Interview with Agatha Kabera, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Baba Yangu Foundation
This year for Black History Month, we are shining a spotlight on some of the Black-led voluntary organisations in Glasgow taking action to create change. The Baba Yangu Foundation is a fantastic charity that supports African and Caribbean people with mental health issues living in Scotland. They recently launched a new project called STAND UP AND STAND OUT, which aims to create a safe and empowering space for young Black people who are experiencing racism. We caught up with the Co-founder and Executive Director Agatha Kabera, to find out more about the project.
VG: Hi Agatha! Could you tell us a little bit about Baba Yangu?
AK: Baba Yangu Foundation is a Glasgow-based, mental well-being charity. At Baba Yangu we believe in a ‘For Us, By Us’ model of community care, support, and engagement. Baba Yangu provides community-based, community-led, support for mental health issues for African and Caribbean people in Scotland, with a particular focus on young people aged between 12-18 years old.
VG: What is your mission?
AK: To eradicate the stigma and isolation that surround mental health issues. To equip young Black people with the tools of confidence, self-esteem, and sense of self to navigate growing up Black in Scotland, ensuring that in the process young people feel heard, seen, and supported.
VG: Tell us more about the STAND UP AND STAND OUT project.
AK: This project aims to create a unique safe space for young Black people experiencing racism. The objective is to empower young Black people, by improving their emotional resilience and confidence whilst providing a supportive network and community to both participants and their families, to support them to navigate the school system.
VG: Why is there a need for this project?
AK: The urgency of this project is powered by multiple requests from carers seeking support for their young people who have experienced racism at school. This project is a direct response to these requests and the lack of structural support and care from the school system. As a charity whose mission is to reduce the stigma and isolation that mental health problems present, we are acutely aware of how racism affects mental wellbeing.
Reports have shown that the majority of Black British pupils have experienced racism at school (Weal, 2020). YMCA statistics highlight the high numbers of children exposed to racism at school, with 95% of Black students observing racism within their school (YMCA England & Wales, 2020). These high rates of racism within British schools are mismanaged, with reports showing that the majority of teachers (71% in Scottish schools) lack the confidence to recognise racist incidents within their schools (Show Racism the Red Card, 2021).
Therefore, in response, at Baba Yangu we have recognised the need for spaces curated specifically and exclusively for young Black people in Scotland to feel connected, heard, and supported away from systems of harm.
VG: What kind of activities do you do?
AK: The project is for 10 young Black people (aged 11-16) to create, and record a podcast episode documenting their process of designing and producing a mural celebrating Black culture and history. Each session works as a different component of celebrating and learning about Black history and culture in Scotland.
Activities include visiting a radio studio, learning how to use recording and editing equipment, meeting and interviewing Black Scottish artists, visiting existing murals in Glasgow, creating a mural in Transmission Art Gallery and hosting a ‘pizza party’ to showcase the mural.
Above: young people take part in the STAND UP STAND OUT project.
VG: How is the STAND UP STAND OUT project effective in supporting young Black people?
AK: At Baba Yangu we want to make a difference for young people experiencing racism now. We believe that providing young Black people with a safe space curated for them, in which they can form a sense of connection, and confidence whilst celebrating and learning about their own cultures and histories will support their navigation through the school system. We want to use creative activities to foster connection, and community and provide a space that focuses on joy and enjoyment.
VG: Thanks Agatha – it’s been great to hear about the work you are doing.
To find out more about Baba Yangu and how you can get involved or support the organisation, visit www.babayangufoundation.org.