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From the Canopy Walkway to Wembley Way

3 June 2008 by Richard

Smiling man in football shirt in front a wooden sign

The sign reads: Atta Rainforest Camp. Iwokrama Canopy Walkway. Dedicated this day July 9 2005. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Iwokrama International Centre founded by the Government of Guyana and the Commonwealth Secretariat. Designed and constructed by Colin Edwards and the people of the northern Rupununi.

Hello there
As I said in my previous blog I recently attended the Commonwealth Association of Museums conference in Guyana where I was fortunate enough to meet a number of museum professionals from Africa and the Caribbean.   One of them, Terry Nyambe, Assistant Keeper of Ichthyology at the Livingstone Museum in Zambia sent me the attached picture.   Terry was constantly telling us all how beautiful Zambia was and looking at the following website I agree: http://www.zambiatourism.com/travel/places/museum.htm.

The picture also proves two things.  One that I did actually visit the rainforest and two that I am a Leeds United fan!   Not something that everyone normally brags about but to me it is more than just shouting at a group of overpaid men running around a field.  No, it is about passion, belonging and indeed heritage.  You might think these are bold statements but let me expand.  

My family history is something I am both interested in and proud.   My Guyanese and Yorkshire parents, my friends, my hometown and the environment I grew up in have shaped to a great degree my view of the world. My brother and most of my friends were Leeds fans, so it was natural for me to follow in their footsteps; it made me feel part of a larger group with a shared passion.  But Leeds United’s ground, Elland Road, in the early 80s in particular was a haven of racist abuse and bigotry, often aimed at opposing Black and Asian players and fans: http://www.kickitout.org/.  

Sometimes I would feel very uncomfortable when hundreds of people all chanted something racist but at the same time I refused to leave or walk away.   I am a firm believer that there is no place that Black and minority ethnic individuals should not be.  There are no enclaves which we should not share.   I am proud to be a Yorkshireman, and even though we were rubbish in the recent League One play offs at Wembley, I am a loyal Leeds fan.   It is part of my very rich and diverse heritage.  

It has also been very satisfying that at the very core of Leeds United teams in the past few years have been a number of Black players.  For instance, the South African player Lucas Radebe is still idolized at Leeds even though he stopped playing several years ago.   Interestingly he used to play for a team called Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa, a name I am sure is well known by many music aficionados (the band really are Leeds United supporters!). What is an uncomfortable juxtaposition though is how some people chant his name but might also come out with a racist comment.   I have not yet quite managed to get to grips with this concept.

The International Slavery Museum looks to show how people of the African Diaspora, including footballers, have shaped the world and achieved in all sorts of fields and disciplines: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/black_achievers_wall.asp

For me, however illogical and infuriating it can be, watching a game of football and feeling like I have as much right to be there as anyone else, is part of that.   

Watch this space.

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