Black History Month: Black Voices – Tesfu Gessesse, The Welcoming

Born in Tigray, Ethiopia Tesfu Gessesse came to the UK in 1986 and moved to Scotland in 1989. He was educated in England and Scotland and now works as Director at the Edinburgh based Welcoming Association.

A strong believer in active citizenship, Tesfu has served as a board member across a range of organisations including Africa Centre Scotland, Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), North Edinburgh News, North Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Centre and NHS Education for Scotland. 

The Welcoming Association was founded to deliver a cultural integration programme to the most marginalised and isolated asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers (New Scots) in Edinburgh and their core aim is to enable New Scots to build friendships and support networks within their new communities.

As we mark Black History Month, we are making space on our platforms for Black voices and here Tesfu tell us why this is important to him.  He says,

“Black History Month recognises the contributions made by African and Caribbean people to this country and acknowledges Scotland’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. This recognition is important as Scotland benefitted heavily from the slave trade and plantation ownership.

“Today, Scotland’s Black population is growing but there remains a lack of meaningful policy design to address the distinct social, economic and political marginalisation felt by African and Caribbean people who live here.

“2020 has been a challenging year for people across the world but was compounded for Black people by recent events. The sad deaths of George Floyd in the USA and Mercy Baguma in Glasgow have highlighted racism and marginalisation that Black people have long endured.

“The theme of this year’s BHM is celebrating black voices which is crucial to promote understanding and effective policy change. I would like to share four acts of solidarity that were very important to me as a Black person:

  • The Black Live Matters marches in Glasgow and Edinburgh following the death of George Floyd, which drew people from all walks of life.
  • The public outrage regarding the living conditions of asylum seekers in Glasgow following the mass stabbings in the Glasgow Park Inn Hotel which has once again brought the treatment of asylum seekers into focus.
  • The order by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to a public inquiry into the Sheku Bayoh’s death in police custody. 
  • The effective campaign by many organisations in Glasgow following the tragic death of Mercy Baguma.

“I believe Scotland’s BAME community has and will continue to make a positive contribution towards this country’s future.  Therefore, the Government and COSLA should continue their commitment by adopting progressive policies that challenge the marginalisation of people of colour in Scotland.”

“There are few books on the experiences of African and Caribbean people in Scotland, that said, Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road provides an informative account of growing up as a Black person in Scotland. The book has also been well received by participants of the Welcoming Association’s Creative Art Group.”


For more information of Black Story Month 2020 in Scotland please visit https://www.blackhistorymonthscotland.org/whats-on

The Welcoming Association provides a range of activities for more than 1600 New Scots from 80 different nationalities and is supported by more than 60 volunteers from the local community. Since 2016 The National Lottery Community Fund has supported their Befriending Programme – creating opportunities for New Scots to meet with and form networks with people from their local community.

The Welcoming Association services are open to New Scots who live in Edinburgh. Contact them at info@thewelcoming.org.


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