2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday November 25, 2020

Updated on Thursday December 3, 2020

portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Femi Bankole

Femi Bankole

Co-founder , Black and Irish

How social media storytellers Black and Irish are exploring history and overcoming stereotypes

The Europeana Sport season explores how sport shapes our sense of self and our sense of Europe, through a variety of remarkable cultural heritage objects. As part of the season, we are looking at how organisations are using sport to overcome social problems and explore heritage. Today, Femi Bankole tells us about how Black and Irish use social media to share stories that break down Black stereotypes and expand what it means to be Black and Irish.

main image
Title: Yasmine Phillips
Creator: Yasmine Phillips for Black and Irish
Date: 30 September 2020
Institution: Black and Irish
Country: Ireland
CC BY-SA

Can you tell us about Black and Irish and your involvement?

Femi:  Black and Irish is a volunteer-activist community that uses social media to celebrate the successes of Black indigenous people of colour in Ireland and highlight their struggles.

Myself and two friends set up Black and Irish this year because of conversations we’d had around George Floyd - ‘This isn't an Irish issue, why are we getting involved?’ I've lived here all my life, and it's an issue to me, and I'm Irish, so it's an Irish issue. So, let's shine a light onto this and get people to pay attention. It has grown organically and we now have 8,000 followers on Facebook, 42,000 on Instagram, and a couple of thousand on TikTok

Why is Black and Irish important to you? 

Our platform has been used as a lightning rod to unite everyone. Forget about racism, forget about the issues and the struggles. It’s about coming together, to talk about your heritage, to figure out our history. 

There are very specific stereotypes that Black people are denoted against - we're great at sport or really talented at music, and that's it. There’s far more than that to us. Younger Black people play into those stereotypes - when the only successful Black people they see are athletes or musicians, then they think that if they’re going to be successful themselves, that’s what they have to pursue. Why don't we ever see any Black teachers in Ireland? Because Black students are not seeing any Black teachers. So how can they aspire to be one? We're trying to break that cycle. 

Why do people share their stories on your social media channels?

Stories have a power on us as human beings, regardless of our politics. When you hear stories, an outpouring of emotion, or someone being vulnerable, you can empathise with it. We felt that was a very good way to highlight the racial struggles of people of colour in Ireland.

What’s your interest in Europeana Sport?

The Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI) said they’d like to archive what we do. The initial connection to Europeana came through that. We’re going to run a Black and Irish people in sports week in January 2021 to highlight what it’s like being a sports person who is a person of colour in Ireland. We hope that the stories shared on Black and Irish will make their way into Europeana’s sports collection.

What’s the link between Black and Irish and cultural heritage?

We all come from varying cultures. I'm Black and Irish. But if you were to delve into my Black roots, my African roots, I'm Nigerian, Yoruba. There's some rich, rich culture in there. A lot of people don't understand our culture, and don't understand our history, myself included. I’m interested in how we make this more mainstream. How do we get people more interested in their heritage? I feel like I should have been interested in my heritage 10 years ago. How do we get that taught in school? 

October was Black History Month and we’re still fighting for similar things today as we were 200 years ago. And similar mistakes are being made. It is bewildering to me that we're still having those same conversations today. Regardless of colour of skin, we are not aware of our heritage, we're not aware of our history, we're not educated enough in it. 

Title: Femi Bankole talks to Christine Kinealy in an interview on Instagram for Black History Month
Creator: Black and Irish
Date: 18 October 2020
Institution: Black and Irish
Country: Ireland
CC BY-SA

People in the cultural heritage sector have a huge part to play in our progression as a human race. A lot of the younger generation are creating their own culture, their own heritage at the moment. But they're very far away from our heritage of the past. We need to find some way of disseminating that information down, so it doesn't die off with the older generation, because it's more important now than ever.

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