We’ve Come A Long, Long Way Together…
Afrocats Meet Little Amal At Manchester Day 2022
On Sunday 19th June, the streets of central Manchester were buzzing with anticipation for the first time in three years at Manchester Day 2022.
Among the Brazilian drumming, Bhangra beats, Turkish dancing, and the myriad of artistic and flamboyant floats and displays, the solidarity of the international community on British streets was palpable.
It was also the return of Little Amal.
With the help of Handspring Puppet Company and Walk the Plank, Little Amal has quite literally come a long way since her first visit to Manchester at the end of her ground-breaking 8,000-kilometre journey through Europe from Syria, The Walk, in November 2021.
And it was deeply moving for young Afrocats to witness her presence up close.
Presenting her with a giant hand-crafted flower infused with the essence of ‘home’ and Afrocats’ likes, loves, and international heritages from Barbados, Ghana, Nigeria, and Jamaica to Iran, Pakistan, and the Philippines and beyond, they stood in solidarity with a young girl far from home, without her mother, and without a place to call her own.
She was welcomed to Manchester with open arms once again.
But Little Amal is always welcome wherever she goes.
Because Little Amal is but a giant puppet onto whom we spectators project our hopes, fears and dreams via the pathos of her turmoil, which has trailed in her shadow since she embarked on her epic trek.
Turmoil that thousands of ordinary human beings worldwide must face every day.
So let’s zoom out for a moment, and think about the global picture since Little Amal first arrived on Mancunian soil.
Life on Earth appears to be going from bad to worse.
Global circumstances since the emergence of Covid has been drastically worsened by Russia’s assault on Ukraine, affecting 25 of Africa’s poorest nations dependent on importing inexpensive cereals from the region, and partly causing the current cost-of-living crisis.
Over the past year, more than 80,000 migrants from Hong Kong have fled the city’s crackdown on civil liberties.
Twenty-three migrants have died in stampede as thousands attempt to enter the Spanish enclave Melilla from Morocco.
And our planet still faces a cataclysmic increase in climate refugees - or environmental migrants - from regions becoming increasingly prone to extreme weather conditions.
Is there hope for anything right now?
Many of the young people who come to us at Afrocats may know children like Little Amal, and they may have personally experienced similar things that she has endured on her symbolic crossing to safety from conflict, ethnic and racial discrimination, and violence.
To greet Little Amal in person was akin to our Afrocats showing solidarity with and amongst themselves, extending a warm British welcome where they may not necessarily have been on the receiving end of one themselves due to their legal status, their ethnic background, or colour of their skin.
A little girl from a faraway land who has been through so much, who is determined to thrive despite intense adversity, and remains open to new opportunities and expressions of love from her supporters.
Afrocats work tirelessly to alleviate the fallout of these situations on refugees and asylum seekers like Little Amal, and first-generation British children whose families have fled conflict and devastation.
And our numbers are only increasing.
We harness the arts and community involvement to actively include and support vulnerable young people and their families to seize their moment, and to help increase the feelgood factor in life where many of them struggle to think about feeling good when their survival is at risk, when they can barely stay afloat in times of emotional and economic trauma.
And so at Manchester Day, our young Afrocats danced together with Little Amal, hollered with Stanley Grove Primary School that refugees are welcome here, and greeted thousands of mesmerised onlookers.
They still felt able to enjoy the good times and embrace the carnival spirit - Mancunian-style! - and for a brief moment, they forgot about the harsh reality that we all find ourselves part of right now.
And alongside Little Amal, they see themselves represented in the arts and community in ways that they don’t always have the opportunity to witness.
Little Amal proves with her boundless optimism and innocence that no matter your ethnic background or legal status, the arts truly have the power to move society and bring about awareness and change, while providing limitless opportunities for wider collaboration and cohesion.
Little Amal, you may be a giant puppet, but because of the courage, hope, and strength you inspire at Afrocats, we have to praise you like we should.
And for those at the back:
Refugees are STILL welcome here.
To donate and help Afrocats support vulnerable young asylum seekers, refugees, and their families, visit our Support Us page.