass down the language and traditions of his people to his children. He maintains that African parents who travel abroad, especially need to teach their children their African language, so they maintain their cultural identity. He is now retired and a father to four children. Fidelia Chime: Like her husband Edwin, Fidelia was born in Enugu state in South Eastern Nigeria in 1940. She left home early to stay with relatives where she was supported with her early schooling. Much later on, while studying as a veterinary officer, she had to return home unexpectedly when teachers at the school went on strike for non-payment of their salaries. She was tricked into meeting her future husband when she was asked to go to an address to help a relative write a letter. This meeting led to an enduring love affair that has lasted decades. She relocated to the UK to join her husband, Edwin. He had received refugee status from the British government as a result of the Nigerian civil war, in 1972. She did a succession of different jobs and retired as a health support worker years ago.

2017-2018

Born in the suburbs of Accra, Ghana in 1956, Emmanuel had a tough life growing up and admits getting clean drinking water used to be like passing through the eye of a needle. Aware of his humble roots, he worked hard at school and was one of the lucky students who earned a Ghanaian government scholarship to further his education in the then Soviet Union. He read Economics, socialist style, for six years in the Soviet Union. While still a student, he visited the UK regularly and eventually met his wife Mercy who worked as a nurse. After finishing his education, it was no surprise he moved to the UK. He eventually had a high profile job as a financial administrator with a housing association in Lewisham, London, and quickly learned about racial prejudice in the role. All his white male housing officers left and he had to break racial equality rules by advertising for the post of a “white male housing officer.” Challenged by the racial equality commission, he convinced them he needed white housing officers to fill the gap left when he was appointed in order to balance the racial mix in his organisation. He eventually left the London job for Liverpool where his wife and family lived.

2017-2018

Chief Francis Ofoegbu, 75, is one of a growing number of African traditional rulers living abroad and still managing to have some influence on the way their villages are run back in Africa. Born in Imo state of Nigeria, he travelled to England in 1964 to attend an engineering course in London. After a brief induction by the British Council in Nigeria where fresh students were taught among other things, how to use cutlery, Francis flew to England to attend his £180 a year engineering course in London. He did only six months at the Faraday House engineering course and moved to a cheaper technical college in Manchester where the annual tuition was a princely £75. It was while he was in his second year in college that the first military coup and eventually the Nigerian civil war started between 1966/67. With no funding from his parents in Nigeria, Francis suspended school to work and managed to finish his course years later. According to Francis, the havoc caused by the war on mainly Igbo businesses back home eventually led Igbo students abroad to start sending money back home to help distressed relatives, and not the other way round. He described this as the opening of the “floodgates” and all relatives (known and unknown) started writing letters pleading for the “rich” students to send money back home. Francis is now officially known as Chief Francis Ofoegbu because he is a traditional ruler in a small village in Nigeria. He travels frequently home to dispense traditional justice and maintains order with other village based elders. On why Nigerians are obsessed with titles, he has a simple answer; “titles open doors”.

2017-2018

Helen Ajibola Renner arrived in England in 1948 from the then Gold Coast (present day Ghana) inside a Nigerian ship, the Apapa. She can still vividly remember the journey and how she took a dislike to the smell of the newly painted ship. Born in 1933, she came to England with her sister and mother to study. After attending a girls school and higher education in Gloucestershire, England, she elected to study dentistry and was one of the first black girls to study dentistry in Guy's Dental School in London. She met her (late) husband at Dental school and says this is one of the greatest things that happened to her then; apart from the dental qualification she had from Guy's Dental School. On graduation, she worked for many years in different dental practices-including the NHS. She also served as a magistrate. She retired many years ago and now sings with a church choir. She has three children.

2017-2018

Henrietta Quartey: Henrietta Quartey was born in Accra, Ghana in 1960, This was two years after her country became the first country in Africa to gain its Independence. She did her elementary and secondary education before working as a secretary for an insurance company for sixteen years. She later joined her professional boxer husband, Thunder Quartey, in the UK and for many years worked as a housing support worker. After losing her job as a full time housing support worker, she decided to go back to study at 55 and hopes to get qualified to run her own housing support company. Thunder Quartey: Born in 1959 in Ghana, Thunder was studying to be an electrician when he dropped out of school to pursue a boxing career. He wanted to join a long line of boxers from the country that produces some of the most successful boxers from Africa. His fans named him “Thunder” after some of his opponents complained they felt they had been hit by thunder when he punched them in the ring. After 10 professional fights in Africa, most of which he won by knockout in the early 80s, a UK based journalist and boxing promoter signed him and two of his cousins to relocate and fight in England. For five years, he only managed to fight three times, two of which he won by knockouts. When the fights dried up, he trained as a boxing coach and eventually left boxing altogether when he could not get boxers to train. He regrets relocating to the UK and ending what could have been a glistening and successful boxing career, had he remained in Ghana. He now works as a security guard in a department store. His is a cautionary tale to other African boxing talents, whom he advises to remain on the continent if they want a shot at a world title.

2017-2018

Born in 1949 in Ghana, Julius left school at the age of 15 and started working with a Ghanaian company (The Farmers Council) until a wish to travel the world over took him to the docks in Accra. In 1973, he got his first job working as a deckman. He went on to work for shipping companies from Greece, Japan and Britain, traveling round the globe. His wanderlust and time on the high seas only ended when he got married and had a daughter. He then did a succession of factory, security and care jobs. He is now retired.

2017-2018

A consummate artist, Lekan likes acting and singing and still has dreams of releasing his first solo album. Born in Nigeria in 1975, he first came to Britain as part of a youth theatre for the Contacting the World project. Lekan returned to Nigeria after the performance in Manchester but not before he applied to study performing arts at a school in Manchester. When he returned and found himself unable to afford the £5000 fees, he started performing and working, hoping to raise the necessary cash. He eventually met his future wife, got married and is now a father of five. He is still performing part time and hopes to one day release his own songs.

2017-2018

Born in 1964, in Ghana, Matilda initially worked as a care assistant in Ghana. She met her husband Paul Asamoah Addo and moved to the UK to join him in 1983. Even now, she still works as a care assistant, a job she says she enjoys doing but which has a lot of daily challenges, especially since she has to work with people with various forms of disabilities. Her duties include anything from helping clients with their personal hygiene, to taking them out to shop or just have a drink. She has four children. The youngest, a girl, is just nine years old now. She reckons there is a need for African women in the UK and in the diaspora to unite and stop bitching about each other. If that could happen, the men who are also divided among themselves would also unite. Everyone would fight for one cause and so improve their lives.

2017-2018

Popularly known as Mama T, Pastor Matilda (Born 1955 in Nigeria) runs the Liverpool based pentecostal Faith Ministry and has been doing so since, as she puts it, she first heard the voice of God commanding her to start a prayer group in 1999. Born in 1955 in Nigeria, she worked first as a tour operator and later ran a nursery school in Nigeria. She eventually travelled with her sailor husband to Liverpool and has been living here since. Matilda is the main pastor in the Pentecostal church she created. She previously worked for twelve years as a hair dresser and is presently also a taxi driver with the Uber company in Liverpool. She started her church after she seemingly spoke directly to God and he asked her to create a prayer group. Before that, she attended the Gilbert Deya ministry and one other Pentecostal church. She says she did not get the religious fulfillment she wanted from the other churches, including from the Catholic church where she started out.

2017-2018

Born in Aden, a port city of Yemen from Somali parents, Mohamed moved back to Somaliland, a breakaway region of Somalia, but again fled to neigbouring Ethiopia because of the Somali civil war. While in Ethiopia, the UNHCR helped most of the Somali refugees to move to the United Kingdom which used to colonise Somalia. Most Somalis back then had heard rosy stories of life in the UK but on arrival, Mohamed said they were offered run down housing with no central heating. “Life was hard” he adds. Mohammed was initially given accommodation in Granby, Toxteth, a run-down part of Liverpool inhabited mostly by blacks and other ethnic minority people. He says his house and those of most other asylum seekers were attacked persistently by mostly mixed race and white teenagers in the area who probably didn’t like the influx of so many asylum seekers and refugees in the area. Mohamed ran away from school at 19, and with no qualifications, has done a number of unskilled jobs in the UK from security to care. He regrets abandoning school at such an early age and he says he has ensured all his children get the highest education they can get. He also advises anyone, whether they are migrants or not, to get a good education as it is the only way to get good jobs and a good life. He is married with eight children.

2017-2018

At the height of the 1981 race riots in Toxteth, occasioned by police brutality, Femi Sowande played a pivotal role in resolving the crisis as a community activist. Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1954, Femi arrived in the UK in 1973 to study Maths and Further Maths for his high school certification. He was briefly detained by immigration when he first landed at Heathrow airport because they did not initially believe he was in the UK for study purposes and would fly back to Nigeria at the end of his studies. Well, he is still here 45 years later. Though he has a degree in electrical engineering, he never used that and took another course in Community Regeneration and until his retirement, has been working as a community activist. He has headed or been an instrumental part of a number of black community related schemes, including the Steve Biko Housing Association. This was created following the 1981 Race Riots to provide decent housing to minority ethnic people who had problems accessing mainstream housing tenancies. He has two children.

2017-2018

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