Oral History Interview - Patrick Vernon

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Oral History Interview - Patrick Vernon

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Audio recording of an oral history interview with Patrick Vernon OBE, born Wolverhampton 1961.

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Photographs copyright Emma Davies.



"I took a DNA test to find the African side of my family history after some documentary research. Mitochondrial DNA test provides invaluable data of one’s chromosomal, a genetic footprint that can be matched with similar results around the world. This DNA is passed down almost unchanged from generation to generation on the maternal line. Scientists believe that this DNA can be ultimately traced back to one woman who lived around 150,000 years ago and who is commonly referred to as Mitochondrial Eve in Africa

My result pinpointed to a village called Kedougou in Senegal. I went there to trace more of my family history, first to the Roots Festival in Gambia and then on to Dakar in Senegal.

Roots give you a sense of identity. By tracing my family history I learnt a lot about myself, I felt validated, located into world history and into Britain, London and therefore Hackney. It gave me a context; migration, colonisation, globalisation. I think that if we have historical understanding of the past then we can link that to contemporary issues that face us living in Hackney today.

It’s about belonging. I think we all need that sense of belonging. Young people need a sense of belonging especially in a changing, uncertain globalise world. I believe that if all young Black people could go and stand in the slave forts on the east and west coasts of Africa they would have a better understanding of their history, of what their ancestors went through as well as the significant contribution that people of African descent have made through world history. They would have a clearer understanding of their roots. And this might then make a real difference to the issues around violence and knife crime. "

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