Many of us have already heard about the closure of the Mella Center – a Pan African center which provided a space for conscious Africans to gather together to network, shop, eat, learn and gain inspiration… In London’s iconic Oxford Street, W1!
And I was inspired.
I felt a sense of relief that there was a centre which catered for someone like me – in the heart of the Westend. So you can imagine my frustration when I got a call about the its closure early last week from Segun, author of Black Egyptians, who introduced me to the center in December. I’ve been a regular since, meeting conscious people on a regular; like these siStars – Setkhmer and the Author & painter Cezanne Poetess.
Why did this happen? And how did this happen? You may ask.
Those questions don’t need much debating. The possibilities of such a Center going wrong are endless – but what about all the right the Center stood for and challenging our social norms? A center catering to Africans in one of Europe’s most popular streets… A Center which brought African businesses together in one hub… An African Center which shares the same postcode as some of the world’s most famous landmarks and designer stores… A centre privately owned in an area with the most fierce of completion and sky-high rent prices…
Who in their right mind takes all that on?
Only someone with guts and ambition to see his vision come alive at any cost and perhaps a few lose screws(!) would have the courage and strength to take such a bold step – alone. No matter his faults, praise most be given firstly to the most High for blessing brother Matsinhe with a vision most of us would be doubtful about executing.
If you ever visited the Mella Center within its short less-than-three-month span at the Oxford street address, it’s highly likely you would have met Matsinhe, and probably not realised he was the owner! Despite his calm, laid back persona and kind smile offered behind the Mella Cafe, I have a lot of respect for this man who is an African worrier in his own right, beating off the competition for as long as he could, that would gladly see a “Black business” fail.
However, as my wise Aunty Naa Merya would say, “no man is his own island“, or in this case, no warrior can fight an army of oppressors alone! If only the local community had been offered an active “share” of the center – could be in the way of committee members, shareholders, street team, something! I can almost guarantee that the Center would not have closed without a fight from the African community! Be it organising fundraising events protesting or even petitioning, we are a creative people who don’t like good things snatched from us – we could have come up with something!
I spoke to Matshine last week to find out what was going on. He sounded bereaved, however he was hopeful the name will continue to bare fruit at another location. As to directly answering my question “why the Center closed down”, he said it was a long story he’d rather not get into but he did share a gist of something along the lines of ‘keep your friends near, and your enemies closer’, and of course, what we might have already guessed – demands for rent from the landlord.
We need to be supportive of each other not just when you’re succeeding, but also in hard times. I encouraged Matshine to get a statement out to the public to avoid rumours and wrong-sayings spreading. I’m glad to have seen this message on the Mella Center Facebook page, with many positive comments of encouragement left.
The Mella Centre might be down, but the Phoneix will rise in due time. Mella Center – as we say in Ghana- Ayeeekoo!
Check out my best posts inspired my the Mella Center!
I also salute all the stall owners! May your vision in what you’re doing continue on an even greater and more successful path.