The Somo Sisters Oral History Record Launch Event and Celebration
On May 19th, we gathered our community to celebrate the Somo Sisters Launch.
Last year, we launched one of the most ambitious projects in the history of WODIN: the Somo Sisters Oral Histories Project. Somo Sisters is an audio and written archive of the stories of eleven Black immigrant women, who travelled from their home countries to settle here in Liverpool. We felt it was important that these courageous, motivated, and passionate women’s stories be archived for future generations to hear, so we made that happen.
We’ve come so far since the start of this project. Those stories now reside in the Liverpool Central Library. We also collected them into a top-selling book, the Somo Sisters Tapestry, which you can purchase here. All proceeds go towards our work to end digital poverty in black migrant communities.
It has been a beautiful experience that has brought our community together and given us space to reflect on our experiences. We, as WODIN, are so grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and all Lottery players, plus everyone involved who made the Somo Sisters Oral History record a reality.
The Somo Sisters Celebration Event
It was such a joy to celebrate the whole experience on May 19th at our Somo Sisters Launch Party. Take a look at the video below to see what we got up to on the day:
If you’re short of time, then feel free to got for the Snippet of the highlights below
It was a gift to gather so many of the participants and supporters of the Somo Sisters Oral Histories Project. Over 130 invited guests showed up. These included councillors, an MP, Ms. Ekua Bayun (a councillor in the Greater Manchester Green Party), Mr. Garth Dallas (the Chairperson of the Liverpool Commonwealth Association), committee members from the Ugandan Community Association Liverpool (UCAL), the chairperson of the Nigerian Liverpool Community Association, Kenyan Community Association Leaders, John Mkoji (Chairman of the Kenya Men Group Liverpool), Agnes Manthi (Treasurer of the Ushirika Kenya Ladies group), Jane Muchina (Treasurer of the Agape Fellowship), Joanne Morris (National Chair of the UK Cursillo), Jenny Maguire (Lay Director of the Liverpool Cursillo), and representatives from the Kenya Ushirika Sisters.
The event was also graced by four representatives from the Support and Action for Women’s Network (SAWN). We were super chuffed that the SAWN CEO Mrs Rose Ssali (who is also the lead of the Mama Health and Poverty Partnership) and our mentor showed up in person, too.
All these amazing guests came together on a Friday afternoon to celebrate the incredible legacy and archive we have created.
It was a beautiful, sunny and warm day full of stories, dance, connection, networking, lots of wonderful photo ops, and good food. We were even graced by the presence of the Lord Mayor of Liverpool Her Worship Mary Rasmussen! It meant so much to have someone so central to the day-to-day running of Liverpool’s civic duties attend our event and witness the incredible work of the Somo Sisters. Her presence, as well as the archive’s inclusion in the Liverpool record office at the Liverpool Central Library, was an acknowledgment of how crucial our community is to the city that we call home.
The WODIN team were super busy in the run up to the event. None of this would have happened without our volunteers, who ran around shopping for all the various drinks, utensils, and decor items. They even put the venue together with the guidance of Vistas Events’ Bukola Olushoga, to get it red carpet ready. It was a beautiful sight to see.
A huge vote of thanks to Orla Smith for getting all the digital stuff ready for the event. Massive thank you to Rev Sarpong, Mrs. Ngwa, Rachel Barbara, Ene Udele, Folashade Silva, Dr. Beth Kamau, Ma Rosemary Ojukwu, and Dr. Kalungi for all your efforts behind the scenes.
We had the most beautiful and delicious cake made by Siesta Cakes, and Kimz Cuisine had our taste buds on joyous overload with a culturally appropriate buffet. We cannot thank them enough for this.
Prossy1234, led by Mrs. Prossy Masuku, had everyone on their feet with their showcasing of various African dances like the kadodi, maganda dance, etc. It was so wonderful that the Lord Mayor asked if she could be taught how to do them too!
A massive thank you to the MC of the day, Mrs. Justine Odwongo of MindBodyandSoul (MBS), who is also a director of WODIN. She showed up and kept us on schedule, even though she had a flight to catch at 4pm on the same day!
Mrs. Rosemary Ojukwu got up in front of the crowd to share her story and walk us through WHY she joined the project. Quite riveting stuff.
Our Projects Admin Folashade Silva, who is also a volunteer with WODIN, also shared her experience working with WODIN and why she, too, felt she had to share her story in the Somo Sisters Tapestry, even though she wasn’t one of the original ten who recorded their stories.
Last but not least, WODIN CEO Mrs. Sylvia Kalungi was so excited that, in her appreciation speech, she gave us a demonstration of how they say “thank you” in her culture: kneeling down and bowing to the person/s you are showing your gratitude to. More so if they are adults or people of substance, as we had at the celebration.
We watched snippets of all the Somo Sisters’ stories on a wide screen, which got the guests very excited about listening to the stories at the Liverpool Central Library and getting a copy of the book, too.
You can watch the video we played at the event here:
We are sending love to all of you who joined us, and to those who weren’t able to be there but have helped us along the way. Stay blessed.
What is the Somo Sisters Project?
You may wonder what “Somo Sisters” means. “Somo”, or to “kusoma”, is a Swahili word that means to learn or read. Somo Sisters, aka the SoSi Project, was launched for the following purposes:
- To explore, record, save, protect, and preserve Black/African heritage in a European environment. To celebrate the traditions, cultures, customs, skills, and knowledge of the different Black communities that make up the Somo Sisters.
- To connect our people and the communities we live in, to our history, cultures, and traditions.
- To share our journeys to the UK – in particular; what parts of our culture we would like to see our children, community, and British society adopt.
- To share what parts of our cultures we are happy to have left behind in the motherland.
The Somo Sisters represent a variety of cultures – thirteen to be exact. Our heritage as Black immigrants in the UK is at risk and has been for years. The customs, traditions, skills, and knowledge, passed down to us through generations of our parents and grandparents, might end with our generation, if we do not pass it on to our children.
With the generous £38,005 grant awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, WODIN was super grateful to launch the SoSi Oral Histories Project in September 2022. The project centers around recording the oral histories of eleven Black women from African and Caribbean backgrounds residing in Liverpool.
These courageous women, through their candid and thought-provoking stories, aim to provide future generations with a deeper understanding of their cultural heritage and foster better relationships within UK society.
More from the Somo Sisters Launch Event
Enjoy the event in full colour here:
Feel free to visit Liverpool Central Library to listen to our stories. And grab a copy of the Somo Sisters Tapestry right here.