Making us proud Representing the nation Leading a generation
www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk £3.95 WHERE SOLD
CONTENTS 4 WELCOME MESSAGE By Catherine Ross
34 BLACK LIVES MATTER IS ALSO A PART OF BLACK BRITISH HISTORY
8 MARCUS RASHFORD, FOOTBALLER, CAMPAIGNER AND BESTSELLING AUTHOR
36 100 YEARS OF SERVICE AND SACRIFICE By the Royal British Legion
10 FIRST WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE: GERSHOM BROWNE 14 LEWIS HAMILTON - JUST A SHY KID FROM STEVENAGE
By Patrick Vernon
38 Q&A WITH FISAYO AKINADE 40 INTERVIEW WITH LUCY ST LOUIS 42 LONDON’S FIRST BLACK POLICE OFFICER: DETECTIVE SERGEANT ROBERTS QPM
43 SECOND WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE: ARTHUR WINT OD MBE 45 ‘WE HAD TO WORK VERY HARD AND GET THE AIR FORCE GOING’ SAM KING 46 BACK TO AFRICA WAS NOT MARCUS GARVEY’S PAN-AFRICANISM FOCUS By Kwaku 16 PROUD TO BE WHO I AM... BLACK, A LONDONER AND A FIGHTER By Avril Nanton 18 A BLACK COWBOY STORY WITH A BRILLIANTLY CONTEMPORARY MESSAGE By Catherine Ross 20 PROUD TO BE By Pawlet Brooks 22 BELONGING: FATE AND CHANGING REALITIES By Herman Ouseley
24 PROUD TO BE... By Lynda Louise Brooks 26 WHEN MALCOLM X TOOK ON BRITISH RACISM By Ciara Garcha 28 SECOND WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE: HUBERT ‘BARON’ BAKER 30 BLACK HISTORY MONTH IS A GOOD OPPORTUNITY TO REFLECT ON WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE By The Rt Hon Lord Paul Boateng
32 ADJOA ANDOH... BUT YOU KNOW HER AS LADY DANBURY
PUBLISHERS: Ian Thomas, Abdul Rob EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Lynda Louise Burrell EDITOR: Catherine Ross CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Kwaku PRODUCTION MANAGER: David Ruiz
50 INTERVIEW WITH ANGEL COULBY
52 HOW OLIVE MORRIS FOUGHT FOR BLACK WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN BRITAIN 54 INTERVIEW WITH GUVNA B 56 Q&A WITH DEREK REDMOND 58 SECOND WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE: NORMA BEST
60 INTERVIEW WITH LUKE SMITH 62 Q&A WITH JOHNNIE FIORI 64 CLAUDIA JONES: THE MYTH BUSTER By Kwaku 66 MICHAEL FULLER FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH 68 INTERVIEW WITH GLORIA ONITIRI 70 POWERFUL JAMAICAN ART EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE VIEW 72 INTERVIEW WITH ‘ANGELIENA’ FILMMAKER UGA CARLINI
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Mo Sadegh PRESS & PR: Richard Hillgrove, 6 Hillgrove PR DESIGNED BY: Becky Wybrow ADVERTISING: Ayana Hussein SPECIAL THANKS TO: Stephen Bourne, The Royal British Legion, Mike Bridge, Cherron Inko-Tariah MBE, The RAF, Bishop Grosseteste University and all our contributors, supporters and advertisers.
B L A C K H I STO RY M O N T H 2 0 2 1
PROUD TO BE Let’s make it a festival of celebration
Last year, I wrote that Black Lives Matter protests around the world had sparked a commitment among many individuals and organisations to educate themselves about Black history, heritage and culture – as part of understanding racism and standing in solidarity against it. So a year on, has anything changed for the better?
The short answer is yes and no. Anti-racism protests have certainly raised awareness of the issues with more people open to having a progressive debate on racism, including the UK’s colonial past. However, it still feels as if there’s a very long way to go. The independent Civil Society report on the state of race and racism in England to the United Nations, curated by the Runnymede Trust, shows that racism is systemic in England with BME groups facing disparities across health, housing, the criminal justice system, education, employment, immigration and political participation. In stark contrast, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, set up by the Government in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, denied the existence of systemic racism, saying “we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.” Likewise, businesses were quick to declare their support for the Black Lives Matter protests, but there are still no Black CEOs in the boardrooms of FTSE 100
By Catherine Ross Editor of Black History Month Founder Director, Museumand The National Caribbean Heritage Museum companies in the UK and only 13 currently report any ethnicity pay gap. Despite the many challenges, it’s important to remember the impact of Black Lives Matter as we head into Black History Month 2021, and beyond, into 2022. The UK had the largest Black Lives Matter protests in the world last summer outside the US, which quickly turned the spotlight onto historical and systemic racism in the UK. The pressure will hopefully be on institutions and businesses to take tangible action on structural racism as reports reveal the scale of the problem – from the media and football to entertainment and business. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has called for mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting by 2023. In August, West Yorkshire launched its Root Out Racism pledge, involving around 500 organisations and community allies across the region, with leaders saying the pledge is needed due to institutional racism in the UK. Hopefully, slowly, collectively, these kinds of acknowledgement are signs of the changes that are so long overdue. It’s been a challenging time for many Black and Brown people, with so much in the
media about racism, inequality and injustice. We wanted the theme of Black History Month 2021 to focus on celebrating being Black or Brown, and to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture – in their own way, in their own words. Our Proud To Be campaign is inspired by Black Lives Matter and invites Black and Brown people of all ages throughout the UK to share what they are Proud To Be. Making Black History Month 2021 personal and unique to individuals, families and communities, focusing on how we’re all making history all the time in our own ways, as well as the contributions and achievements of Black and Brown people throughout history. By asking people to share what they are Proud To Be we can share both individual stories and the vast richness of diversity that Black and Brown people bring to the UK. Black Lives Matter means people being able to live life to the fullest without having to compromise who they are. Everyone deserves the right to be Proud To Be everything they are and want to be in life. The Proud To Be campaign will also focus on encouraging children and young people to share what they are Proud To Be. We’ve created a new resource pack for schools to integrate Black history across the whole curriculum all year round, and to support teachers and young people to talk about and understand issues of race and equality. As always, honouring our past and ancestors is important in shaping our future, but it’s also important to honour our present - and ourselves. Safiya Mawusi, who helps to organise Black Lives Matter protests in Cambridge, was inspired by Rosa Parks to tackle how her city thinks about race. Specifically, Safiya was inspired by the way Rosa Parks and others boycotted the bus system for a whole year in 1955. Knowing our past is helping us to change our future and hopefully that’s a lesson that will eventually be learnt at a systemic, institutional and structural level. I’m Proud To Be Black every single day and this Black History Month, it’s time to celebrate every single one of our stories.
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y role is varied; day to day I can be assessing anything from a 3.5 tonne to a maximum weight Heavy Goods Vehicle, to trailers and Public Service Vehicles. Throughout the day I am conducting visual checks of vehicles, climbing up into lorry cabs and going down into the service pit to
‘Since joining The DVSA I have felt a sense of belonging, support and feel acknowledged for my work and efforts.’
assess the underneath of vehicles, checking their safety and condition. I am ensuring these vehicles are safe and adhere to Government guidelines. Alongside this I conduct technical tests, seeing if vehicles are meeting the required criteria and are compliant. I then issue certificates to reflect this. These tests ensure high standards are maintained and vehicles are safe to be on Britain’s roads. My work contributes to the safety of all road users and brings me great satisfaction. Since joining The DVSA I have felt a sense of belonging, support and feel acknowledged for my work and efforts. I collaborate with many colleagues across the Agency and The DVSA ensures all their staff are part of an inclusive environment. I work with a diverse team with varied experience and cultures, that embraces differences. This allows each individual to bring their own perspective and talent to their role and team. The DVSA really feels like a family and I would recommend working for this fantastic Agency.
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MARCUS RASHFORD, footballer, campaigner, bestselling author and a just a kid from South Manchester If you check out his biography on Wikipedia it says…. Marcus Rashford MBE is an English professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Manchester United and the England national team.
However, it really only tells half the story. In his 23 years on planet earth, Marcus has achieved far more than most top athletes twice his age. Marcus is famous worldwide for his skills both on and off the pitch.
OK we know he is a very talented footballer and plays for one of the top clubs in the world, Manchester United. However, not many 23-year-old footballers can claim being an FA Cup winner, League Cup Winner, Manchester United player of the year 2019/20 and in 2020 Footballer of the Year in England. He still makes a noise on the pitch for Manchester United and is contracted until 2023 on over £10million a year too.
Image Credit: Vlad1988 / Shutterstock.com Image Credit: ph.FAB / Shutterstock.com
But before he was a Manchester United and England footballer, Marcus was just an average kid from Wythenshawe, South Manchester, and remembers his own hardships during his schools’ days, having received free school meals whilst growing up. Not prepared to see kids go hungry and miss free school meals, using his celebrity clout, he single handedly called on ministers to offer a guaranteed “meal a day” to all school pupils in England in financially struggling families. The Manchester-born star drew on his own experience of childhood poverty to raise money for food charities during the Covid-19 pandemic. As lockdown hit and schools were temporarily closed, Rashford partnered with food distribution charity FareShare to help cover some of the free school meal deficit. The campaign was able to cover three million meals a week to the most vulnerable across the UK, but requests soon became overwhelmed following the Government’s decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holidays. In an open letter to the Cabinet, Marcus pleaded with the Prime Minister to reverse the decision. “As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches. Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us.” He went on to tell MP’s, “While the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority.” Prime Minister, Boris Johnson extended the scheme two days later. Then in October, Marcus launched a second petition urging the Government to again extend free school meals through
“WHILE THE EYES OF THE NATION ARE ON YOU, MAKE THE U-TURN AND MAKE PROTECTING THE LIVES OF SOME OF OUR MOST VULNERABLE A TOP PRIORITY.” the half-term and Christmas holidays, eventually pressuring ministers into providing £170million of extra funding. Rashford made tackling food poverty in Britain one of the key issues of the coronavirus crisis, raising huge awareness and money for the issue via the FareShare charity. While the footballer is thought to have donated a substantial sum of his own cash to the campaign, his role in inspiring others to donate helped cement his position on the top of the Giving List. Rashford was made an MBE in the delayed 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List,
in recognition of his services for vulnerable children in the UK during the pandemic. Now Marcus is inspiring school kids to start reading as he has become a bestselling author with his book You are a Champion which has been at the top of the Children book chart for four weeks. It is packed full of stories from Marcus’s own life, brilliant advice, and top tips from performance psychologist Katie Warriner. It shows you how to be the very BEST that you can be. It shows kids how to: • Be comfortable with who you are – you can’t be a champion until you’re happy being you! • Dream big • Practice like a champion • Get out of your comfort zone and learn from your mistakes • Navigate adversity in a positive way • Find your team • Use your voice and stand up for others • Never stop learning. It is therefore hard to think of someone else who has single handedly made such an impact across Britain in 2021.
Children post letters to their hero, Marcus Rashford
Black History Month thanks you, Marcus Rashford MBE, on behalf of all the school kids for your dedication and continued support. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 09
First World War Service and Sacrifice:
GERSHOM BROWNE (1898-2000)
orn in British Guiana (now Guyana), Gershom lived in rural Bagotsville. He was officially too young to enlist at the outbreak of the First World War as he was aged 17, but he was so eager to fight for his King and country that he forged his age as 18 and was accepted. He did not let his mother know he had volunteered for fear she would stop him. Gershom served with the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR) which was established in 1915. By the war’s end, the BWIR had registered 15,204 men from British Guiana and across the Caribbean. The BWIR was sent to North Africa to fight there and in Palestine against the forces of Ottoman Empire. At 19 and a sergeant Gershom was part of the BWIR when it attacked the Ottoman army and captured a bridge, an action that was later officially acknowledged as one of the most crucial within that war zone. When the war ended in 1918 Gershom was on the front-line, he described the Armistice as ‘a joyous time’ and went on to become part of the British and Commonwealth occupation force in Egypt. During World War One, sixteen soldiers from the BWIR were decorated for bravery but they lost 185 soldiers. A further 1,071 died of illness and 697 were wounded. After being demobilised Gershom returned to Guyana where he returned to Bagotsville working in agriculture, but he made good use of his military training, having been a scout in the army he knew how to move about in forests and became a successful diamond seeker.
10 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021
Not only was Gershom a successful farmer and family man, but also a village leader and served for many years on the Village Council. During a visit with him when he was in his mid-90s and already retired, two neighbours from the village who had a land dispute came to him to arbitrate the matter. Both parties laid out their case as Gershom Browne listened attentively. After a brief summary which was also based on his detailed knowledge of the village, its history and culture, he handed down his decision. That decision was accepted by both neighbours who left fully satisfied, and with no rancour. As an observer, I was immensely impressed with how Gershom so quickly settled what could have been a serious and long-drawnout issue between two village neighbours. At many of the observances of Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph in
Georgetown, Gershom always attended and laid a wreath. Official attendees and on-lookers always responded with a round of applause as he walked on steady feet to the Cenotaph to lay his wreath. Born in 1898, at age 102 he marched off triumphantly into eternity in 2000. He was one of the few Guyanese who had lived across three centuries. Before he left, and already a centenarian, Gershom wrote a book on “The History of Bagotville.” He is likely the only Guyanese who has written a first book after becoming a centenarian. An official plaque to his honour has been placed on the house in which he lived. “Caribbean, where are your heroes?” is a well-known song by Guyana’s Dave Martins. One answer is, World War One Hero, Gershom Onesimus Browne, of Bagotville, Region Three, Guyana.
The Army Engagement Group (AEG) tours the country engaging with a wide variety of people to give them a greater understanding of the British Army; who we are, what we do and how we contribute to society. The AEG has four teams that can offer various multi-media presentations and activities, before giving people the chance to meet and talk to some of our soldiers. THE ARMY ENGAGEMENT TEAM delivers the Army’s flagship multi-media presentation to invited guests from a local community. Each 45-minute presentation is followed by a question and answer session and a reception where you can meet soldiers and ask questions in a more informal setting. Guests are hosted by local members of the Army and presentations are held throughout the year - please contact RC-AEGfirstname.lastname@example.org to find out about the next presentation in your area. ©PALAssociates
THE ARMY BUSINESS AND COMMUNITIES ENGAGEMENT TEAM delivers a more focused version of our flagship presentation to bespoke audiences. The team delivers a 30-minute presentation followed by a question and answer session and can do so virtually or at your location. They can also deliver team-building tasks in support of professional development days. They speak to a wide range of audiences and any opportunity is considered, whether you are an employer, represent a community or network, or are arranging speakers for a larger conference or networking event.
THE ARMY YOUTH OUTREACH TEAM The Army Youth Outreach Team encourages young people to maximise their potential and challenge stereotypes. Working with schools, youth groups, communities and charitable organisations, the team delivers an interactive presentation which explores opportunities available in the Army and highlights the emphasis we place on personal development. The team also delivers various fun, practical activities which aim to develop communication skills, foster teamwork and grow self-confidence.
THE ARMY DIVERSITY ENGAGEMENT TEAM The Army Diversity Engagement Team engage and inform mixed audiences and communities, delivering their ‘Strength in Diversity’ presentation, showcasing the Army as a fully inclusive employer. They tackle popular misconceptions and highlight the importance we place on equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity or faith. The Team can also support other activities such as panel events, networking, community support or diversity seminars. Additional bespoke activity can also be discussed.
THE ARMY STEM YOUTH ENGAGEMENT TEAM The Army STEM Youth Engagement Team are drawn from the technical branches of the British Army to promote and encourage STEM within Schools and other educational and youth organisations. They deliver engaging physical and virtual workshops across the United Kingdom to help inspire the next generation of STEM experts. For more information and bookings, please visit www.stemview.co.uk
IS THERE A COST? There is no charge for our presentations or activities and we come with all our own equipment. HOW TO BOOK Requests for any of the Army Engagement Group’s teams can be made by emailing RC-AEGemail@example.com ADR010008
As the Permanent Secretary for the Home Office, and Civil Service Inclusion Champion for Race, I am honoured to support the Black History Month Magazine in celebrating the amazing contributions and achievements of members of our Black communities.
Here in the Home Office, I am proud to lead one of the most ethnically diverse departments in the Civil Service. In line with the Declaration on Government Reform, we must set the standard for inclusive workplaces where people can reach their full potential. This includes nurturing and attracting talent from the widest possible range of geographical, social and career backgrounds. Last year in the Home Office, we published an internal Race Action Plan and in March this year we established a Strategic Race Board, which was one of the Wendy Williams recommendations. The publication of Wendy Williams’ Windrush Lessons Learned Review has been a catalyst for change, and inspiration for our new values – Respectful, Compassionate, Collaborative and Courageous.
TRICIA HAYES CBE
HOME OFFICE SECOND PERMANENT SECRETARY I am delighted to be the Home Office Race Champion. Race equality is a top priority for the Home Office and for our leadership team. I want to ensure that we increase our representation of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic staff across the Home Office, particularly at senior levels, as well as improving their lived experience working in our organisation. We must also ensure we continue to improve the way we consider issues of race in all that we deliver for the communities we serve. We are committed to transparency about the work we are doing on race and, in addition to publishing Workforce Diversity data earlier this year, we have shared a document outlining our actions to increase Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff at senior levels. We have also refreshed our Home Office Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, with a focus on being evidence-led to ensure we address the multiple disadvantages of inequality and exclusion. Working closely with our staff network for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic staff – THE NETWORK – and other key partners, I am confident that we will continue to do a great deal more in this space to make a real difference for our colleagues and the public we serve.
12 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021
MATTHEW RYCROFT CBE HOME OFFICE PERMANENT SECRETARY
I am honoured and proud to be the current Chair of THE NETWORK, the Home Office’s staff network for Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues. THE NETWORK is the oldest and largest staff network in the Civil Service, established in 1999 and with a membership of over 4000, including a strong ally membership which continues to grow. I am very proud of our achievements in the past year as THE NETWORK continues to thrive despite the Covid-19 pandemic. THE NETWORK engaged with senior stakeholders in the organisation as an independent voice to discuss policies, practices and actions in light of Windrush. The group worked to improve the lived experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues and ensure that the Home Office is an attractive organisation to work in. THE NETWORK has increased and sustained engagement with the membership, providing practical support such as coaching on the recruitment process and hosting listening circles during the Black Lives Matter reactions; offering bespoke learning opportunities through landmark events across the year from Black History Month 2020 speakers; contributing to the framework for development programmes for entry grade staff; to an Annual General Meeting featuring keynote speakers lending their insights on unique diversity and inclusion challenges. These achievements were possible because of the support of a great leadership team and National Executive Committee colleagues from across the United Kingdom.
AMAUCHE ANURUKEM CHAIR OF THE NETWORK
I’m Richard and I’m a Project Delivery Manager in Border Force. What I like about my job is the variety of work we do and more importantly the focus on the people. It’s about regular engagement, active listening, collectively talking through issues and coming together to ensure we keep our borders secure. I think the discussions within the department around race – particularly in light of the Wendy Williams review – are still at a relatively early stage. However, more importantly it’s about making sure these issues are addressed throughout the year and not just in October. I think Black History Month helps this by celebrating some of the amazing things that our Black colleagues and friends have contributed to our society. There is a saying that “all you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough, but make sure you do all you can do”, so for me it’s about making sure that each and every one of us in the Home Office does all we can do. I’m proud to be part of an organisation that gives colleagues a real voice in shaping our present and future as well as ongoing support with careers and personal development. If you were thinking of joining the Home Office, the first thing I would say is “we need you!”. You will be joining an organisation with lots of amazing leaders and I would love you to come and help with this journey we are on.
ANGELA ESSEL SENIOR CIVIL SERVANT
I’m Angela and I’m a senior manager, leading a team of civil servants and industry secondees, working together to help protect national security. I’m also a senior diversity and inclusion sponsor, responsible for setting strategies and putting together initiatives that promote change to make things better for everyone. I think it’s important that the Home Office celebrates Black History Month because it recognises the contribution the Black community has made to this country in the past, and the contribution they will continue to make in the future. I’m proud to be a leading Black female in national security; there is still an unequal balance in this sector so it’s good that my voice is heard, and I can help drive change. There need to be more Black leaders in senior positions. We need to show that we are ambitious and be visible within our communities so that we can inspire others. I’m proud to bring my true and authentic self to work each day as well as being able to use my skills and experience across the Home Office. I was recently struck by the fact that the Home Office plays a role in the way we are able to wake up every day feeling safe and secure in our homes and communities. So, if you’re thinking of joining the Home Office and you’re ready for a challenge and want to make sure that the department is diverse and fully representative of the communities that it serves, then why not come and play your part in our mission of keeping everyone safe.
Every day our teams across the UK and beyond deliver outcomes to improve citizens’ lives. Our work is challenging, high profile and rewarding. To deliver it is a team effort, and we rely on talented people with a wide range of skills and experience. And that’s where you come in: whether your skills lie in customer service or accounting, software engineering or making policy, it’s likely we’ll have a role you’ll be interested in. Your ideas and input will mean so much more working with us, because everyone brings their own insights, background and experiences to our work. And it’s this diversity of thinking that is transforming the way we work – and the work we do.
Interested in working for us?
You can view further information about our roles at: www.civil-service-careers.gov.uk/departments/working-for-the-home-office/ and scan the QR code for our latest job opportunities.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 13
LEWIS HAMILTON Just a shy young kid from Stevenage, who became a World Champion seven times with 100 Grand Prix Victories. As Sir Lewis Hamilton reached his 100th Formula One grand prix victory in Russia, his family will remember that once upon a time, he was just a young black kid growing up in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. It’s hard to put Lewis Hamilton’s 100 Formula One victories into context, as no-one in the 71-year history of the sport has ever reached three figures of race wins. Between 2006 and 2020, Michael Schumacher held the record for the most career wins at 91 - a number that was 40 clear of the previous record and seemed unbeatable when Hamilton started out in F1 back in 2007. But as it has become clear that Lewis would surpass that number over the past 12 months, the perceived limit of what is possible in a single F1 career has been redefined. Ignoring the statistical significance of the roundest of round numbers, his 100th win does not change the fact he is still in one of the tightest title battles of his career. Yet being the first F1 driver to reach triple figures still carries a significance that even Lewis, who often claims not to be interested in numbers, could not ignore. “It’s a magical moment,” he said after the race.
Image Credit: sbonsi / Shutterstock.com
Image Credit: sbonsi / Shutterstock.com
“I could only have dreamed of still being here and having the opportunity to be able to win these races and drive against such phenomenal talent this late in my career.” “We continue to keep building with Mercedes with both everything we have done on track but also off.”
“I want to see the sport that gave a shy, working-class black kid from Stevenage so much opportunity, become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.” LEWIS HAMILTON
These incredible facts speak for themselves.
WINS = 100 PODIUMS = 176 CAREER POINTS = 4,024.5 CHAMPIONSHIPS = 7 (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.)
What’s remarkable is he still has the enthusiasm and drive to remain at the top of Formula 1.
NOT JUST A PETROL HEAD
But perhaps what makes Lewis Hamilton even more special is he is not just a petrol head, like most of the other drivers before him. Lewis has also taken a very visible and vocal role in issues of racial equality and social justice. It is well known that he launched a new initiative, to help motorsport inspire more opportunities for young black students and eventually improve diversity in grand prix racing. Being the first and only black driver in the championship’s history, he spoke last year of his desire to improve the diversity in grand prix racing and motorsport as a whole. He has been particularly vocal against racial discrimination, throwing his support behind the Black Lives Matter movement and condemning those who have remained silent.
He announced the launch of The Hamilton Commission, a research initiative with help from the Royal Academy of Engineering. The commission will explore how motorsport can be used to “engage more young people from black backgrounds with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and, ultimately, employ them on our teams or in other engineering sectors.” He has also formed Mission 44 with 20 million pounds ($27.5 million) earmarked to support programs and organizations that narrow the gap in employment and education systems. Additionally, Lewis partnered with his Mercedes team on the “Ignite” initiative to focus on ensuring better representation of “diverse students studying STEM and engineering, as well as wider parts of the industry.” Ignite will work closely with Mission 44. The initiatives stemmed from findings of The Hamilton Commission, which was formed to increase representation of Black people in British motorsports. Hopefully, he will also be remembered as one of the most high-profile black sportsmen to really put his weight behind Black Lives Matter.
Whatever Lewis does, people tend to watch and listen. Whether he is attending the fancy Met Gala in New York, or just supporting black youngsters, this sporting superstar delivers. Black History Month salutes this young working-class kid from Stevenage. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 15
Ordinary or Special? I have never thought of myself as exceptional or inspirational. I had also never thought of myself as great or an achiever. In fact, for most of my life, I doubted myself and my abilities because I have struggled so much and failed countless times. I know that many people in the world can relate with my story because all of us are fighting our own battles and failing each day. This is particularly the case for many Black people because unfortunately, we have generally had fewer opportunities compared to other races due to being oppressed for a long time. So sadly, it made little difference when we were suddenly given our ‘freedom’ (as though it was theirs to give). Strangely, but unsurprisingly, under this freedom we have essentially just been allowed to exist without being given any reparations or compensation for the injustices and atrocities that we suffered. We have simply been told we are free to compete with people who are far ahead of us – people who benefited from our labour and enslavement. Of course, a lot has changed since then, and things are still changing. I currently believe that Black people now have opportunities which we need to seize…and seize them we will! With that being said, I must admit that I genuinely believe that my story was ordinary and uninspiring. However, many people have told me that my story is actually quite inspirational and that I must share it to help inspire other people who are currently facing the same problems and challenges that I overcame.
MY STORY The Struggle I have lived in London since 1965. Having lived here for so long, I identify it as my home. I attended primary school in London and enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, I performed poorly in secondary school because at the time, I was quite unfocused and playful. Consequently, I left secondary school with poor grades. After secondary school, I would search for and do different kinds of work but I kept getting one terrible job after the other. I tried everything - virtually everything – and nothing seemed to work. At one point I even became a stand-up comedian! Nonetheless, after a long period of searching, I eventually found a job and worked in charities as a PA and Facilities Manager. However, I was eventually made redundant at the age of 56. A Twist of Fate After losing my job to redundancy, I started a tour guiding business at the age of 57. I am proud to say that fortunately for me, this venture has really taken off. Strangely though, a large part of my success is due to all the failures and pain that I suffered in the past. As if to add icing to the cake, at my current age of 63, my co-author Jody Burton and I have written a book titled “Black London: History, Art & Culture in over 120 Places.” The book involved three years of gathering information about places in London so that readers can easily identify and appreciate their Black identity. As a culmination of 3 years of our hard work, the book can be used as either a guide or a historical book. I am really happy that it has become popular among Black people – because it has achieved exactly what we created it for – the promotion of black pride, excellence and history in London. That is the message we set out to put across. So, after all is said and done, when you tell my story, let it be known that I am extremely proud to be Black, a Londoner and a natural born fighter.
16 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021
PROUD TO BE WHO I AM… BLACK, A LONDONER AND A FIGHTER
BY AVRIL NANTON, AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN
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© Photos: Dennis Morris assisted by Bolade Banjo
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Errol McKellar, diagnosed at 52
A black cowboy story with a brilliantly contemporary message If you’re looking for a film to enjoy, learn from and recommend to others then look no further than The Harder They Fall, making its international debut by headlining the BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday 6 October.
CATHERINE ROSS IN CONVERSATION WITH JEYMES SAMUEL
With a screenplay by Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin, directed by Jeymes Samuel, this is a cowboy movie like no other, telling a story that’s rarely told, the black experience in the era of the cowboy. A film in which black people are centre stage, in the story, in the action, and in the background, sharing the messages that black people have been passing down the generations for centuries.
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It really is a black community thing, as you’ll see in all the little details, in the way people dress, at the dinner table, in the repartee. It could be your family, a black family! So excuse me if I let out a cowboy-style “yippee” at this point! The film is located during the era of expansion in the American West and the story is based on real-life characters, which for me, makes it even more of a must-see. It explores a black person’s approach to social problems, one which many Caribbeans would articulate with the phrase “one day I’m gonna ketch you”, or put another way, “ I will pay you back for what you did to me.” In that way, the film draws many parallels with the message that black communities around the world declared boldly during 2020, despite the strictures of Covid-19, so it’s good to have a reminder and a renewed call to action. Black Lives have always, and will always matter.
Jeymes Samuel and Boaz Yakin’s well-crafted screenplay shows that some young people have long memories and are prepared to play the long game, until they can right the actual or perceived wrongs that have impacted their lives. This is essentially the basis of the movie and you’ll watch with bated breath as people rally around the central character hell-bent in his mission. The story draws attention to the potential of people and the possibilities in situations, but it doesn’t shy away from showing pain and hardship. We see the pain of gender relations and roles, with feisty, strong black women standing by the men in their community, ever willing and ever able to play their part in getting what’s right for their people; and scenarios still familiar to the black community today, including those who think they won’t fight for their rights and would rather accept the status quo, in order to keep their status in tact. For me, the most poignant moments came from parental love, and the guidance to the young hot-heads from the older and often wiser characters, those who have a coded language so white people and nonactivists can’t pre-empt and sabotage their actions. I see our desire to form long and loving relationships, and our desire to make changes in life we can’t wait to be given to us by others. Sometimes, to get what’s ours, we need to take it, even if it’s accompanied by the pain of loss and leaving people and places behind. That really resonates with me as a member of the Windrush Generation. The film presents some harsh images, but we get some salve from the music that wraps the experience, music that gives us an insight into what moves Jeymes Samuel the man, and the musician. There are some great tracks. I was lucky enough to speak to
Jeymes and he told me it took him 10 years to piece together the jigsaw that is The Harder They Fall. A jigsaw that included crafting the screenplay, finding the locations, casting the right people – people that would be believable in their roles, masters of their craft that could take centre stage in a narrative for black people, by black people, about black people. Jeymes has created a legacy that will empower film-lovers and filmmakers for generations. Jeymes was also happy to admit that he’s watched many, many Westerns, throughout both his childhood in London, and in his adult life. He loved the action and the storylines but rarely saw black people in them, especially in lead roles. The Harder They Fall has changed that in one fell swoop and the film will be talked about for years to come around the world. It’s fitting that The Harder They Fall gets its premiere during Black History Month and it’s going to be the thing to watch for an experience that will uplift and excite – I can’t praise it highly enough. It’s well-written and beautifully shot with a great soundtrack, great characters ably portrayed by some of the best actors around, and an ending that’s both inspiring and thought-provoking. It ticks all the boxes of what an award-winning film should be. For me, The Harder They Fall is more than a film, it’s a work of art with heart, created by a great team and showing us the measure of the man, Jeymes Samuel, a man who’s innovative and determined. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 19
PROUD TO BE W
CEO AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR SERENDIPITY
hen I was asked to write about the theme Proud to be, my first thought was that this is deceptively simple provocation. Of course I would say I am proud to be Black, I am proud to be a Black woman. I am proud to be part of an artistic and cultural community that connects people from the African and African Caribbean Diaspora across Leicester, the UK and internationally. I am proud of our collective work and in particular the programme we have planned for Black History Month in Leicester this year. Therefore, as my offering on this theme I would like to share the work I am proud of. This year coincides with a number of anniversaries for the African and African Caribbean Diaspora; 230 years since the start of the Haitian Revolution, 95 years since the first Negro History Week in the USA, 50 years since the invention of the Blaxploitation genre. Although not without their controversies, the impact of Blaxploitation films has endured. They paved the way for increasing diversity and representation on screen, putting Black protagonists centre stage, alongside fashion, politics, culture and music.
Setting the bar high, removing barriers, promoting excellence.
We will also be celebrating music with the Queen of Lovers Rock, Carroll Thompson. The impact of Lovers Rock as a music genre is far reaching and offers a connection across the Diaspora as documented by film makers from Steve McQueen to Menelik Shabazz, who we honour this year. As one of the first Black directors in the UK, Shabazz offered a nuanced look at the life of a young Black Woman in the 1980s and in his seminal film Burning an Illusion. These are just a few highlights of what is on offer. Black History Month is a catalyst for work to take place year round. We can acknowledge the challenges we have faced and continue to face and through creativity unpack this adversity and also celebrate and be proud. www.serendipity-uk.com
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By welcoming diﬀerent views, insights, and approaches, we create the environment necessary for richer, more creative and innovative teaching, thinking, and research. Join us and be a part of our community: www.sheﬃeld.ac.uk
Positive Action and Recruitment Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) Positive Action Team (PAT) work to ensure that as an organisation we are reflective of the community we serve. Specifically, we work to remove barriers that disproportionately affect people from certain back grounds and identities, most notably those from Black, Asian and Minority backgrounds. We use positive action legislation (Section 158, Equality Act 2010) carefully and considerately to ensure we recognise the responsibility required when addressing issues that have arisen from policing and its complex relationship with communities who may feel marginalised. Our team is out in the heart of Greater Manchester communities on a regular basis, engaging with people and having genuine conversations about the career opportunities at GMP, we also deliver a series of recruitment support events and through this we’ve been able to support black, Asian, minority ethnic and female candidates to bring out their full potential. As of 2021, 9% of Police officers identify as black, Asian or minority ethnic and 33% of our officers are female, this is a significant improvement in representation from our 2019 figures of 7% black, asian and minority ethnic and 30% female. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic we’ve been able to deliver our recruitment events in an
online format to ensure our candidates are still able to take advantage of our support. It is in our understanding that the only way we can become an effective service is by accurately representing Greater Manchester, not just in regards to meeting and exceeding the public’s expectations of us but also physically reflecting the resilient and wonderfully diverse communities we work in and with. Not only are there opportunities and support there to begin your career here at GMP but our fair and inclusive promotion policies are there to make sure that you’ll get your opportunities to thrive here at GMP and be a part of change for good in Greater Manchester. Elliot Collymore, Positive Action Officer at Greater Manchester Police
BLACK AND ASIAN POLICE ASSOCIATION FOR GREATER MANCHESTER
support Greater Manchester police and our Greater Manchester communities. BAPA GM seeks to improve the working environment of Black staff by protecting the rights of those employed within the Police Service and to enhance racial harmony and the quality of service to the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities of the UK; thereby assisting the Police Service in delivering a fair and equitable service to all sections of the community. Elaine Clarke-Williams, BAPA GM Chair
Greater Manchester Black and Asian Police Association, (BAPA GM) are excited to contribute to BHM 2021 Magazine.
For recruitment enquiries, expressions of interest or information about our events contact GMP’s Positive action team: firstname.lastname@example.org
The BAPA Executive team of all individuals that work for GMP staff and officers, we are all individuals that believe and work to achieve equality across GMP workforce and our Greater Manchester communities - which is why we gladly volunteer our time to
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 21
Belonging: Fate and Changing Realities BY HERMAN OUSELEY The past fifteen years have been frustrating for most people involved in the struggle to see genuine equality, non-discriminatory and inclusive policies in everyday activities. But, unaccountable and shameless leadership without personal and corporate responsibility for collective failure has remained a dominant feature in institutional culture. It was, therefore, a welcome surprise during 2020 when there was an apparent upsurge in acknowledging the existence of widespread institutional, organisational and individual racial discrimination. This all emerged as a result of substantial media coverage of the many acts of police brutality and killings of Black people in the United States. Yet again, it signalled the possibility of a new dawn for equality, inclusion and justice. The emergent optimism was largely due to the fact that people from all backgrounds were clearly expressing their support for actions to end all forms of discrimination and unfair treatment. People were taking to the streets to protest
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about the lack of action and demanding justice, and there were expressions of support for movements such as Black Lives Matter. This memoir is being published at a time when Britain and the rest of the world continue to grapple with the challenges of the global pandemic. Many people from all backgrounds, but especially from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, have been on the frontline, particularly in working tirelessly for the NHS. This public health emergency triggered the optimistic political refrain of, “We are all in this together.” This provided a timely opportunity for the country to embrace the collective virtues of people from all backgrounds, in pursuance of solutions to this crisis as well as for equality and social cohesion. However, the Covid-19 pandemic also created new urgent priorities for government to deal with. Inevitably, the virus was not going to discriminate in its attacks on people but, equally inevitably, disparities emerged in how it impacted
on the lives of people from different backgrounds, the aged and those with underlying health problems. Not surprisingly, the emerging new enthusiasm promised for action to change society for the benefit of everyone, had to fade into the background. But, even in such unique circumstances, it was the same familiar pattern of unfulfilled hopes and promises being repeated. The opportunity for sustainable change did not appear as a priority for action by those with the power to do so. Instead, the promises and hopes for the emergence of sustainable race equality and justice for all would become an even lower priority. The most recent promises to provide levelling-up for disadvantaged communities had to go by the wayside, at least until the health emergency had ended. The post-pandemic priorities would, rightly, have to address the crises in the economy, health and social care services, unemployment and the national debt, all of which have an equality dimension to be considered.
There is clearly a well-rehearsed and established pattern in place to deal with race and equality crises. Whenever issues of racial discrimination, hatred and violence hit the headlines, investigations follow, action is promised, some useful projects receive support and then it is back to square one. It is reminiscent of the characteristics featured in the 1980s television political sitcom, ‘Yes Minister’. Top civil servants, providing advice to ministers making decisions in crisis situations, had a formula for giving such advice. It worked along the following lines: At the beginning, they agree to say nothing is going to happen. A little further on, they agree to say something may be about to happen but should do nothing about it. At the next stage, they say that maybe they should do something about it but there is nothing really they can do. And eventually, the world has moved on, and it is too late to do anything about it. Although this satirical programme provided much entertainment and humour, it was never far from reality. It certainly continues to resonate with the ‘always tomorrow’ casual attitudes held by powerful decision-makers as they stifle dynamic action for desired outcomes. Despite all of this, many Black, Asian and minority ethnic citizens have been in the forefront of campaigning for better race and community relations and for the essential action to tackle racial inequality and injustice. Many of the campaigners who came from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa are no longer with us and their enormous contributions are largely unrecorded. Historical records may not cover adequately such valuable involvement with the struggle for racial equality and justice and how they challenged individual and corporate racial discrimination during the past seven decades. But nowadays, there is at least some improved understanding and realisation of the positive contributions that such citizens have made to Britain and, in particular, their particular experiences in tackling inequalities and working for social inclusion for all. I am one of those from among the many who emerged from being a ‘nobody’ to become a ‘somebody’ in those continuing challenges to tackle all forms of institutional racism and discrimination. Extract from the author’s introduction
Be empowered We are fostering an inclusive culture where everyone is treated fairly and with respect; where our community feels a sense of belonging and valued as individuals; where everyone is empowered to share and celebrate their heritage and identities, and supported to realise their true potential. Find out more about the University of Gloucestershire and our job opportunities.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 23
PROUD TO BE ...
MEET BILLY WATERS
BY LYNDA LOUISE BURRELL
Imagine how much richer British history would be if we knew the stories of black people through the ages…
I am proud to be following in the footsteps of heroes and sheroes, icons and legends, that are all BLACK like me. These people, my people, my ancestors, all have a story to tell, but it’s likely that some of their names and stories will be new to you. It’s often said that the hand that holds the pen writes history and that’s certainly true when it comes to those who have written the historical records that have helped shape the narrative of British history. A narrative that has omitted the stories of black people in Britain throughout the ages. Some writers have simply not recorded facts because they don’t fit the narrative they want to hear, or want others to know in fear that black people would take the power that’s rightfully ours. Some information has been ‘lost’, deliberately destroyed, or kept in buildings which have conveniently been burned down, their records destroyed forever. But whatever the history books don’t say, black people have been visible, have had a presence, and have made huge contributions to Britain for centuries, since Roman times. Let’s put the spotlight on just some of the black people who were creative and talented, marvel at tales that stretch back hundreds of years, proud to be receivers of their wisdom today.
MEET LUCY NEGRO
In the Elizabethan era from 1558 to 1603, black people dressed the rich and enabled them to show off their wealth to others. We were a part of the royal household, helping to dress the monarch and entertain the court, particularly as musicians. One of the few black names to have made it through the ages is the famous Lucy Negro, a former dancer in Queen Elizabeth 1’s service, who went on to own a brothel in London’s Clerkenwell district, frequented by noblemen and lawyers. A man called Denis Edwards wrote in 1602: “Pray enquire after and secure my negress: she is certainly at The Swan, a Dane’s beershop in Turnmil Street”.
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Today, some believe Lucy Negro, also known as Dark Luce, could be the Dark Lady who inspired many of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Her story is still being told through poetry and dance in the 21st century, with Caroline Randall William’s 2015 book ‘Lucy Negro, Redux’, turned into a ballet by the Nashville Ballet company in 2019. An acquaintance of Shakespeare, the poet John Weaver, is also known for waxing lyrical about a woman whose face was “pure black as Ebonie, jet blacke”. Lucy was part of a thriving free black community in Tudor London whose stories have been lost to history, save for a few fragments preserved in local parish records, including church records which show Black people were baptised, married and buried as Christians. Some were brought to Britain as members of royal entourages, but others arrived on these shores as merchants and traders. If only we could hear their stories in their own words. As Lucy’s story shows, Black people were often known by their first name only, referred to by the colour of their skin. Their message to me is “don’t worry about our names, focus on our achievements, on the things we did that make it impossible to forget us.” Some of those achievements finally brought to light tell the story of a trumpeter to Henry VII, a salvage diver on the wreck of the Mary Rose, a circumnavigator with Sir Francis Drake, a prostitute, a silk weaver, a servant, and a merchant prince. Their stories tell us that black people in England weren’t enslaved and not all lived in poverty. They were literally helping to make history, although their names were omitted from the history books. How much richer British history would be if we knew more about the people who were actually a part of that history!
Fast forward to the Georgian era from 1714 to 1837 and meet Billy Waters, a man of many talents, and just one of the many thousands of people of African heritage living in England at the time. Billy lost a leg while serving in the British navy and with a wife and two children to support, he supplemented his meagre pension by busking and begging outside London’s theatres including the Adelphi and Drury Lane. Billy attracted the attention of the public with his distinctive wooden leg, his trademark feathered hat, and his skill as a violin player. His talent and earning capacity saw him described as the ‘King of Beggars’ by his peers in St Giles, where he lived with his family. White beggars even ‘blacked up’ in an attempt to earn as much as he did. Is that one of the first stories of cultural appropriation? Billy became so famous that the Adelphi Theatre asked him to take to the stage as a characterised version of himself. He went on to become immortalised in art and literature, but sadly died penniless, aged forty-five. Some black people of this era left their precious insights and experiences in the form of narratives written by their own hand, while others dictated their tales to others, but many stories have had to be pieced together through records left, such as wills and bequests.
‘WHEN I TRAVEL THROUGH BLACK HISTORY, I’M PROUD TO BE INSPIRED BY ROLE MODELS THAT ARE BLACK LIKE ME’.
MEET OZWALD BOATENG
Leap into the 20th century and meet two icons of the fashion world you’re likely to know well. Sir Ozwald Boateng OBE, was born in London in 1967 to Ghanaian parents. In 1995, Ozwald became the youngest tailor to have a boutique on London’s prestigious Savile Row, a street renowned for its fine tailoring. In his early twenties, Ozwald dressed celebrities including Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page and Spike Lee, and went on to become one of the world’s most influential men’s designers, producing some of fashion’s most sought-after collections, and clothes for films from The Matrix: Reloaded to Marvel’s Black Panther.
…AND NAOMI CAMPBELL
The era was also graced by the incomparable Naomi Campbell, born in London in 1967 to a Jamaican mother. Multi-talented Naomi went on to become one of the world’s best known supermodels, known as one of the ‘Big Six’, as well as an author, actor, TV host, entrepreneur, activist, and supporter of charitable causes – community-minded despite her megasuccess. Even with her legendary status as a supermodel who showed the world how to wear clothes with style and sass, Campbell never earned as much as her white peers and has consistently spoken out against racism in the fashion industry, and wider society.
Every story I discover shows me the negative things peddled by others about black people like me are done to deflect me off who I really am, to blind me to the realities of my race, that we are a people who can, and who do! When I travel through Black history, I’m proud to be inspired by role models that are black like me – not just in the 20th and 21st centuries with the arrival of the Windrush Generation, but throughout hundreds of years of British history. While the people I’ve chosen were making their mark in the fashion and entertainment worlds among others, many more were doing the same as religious leaders, as trade unionists, as writers, as dancers, as retailers, as musicians, as sportsmen, the list goes on and on. A Caribbean expression springs to mind as I straighten up, become inches taller and say… I am proud to be from a people who will ‘turn their hands to anything and everything’ and generally succeed!
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A Diverse Employer & Place of Study
Visit our following webpages for employment vacancies, or studying opportunities at Scotland’s first university, to become part of Diverse St Andrews. Job vacancies: www.vacancies.st-andrews.ac.uk Study: www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study About us: www.st-andrews.ac.uk/about The University of St Andrews is committed to equality through our membership of the Athena SWAN Charter; Carer Positive Employer award; LGBT Charter; Stonewall Diversity Champion; and as a Race Charter member.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 25
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When Malcolm X took on British Racism
BY CIARA GARCHA
arshall Street was an unassuming, unexceptional street in Smethwick, in the west Midlands. Its terraced houses were not particularly striking or notable and the declining industrial town it stood in, resembled many others across the country, facing a myriad of social and economic challenges. But Marshall Street was at the centre of a thick hostile local and national race row, which called into question the very nature of what it meant to be British. A visit by Civil Rights activist, Malcolm X, in February 1965, just before his death, ensured that the struggles centred around this Street went global and Smethwick was thrust into the international spotlight. Smethwick’s recent history was intimately associated with racism and white supremacy. As the constituency of former British Union of Fascists leader, Oswald Mosley, the shadow of his hateful politics hung over the town, even as it diversified in the years following the war. Smethwick had an immigrant population of 6.7%, a small figure but significantly higher than the national average of 1%. This substantial immigrant population was contested by large sections of the town’s white residents, whose image of a white British nation was challenged. More recently,
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the parliamentary election for the Smethwick House of Commons seat had been embroiled in bitter racism. Conservative Peter Griffiths won the vote from the incumbent Labour candidate, as dissatisfied residents and voters organised around the slogan: “if you want a n****r for your neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour”. When confronted about the vile phrase, Griffiths defended it as a “manifestation of popular feeling”. Griffiths’ ties to Marshall Street were deeper than the hotly contested 1964 election. As part of the Smethwick Council, he had been at the centre of plans to essentially implement segregation on the streets of Britain. A campaign by many of the white residents on the racially diverse street lobbied for the government to buy up the remaining houses and reserve them only for white residents. The so-called Marshall Plan, intended to make Marshall Plan a white only street, implementing US Jim Crow-style segregation on where people could live. Malcolm X’s visit to the UK was an eclectic, fast-paced trip to notable locations and some of Britain’s largest Black communities. As Graham Abernathy writes, he arrived “eager to explore and publicise the social and political barriers faced by Black people living in Britain” and to “foster transatlantic”
‘...Malcolm X made a point of walking down Marshall Street. The ordinary, rows of terraced housing, caught up in an attempt to introduce social segregation, stood by as one of the most notable Civil Rights activists in the world strode past them.’
cooperation. After a visit to Oxford, which included talking at the Oxford Union, and a stay in London, Malcolm X voyaged outside of these arguably unsurprising locations, into the English midlands, arriving in Smethwick on 12th February. An invitation from the Indian Workers Association, a group formed to mobilise and represent migrants from the Indian subcontinent in the late 1930s, had brought Malcolm X to Smethwick. The intense racism and discrimination faced by both the Black and South Asian communities had caught his attention. In journeying to Smethwick, Malcolm X ventured outside of what may be considered unsurprising locations for his
visit (Oxford, as an intellectual centre, and London as the capital and the home to a large and visible Black community) into, what Joe Street of the University of Kent describes as “the heart of England” into, arguably, the country’s “most racist locality”. Arriving in Smethwick, Malcolm X enjoyed considerable time with members of the local branch of the IWA. The significance of the interracial cooperation his association with the IWA signalled, is further explored by Joe Street, who argues it is symptomatic of Malcolm X’s changing views on racism and anti-racism cooperation. Street writes, Malcolm X’s philosophy, once focused uniquely on the Black American experience,
had altered after his travels to Africa and Mecca in 1964, to advocate for “the need for minorities to unite around their minority status, rather than their (specific) racial identity”. Thus, in meeting with and cooperating with the IWA and Smethwick’s South Asian population, Malcolm X was actively promoting solidarity between the Black and South Asian communities in the face of white British racism. Previously active in the Nation of Islam (NOI), which focused mainly on mobilising Black Americans specifically, Malcolm X’s ideology and view of interracial cooperation and solidarity had significantly changed over the course of his travels, leading him to break from the NOI in 1964. His visit to, and actions in Smethwick, fit into this story of ideological change and his split from the NOI, which would have profound consequences for him and the Civil Rights movement more generally. Malcolm X made a series of striking comments during his time in Smethwick, directly attacking and challenging British racism. Asked why he would choose to visit Smethwick of all places, he replied: “I have heard that the Blacks…are being treated in the same way as the Negroes were treated in Alabama - like Hitler treated the Jews”. Drawing a line between the racism in the US and the horrors of the Holocaust, still well within living memory of many of the residents of Smethwick, Malcolm X exposed British racism for exactly what it was. For white Brits who remembered the war and the suffering enacted through the Holocaust, these comments, perhaps shockingly, equated their actions and motives with those of Hitler and the Nazi regime, casting British racism in a resolute and unflinching manner. He also cautioned the Black and South Asian population in Smethwick not to wait for the “fascist element” in the town to erect “gas ovens” before it organised itself. Most notably, Malcolm X made a point of walking down Marshall Street. The ordinary, rows of terraced housing, caught up in an attempt to introduce social segregation, stood by as one of the most notable Civil Rights activists in the world strode past them. Chairman of the local IWA branch, Avtar Singh Johal recalled, in conversation with Al Jazeera, that Malcolm X had asked to spend time on the street, talking to residents and inspecting the racist signs on the street, which doubtless included placards repeating the common refrain: No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs. This visit to Marshall Street was followed by a trip to the Blue Gates Pub, where Malcolm X, Singh Johal and other IWA members and Black residents were told to leave on account of their race and skin colour. Continued overleaf... BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 27
His visit was met with fierce criticism and derision, from those who insisted the ‘race problems’ in England, America and elsewhere were fundamentally different. Griffiths retorted that, “Smethwick rejects the idea of being a multi-racial society”. He went on to pedal segregationist policies, including advocating for children of Indian descent to be taught separately from white British children and housing segregation, until he lost his seat to the Labour candidate in the 1966 election. Yet, for the Community of Colour in Smethwick, Malcolm X’s visit had put their daily struggles and ongoing fight against British racism into the spotlight. Two weeks later in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York, Malcolm X was shot dead by an individual associated with the NOI. His actions in the last few weeks of his life, spanned countries and continents, linking up Smethwick, an ordinary and unexceptional British town, with the likes of Harlem, one of the most famous Black communities in the US. Malcolm X’s visit to
Smethwick and the West Midlands, though brief, was of insurmountable importance in pushing back against the prevailing racist culture and highlighting the importance of solidarity and cooperation in the fight against racism in Britain. SOURCES • G. Abernathy, ‘“Not Just an American Problem”: Malcolm X in Britain’, Atlantic Studies, Vol.7, No.3, pp.285-307, (3 September 2010) • E. Buettner, ‘“This is Staffordshire not Alabama”: racial geographies of commonwealth immigration in early 1960s Britain’, The journal of imperial and Commonwealth history, vol.42, no.4, pp.710-740, (2014). • C. Goodwin, ‘If you want a n****r for your neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour’, New African, pp.40-42, (Oct., 2004). • D. Pitts, ‘Malcolm’s Journey to England to organise Blacks there’, New York Amsterdam News, Vol.84, No.2, p.32, (9 Jan, 1993). • J. Street, ‘Malcolm X, Smethwick and the Influence of the African American Freedom Struggle on British Race Relations in the 1960s’, Journal of Black Studies, Vol.38, No.6, pp.932-950, (Jul., 2008).
SECOND WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE HUBERT ‘BARON’ BAKER (1925-1996) Born in Jamaica in 1925, Baker came to Britain in 1944, aged 19. Baker joined the RAF as a policeman, lying saying he was 21, because of his eagerness to fight against Hitler.
Baker found ordinary Britons welcoming to those who were fighting with them, his first experience of racism was to be in a pub in Gloucester where American soldiers refused to drink alongside black customers. Baker, who thought of himself at British reacted angrily. His disgust at racism would lead him to heckle Oswald Mosley as he espoused fascism. Baker had joined the RAF to fight fascism and would continue to fight fascism and racism once the war was over. After being demobilised in 1948 he would fight against British government plans to repatriate Caribbean servicemen after the Second World War. After the Empire Windrush arrived in 1948, beginning the immigration to Britain of thousands of men and women from the Caribbean, many faced immediate
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discrimination in their attempts to find shelter and Baker persuaded the government to open Clapham South’s air raid shelter to provide temporary accommodation. On occasion Baker would stay in the shelter himself. Looking for a longer-term solution Baker and others sought to establish black communities in London. Baker would become known as the ‘man who discovered Brixton’ an area where people from the Caribbean were able to find jobs and homes. Baker would continue to fight against racism both politically and physically.
In race riots in 1958 Baker and his friends using their own military experience met hundreds of white rioters, ultimately chasing the rioters away. Baker would go on to found the United Africa-Asia League to fight discrimination and would make regular speeches against racism at Hyde Park’s Speakers Corner Baker lived the remainder of his life in Notting Hill; he died in 1996. His funeral was held in Kensal Green Cemetery; where he was remembered as a respected and important member of the community.
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BLACK HISTORY MONTH IS A GOOD OPPORTUNITY TO REFLECT ON WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE BY THE RT HON LORD PAUL BOATENG
Black History Month is a good opportunity to reflect on what more needs to be done in order to ensure that our education system is fit for purpose.
The challenge is to prepare by a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion all young people to thrive in a diverse and multi polar world in which no region or race holds sway over all others. The curriculum and how people with an African and African Diaspora heritage are reflected in it is central to progress in this area. The Royal Africa Society and the campaigning expert education group Justice for History have sponsored an Inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Africa into Africa and its Diaspora in the UK School Curriculum. This is a welcome move and it’s been a privilege to Chair its meetings. The Inquiry has received a wide range of evidence from expert and informed sources giving evidence in writing, online, and in virtual person. I do not wish to anticipate its findings but the picture that is emerging is mixed. There has been real progress in some areas in terms of excellent materials and innovative approaches pioneered by inspirational teachers many drawn from our community but yawning gaps in others with real obstacles to progress. Not the least of these is a definition of
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what may or may not be examined in English Literature which apparently, we were told repeatedly in evidence now excludes Chinua Achebe one of the greatest of writers of all time in the English language on the grounds of nationality. The government must surely reverse its position on this as a matter of urgency if it is not to make a mockery of its vision of “Global Britain’.
Profoundly disturbing statistics
Profoundly disturbing too is the statistic that of the 59 history modules available from the three biggest exam boards Edexcel, AQA, and OCR, only 12 explicitly mention black history and only five of these mention British blacks. No modules in the GCSE syllabus for Edexcel the most popular exam Board mention black people in Britain at all, although we were told this is to change. Better late than never but this omission only now being rectified is indicative of the wider issue that effects the whole curriculum. This is not limited to just English Lit and History but includes Geography too where Africa is so often portrayed solely in terms of poverty and underdevelopment. This is I suppose a step up from the geography books of my own schooldays where the image of the Congolese Pygmy and his canoe was the prevailing one but only just.
The denial or diminution in the National Curriculum and the distortion of our place as black peoples in the world does not just diminish us but all peoples. What a shame that the child of any colour growing up in Cornwall could do so quite unaware of the role in history and musicology of Joseph Emidy. This virtuoso violinist was born a West African, kidnapped into slavery by the Portuguese pressed into the Navy by the British and ultimately freed in Falmouth where he founded the Falmouth Symphonic Society and became a famed musician. He inspired the abolitionist politician James Buckingham who described his work as an “achievement of extraordinary perfection”. I was privileged centuries later whilst in government to unveil a memorial stone in his local church, hear his story and meet his descendants living in both the US and the North of England. Teachers are under pressure What is clear too as we wrestle with these issues is that teachers are under pressure and resources are scarce.
By 2023 schools will still be marginally less well funded in real terms than they were in 2010 and the most disadvantaged schools we are told by the Institute of Fiscal Studies have been hit the worst. Teachers faced with a choice between repairs and support staff or funding school trips to the local Museum, can’t be blamed for choosing the former. Not seeing an exhibit like the recent acclaimed Roots of Dub Exhibit at the Museum of London is for my generation, who heard King Tubby in person, a missed opportunity to go down memory lane, but for the youth it’s missing a crucial part of their cultural education. The pressure on resources and the lack of support for much needed innovation in the representation of the black experience in the Curriculum are not the only problems faced by teachers. Cultural Wars They are also fearful and not without cause of being engulfed in the flames of the culture wars being waged in some sections of the media and society. To even raise issues of diversity and race is in some instances to step into a linguistic minefield in which the unprepared, can find themselves taken to task by protagonists on both the right and the left of politics.This is not just deeply damaging to individuals but profoundly dangerous for society as a whole. We need an open and inclusive debate as how best to address complex issues not least around race and the legacy of Empire. Teachers need to feel safe, trained and resourced to address these issues in the classroom. If it’s not done there, then ultimately these issues have a tendency to emerge in clashes on our streets. Disadvantage and discrimination The wider context of education reflects continuing patterns of disadvantage and discrimination. Just 6% of Black school leavers attend the Russell Group of leading research led Universities, compared to 12% and 11% respectively of their Asian and White counterparts. Black Caribbean and Mixed Black Caribbean have rates of permanent exclusion from school about three times that of the pupil population as a whole. Times such as these call for leadership at every level! And not just politically where at one level we have never been more diversely governed. I was the first black cabinet minister. Today there are two Asian and one Black Cabinet Ministers, and many more in the other Ministerial ranks.
And yet black peoples and indeed people of colour in general are still grossly underrepresented in the leadership of our schools, as Head Teachers and in our universities, and Teacher Training Colleges at Professorial and Vice Chancellor Rank.
‘History however isn’t simply retracing the past but understanding how it can help shape the future.’ First black Head Teacher Tony O’ Connor is believed to have been Britain’s first black Head Teacher at Bearwood Primary School in Smethwick 54 years ago, followed shortly after in London by Yvonne Connelly the first woman black head. If we are looking for figures to memorialise, we might start with them. This absence of black academic professional leadership not for want of qualified candidates but as a result of continuing structural bias is an insufficiently talked of public scandal not least as these are publicly accountable bodies. Len Garrison’s African Caribbean Education Resource Project pioneered an inclusive curriculum 40 years ago. I drafted his founding charity deed as a young trainee lawyer and went on to Chair ACERP itself. Mrs. Stredwick and Ambrosine Neil were pioneering black mothers, who I
represented in their campaigns against school exclusions. All of these people taught me as a young man a very special lesson. Nothing gets changed without grass roots activism. They are all now departed. Their spirit lives on. The same spirit informed the Supplementary School movement in the 70s when black parents and teachers said enough is enough and took responsibility for direct action to counter the failures of the educational system. Yes, there has been some progress but there is still so much more to do. History however isn’t about simply retracing the past but understanding how it can help shape the future. We need new tools now to build that inclusive fit for purpose education system and a new generation to inspire and lead. Internet savvy for a virtual world and embracing social media where appropriate certainly but inspired and informed by that same spirit. This is the spirit of Yaa Asantewaa, after which at least one of those longgone supplementary schools was named. A remarkable woman she rallied the people of the Ashanti region in West Africa against oppression and injustice. Boudicca Queen of the Iceni, who took on the Romans and Yaa Asantewaa, Queen of the Ashanti, both are worthy of study in the History of Empires and of Britain. They have much to teach us all! BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 31
ADJOA ANDOH... but you know her as Lady Danbury Adjoa Andoh, was born in Bristol, England. She is a very successful actress, working in British film, television, stage, and radio. She is known on the UK stage for lead roles at the RSC, the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, and the Almeida Theatre, however recently she became a global celebrity playing the role of Lady Danbury in Bridgerton the hit Netflix series. How did you start your career as an actor? I was in a black women’s group in Bristol and when I left my law degree, Deb’bora John Wilson from the San Francisco mime group invited me to take classes with her. In April 1984, having auditioned for a play of hers about five black women called Where do I go from here, I came up to London. The show was at the Drill Hall, Oval House Theatre and Acton Community Centre. I thought I’d be in London for two months, but I moved to Brixton and never left. What reaction did you get when you told your parents you wanted to become an actor? I made my dad cry. I left my law degree two years in. “Just finish it”, he said. He’s still waiting for me to finish it. My mum was excited. What medium do you enjoy the best… live theatre, television, or the movies? They all have different demands and different pressures. As long as the material is good, I ‘m happy working in any of them. On stage you have more control, and no one can edit your performance, but if you get in a mess, you can’t ask for another take. What have been your most satisfying role/s so far? Glory, in Glory for Temba Theatre Company in 1989. Brenda Mazibuko, in Invictus for Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso Production Company. Richard in Richard ll at the Globe, our own production, the first all-woman of colour Shakespeare in the UK. Was there a moment when you realized you could actually make a living from acting? Yes. When I got my first equity contract in 1985 from Theatre Centre, Theatre Company. Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference to you as a person of African heritage? I’ve been a professional actor for 37 years and I have been fortunate enough to have only been out of work for six months. The difference is in the freedom and power to have more impactful conversations about exclusion and inclusion. Not just on stage or in front of the camera, but in the rooms where decisions are made. In the history that is taught and in the stories that are told. It’s shameful that it took the filmed murder of a black man, to make institutions pay attention.
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A series like Bridgerton has gone a long way to put back into people’s understanding that there was an African presence at all levels of society in Britain at that time. Were you aware when filming that you would have such a major effect on people’s perceptions? Yes, that was my hope. To have that history carried in such a popular show has enlarged the impact. Obviously, having the show aired on Christmas Day during lockdown, where people were viewing tv drama more intensely than ever boosted the impact, and of course viewing the show in the context of Black Lives Matter also gave it that extra edge. Your role as Lady Danbury in Bridgerton created a lot of positive comments regarding diversity, so are you proud of helping break down the barriers for future black performers? The world is built on networks. I feel it’s my job as an actor of colour to expand the network and open the door as wide as possible for talented people who’ve been excluded on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, or different ability, to get the opportunity to exercise their gifts. Are there plans for Lady Danbury to return? We are shooting season 2 at the moment. There will also be a spin off written by Shonda Rhymes about Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and Lady Bridgerton. Playing in the theatre has given you a great variety of roles. What is your favourite theatre? One is the basement in The Drill Hall, where I did a Christmas musical set in the 2nd World War (written and directed by Nona Shepherd), called In the Bunker with the Ladies. My other favourite theatre is a 700-seater
Image Credit: Shonay
theatre in Brooklyn NY, B.A.M., where I played Portia in the RSC’s African Julius Cesar. What are your plans for the next twelve months? I am co-exec producing on Longboat Pictures screen adaptation of Vanessa Riley’s novel, Island Queen. It’s about Dorothy Kirwan Thomas who bought herself and her family out of slavery. She was a hugely successful businesswoman in the Caribbean at the beginning of the 19th century, and had an affair with Prince William, the future William IV, Grandson of Queen Charlotte. You are passionate about sustainability and social justice, so can you explain a bit about your role as a FairTrade Ambassador? Fair-trade as an organisation supports trade and social justice in practical ways, that materially effects the life chances of powerless producers, by giving back to them a premium on the products they produce and acting as a collective bargainer for their goods on a global stage. I’m interested in how we make change in a practical way, so with my family connections to Ghana, which is a great cocoa producer, Fairtrade was a natural choice. I’m also working in development on a documentary series about world heritage sites under threat from climate change. What great Black activists have inspired you? Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ellen Kuzwayo, Wangari Maathai and Arundhati Roy, and of course Nelson Mandela. Finally, what advice can you offer to young Black people considering working in showbusiness? Do it if there is nothing else you love. It’s a brutal business, but if it is your gift and your joy, chase it down. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 33
BLACK LIVES MATTER IS ALSO PART OF BLACK BRITISH HISTORY BY PATRICK VERNON
e have come a long way as a society from ‘Negro History Week’, established by Carter G. Woodson in 1926 at the height of the Jim Crow laws enforcing segregation in the US, and renamed ‘Black History Month’ during the rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1960s. In the 1980s it was taken on as ‘African American History Month’, again highlighting the changing politics of identity and race for African Americans. The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, following George Floyd’s murder and the conviction of the police officer Derek Chauvin a powerful reminder of an ongoing universal human rights campaign, with more and more White people fully embracing the notion that structural racism is not a figment of Black people’s imagination. Last summer the marches, demos and vigils, the debates around White privilege, and the statements of solidarity to the cause were all welcomed. The question which all Black people are asking is whether this is the start of a serious discourse on race relations in Britain, when for many years, despite the scandals of Grenfell Tower and Windrush, race was off the agenda. However, I believe the removal of the Edward Coulson statue in Bristol was as iconic a moment as the fall of The Berlin Wall in 1989. It has kick-started a national
conversation about Britain’s colonial past and its crimes against humanity which Black people have had to endure for the last 400 years. That is why the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities led by Tony Sewell that concluded there is no evidence that UK is institutionally racist is so out of step with our live experiences and our long history of campaigning a civil right. The report reminds me of the ones done in the 1960s and 1970s. Those reports suggested that immigrant children could survive the colour bar of their parents if they worked hard and were grateful to be British. Instead of being forward thinking and adding a new debate on race, the report is almost stuck in a time warp or even ‘lost in space’. It does not face the true realities of 2021. We are in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed current inequalities and structural racism in society (though we have known about these problems for decades and they have been highlighted by previous independent commissioned reports.) It is disappointing that the report fails to look at school exclusion, racism in schools, increasing demand for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and behavioural support. All these issues form part of a toxic environment, and the new way that racism is transmitted.
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I must admit it is different from my experience of going to school, when a lot of us were classed as educationally ‘subnormal’ and told that going to university was not an option! Without proper policies, accountability and transformational change in public, private and voluntary sector institutions, young people who are of school age will be like lambs to the slaughter – in the same way their parents and grandparents were. The pervasive nature of the legacies of enslavement and colonisation, and the ways they play out in higher education or the world of work, mixed with the cocktails of everyday racism and micro-aggressions will impact aspirations. As a result of this, it will also affect the wellbeing of young Black people. The report is both a denial of the past and future in a post pandemic Brexit Britain.
Downplaying the past
What I found especially disturbing was the report’s efforts to play down the transatlantic slave trade and colonisation which caused injustice to millions of our people over 400 years. We are told that the Maafa or the Maangamizi was ‘character building’ and we ‘need to move’ on from this crime against humanity.
Maafa is also known as the African holocaust, the Holocaust of Enslavement, or the Black Holocaust, according to Wikipedia. The word Maangamizi is a Kiswahili term which roughly translates to annihilation, according to Google dictionary. Half the people on the commission do not understand the history of Britain, the impact and implications of enslavement, or modern-day racism. One of the commissioners still represents the West India Committee which was the lobbying group of plantation owners that tried their best to extend the period of enslavement in the Caribbean. This Committee successfully negotiated £30 million (around a trillion in modern day money) compensation in 1833. Our ancestors had to work an extra four years as indentured labourers on the plantations as part of the settlement. Taxpayers were still paying off the debt until 2015. The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romeo explores this disturbing history. This is the equivalent of a Holocaust denier being asked to develop a strategy on antisemitism. We need to seriously consider whether it’s right that this organisation chairs the National Lottery Fund.
We hope the Prime Minster seriously rejects the commissioned race report and makes a commitment to support existing race equality legislation and best practice by promoting the Public Sector Equality duty. It is important that he acknowledges the lived experiences of minoritised communities and especially those experiencing the hostile environment and the ongoing impact of the Windrush Scandal. Institutionalised racism is still alive and kicking in Britain today. We need to campaign for anti-racist progressive equalities legislation and a culture shift to dismantle structural racism and call out people and institutions which fail us and deliberately use cultural wars as a pretext to maintain the status quo. We have a long proud history of resistance and rebellion to draw on. Patrick Vernon is a social commentator, campaigner and cultural historian and Honorary Professor for cultural heritage and community leadership at Wolverhampton University. He co-authored 100 Great Black Britons with Dr Angelina Osborne. The collection highlights the history of Black achievement. It contains the biographies of individuals dealing with the adversities such as structural racism and the British Empire.
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100 YEARS OF SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
s we mark 100 years of the coming together of some of Britain’s oldest Remembrance traditions, the Royal British Legion is marking the service and sacrifice of the hundreds and thousands of men and women of African or Caribbean origin or descent, from Britain and the Commonwealth. We will be sharing over 100 stories over ten weeks up until the end of Black History Month on a dedicated page on the Black History Month website. “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes” Maya Angelo
The Royal British Legion (RBL) is dedicated to ensuring the Remembrance of the service and sacrifice of all those that have done so much to defend Britain’s democratic freedoms and way of life. Remembrance is not about glorifying war and its symbol, the red poppy, is a sign of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future. This idea of Remembrance is shared in all our online learning resources, which are free to download from rbl.org.uk/TeachingRemembrance. As a country Britain is united by a shared history of service and sacrifice, communities up and down the country, across faiths, cultures, and backgrounds, have since the First World War, and in some cases before, have served as part of, or alongside, Britain’s Armed Forces. We firmly believe that Remembrance should be an opportunity for people and communities to come together to remember that shared heritage. LEFT: London, UK. 22nd June, 2017. African, Caribbean war veterans memorial to hundreds of thousands of soldiers from African and Caribbean nations who served with British, U.S. and allied forces in the two World Wars was unveiled in Windrush square, Brixton. The Nubian Jak Community Trust, which conceived the memorial, said it aimed to ensure “a lasting legacy honouring the contribution made by African and Caribbean military servicemen and women.
In our acts of Remembrance, the RBL remembers the breadth of contributions and the diversity of the service and sacrifices made, we remember; • • •
The sacrifice of the Armed Forces community from Britain and the Commonwealth. Pays tribute to the special contribution of families and of the emergency services. Acknowledges the innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict and acts of terrorism.
From the fields of Flanders in the First World War to the jungles of Burma in the Second World War, from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desserts of Iraq, across seas, oceans and skies, to the streets and hospitals of Britain, black men and women have served, and continue to serve, with courage, honour and compassion. We hope that the stories of this service will help highlight what so many have given over the last 100 years and demonstrate that across Britain’s Armed Forces and emergency services, the vital role played by black men and women goes on. Our Stories for Black History Month The story of Black British and Black African and Caribbean service and sacrifice is one that we
An NHS staff member wearing a protective mask poses for a portrait on the Auchi ward in Hammersmith Hospital in London during the coronavirus crisis
Soldiers from Jamaica during the First World War. Royal Engineers on the left and Infantry on the right. Date: 1914
Many of our blue blood blacks died for the establishment. I know it because I buried several in Oxford, so many of our young Jamaicans, and West Indians, contributed immensely to Britain’s war effort. It should be remembered at all times.It should never be forgotten. HUBERT ‘BARON’ BAKER
We were so well mixed with the people of this country, even though we had different race and different colour. Nobody worried that you were black or you were white. We were just one people during them times. Things changed after the war. MAIN PIC: A Royal Air Force personell stands in front of African, Caribbean war veterans memorial to hundreds of thousands of soldiers from African and Caribbean nations who served with British, U.S. and allied forces in the two World Wars after it was unveiled in Windrush square, Brixton. The Nubian Jak Community Trust, which conceived the memorial, said it aimed to ensure “a lasting legacy honouring the contribution made by African and Caribbean military servicemen and women.
are keen to share, a story of men and women who have done so much in defence of Britain and in protecting all our citizens. A story that is replete with stories of bravery and courage, as epitomised by Victoria Cross winner Johnson Beharry. Each week for ten weeks we will be sharing new stories of men and women who served in the First and Second World Wars and who served, and continue to serve, thereafter. These individuals came from throughout Britain and the Commonwealth, served across the Army, Royal Navy, RAF, or emergency services, each in their own way, giving their today for our tomorrow. The stories and experiences we will be sharing are the threads that tie individuals, families, and communities together in our common shared heritage, they shine a light on the immense contribution made by black men and women over centuries in fighting for, rebuilding, healing, protecting and securing Britain even at times when British society has been slow to appreciate it. To read all the Stories please visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/section/ 100-years-of-service-and-sacrifice/
The spirit of the war is that we were all fighting to win.
The mother country is at war. Go. And if you survive, you will not regret it.
SAM KING’S MOTHER
I always loved the idea of serving your country. I remember learning in history class at school that men of all nationalities and backgrounds served in both World Wars, alongside British soldiers, and I thought I could be one of them. ABBAS SALIHU
Father served in the First World War, his three children served in the Second World War. I married a coloured man who was in the Second World War, as was his brother who was decorated for bravery in Burma. Their father also served in the First World War. Our son was a helicopter pilot, he served in Northern Ireland. So all in all, I think we’ve given back more to this country than we’ve received. LILIAN BADER
It was the Windrush generation who helped build and shape the NHS and black and brown people continue to contribute to the National Health Service. It has often been said that the NHS could not function without its black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, and this is undoubtedly true. KAREN BONNER
I wanted to go [to serve]. I had this feeling – not a case of adventure, but a case of being able to do something where something needed to be done. HAROLD STINSON BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 37
Fisayo Akinade Fisaye has had a varied career playing the role of Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet at the National, Khalil in the hit TV series Atlanta alongside Donald Glover, and Dean in Russell T Davies’ drama Cucumber. He has also recently starred along side Dev Patel in the movie The Personal History of David Copperfield.
How young were you when you realised you wanted to be an actor? I had always acted when I was younger but it had always been more of a hobby than anything else. I would go to Drama Drop in at Contact Theatre and attend workshops at The Royal Exchange in Manchester, then later I became a member of the Contact Young Actors Company. I loved my time in those theatres and the things they taught me, but (despite loving it and wanting to do it) I didn’t consider acting a valid profession until much later. I’d settled on the idea of being a drama teacher instead. When I was in college I went to see a production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Royal Exchange. It was the first time I’d seen more than one or two Black people on stage at the same time and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s performance as Levee in particular really inspired me. Not long after, I told my parents that I wanted to pursue acting professionally, I auditioned for drama schools and got a place on my second attempt. What reaction did you get when you told your family you wanted to become an actor? My parents on the whole have been incredibly supportive. Of course they had their worries. Being an actor is an unstable career at the best of times and they didn’t want to see me struggle (I did struggle, but that’s another story) but I think them
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West Yorkshire Playhouse. I’ve worked there a few times and it always felt like home. Waiting for Godot was a Talawa production with Patrick Robinson and Jefferey Kissoon playing the leads. It was an amazing experience. I asked our director if I could sit in on rehearsals. From my little corner in that rehearsal room I learned a great deal from those two, and Guy Burgess who played Lucky.
seeing my passion for it and seeing how hard I was prepared to work put them at ease. Do you remember who gave you your first break and what was it? My first proper job was playing The Boy in Waiting for Godot at what is now called the Leeds Playhouse but back then was the
In your career you have played with some of the top theatre companies. Can you describe what it feels like to be staring at the National or playing at the Globe? I really love working at the National. It’s such an iconic building and it’s the place everyone wanted to work when I was at drama school. Having my first job there in Barber Shop Chronicles was very special. There’s no better place to work than the National in the Summer.
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can’t be beaten. I enjoy screen and the stuff they can do with film now is incredible but theatre will always be my favourite.
I will, I think, always prefer theatre to anything else. It’s the most alive. That connection you have with a live audience can’t be beaten.
What have been your most satisfying role/s to date? The most satisfying roles are the ones that push you beyond what you thought you were capable of. The roles that you’re intimidated by. The most satisfying moments for me have always been when I’ve looked at a role and thought, I can’t do this, and then have done it anyway. Coming out at the other end and saying I did it is the most satisfying feeling. Then, of course
there are characters that are just fun to play. Dean in Cucumber/Banana, Samuel in Barber Shop Chronicles, Eros in Anthony and Cleopatra. I feel very lucky to have the job I do. What medium do you enjoy the best… live theatre, television, or the movies? I will, I think, always prefer theatre to anything else. It’s the most alive. That connection you have with a live audience
Through the Black Lives Matters movement, do you feel the entertainment industry is now opening up to more jobs for Black artists, and technicians? Things are changing and there are more positions opening up. I do feel though, that it’s all still happening too slowly. The issues that are being addressed now aren’t new. While it’s great that things are beginning to improve we have to make sure that these new jobs and roles actually help bring about the changes we want to see, ensure that they aren’t just for optics or friendly pats on the back, but actually open up space for real change. If you were a young Black actor starting out at drama school, what advice would you give them to further their career? I think my main piece of advice would be to practise patience, it can take time. Work hard, be kind, and have interests outside of acting.
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Lucy St Louis
The World’s first Black Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera
ucy St Louis has joined the London cast of The Phantom of the Opera playing the coveted role of Christine Daaé. She has also made history as becoming the first Black performer to play the role of Christine in the West End or on Broadway. Before Phantom Lucy played Diana Ross in the West End premiere of Motown the Musical. How did you start your career as an actor? When/where was your big break? My career has been one long journey of growth, education, and realisation! I would say there were a few parts to my career really taking off. I left Laine Theatre Arts, half a year early to do ‘Ragtime’ at Regent’s Park, and I was incredibly fortunate, as by the time my graduation came around, I had several jobs lined up. One of them being in the Original West End Company of ‘The Book of Mormon’ 1st cover to the lead female Nabalungi, I could not believe my luck. I then went on be in the Original Company of ‘Beautiful’ The Carol King Musical as one of the Shirelles, also playing a featured part of little Eva. I would say that my first big career shift was when I landed the part of Diana Ross in the Original Company of ‘Motown the Musical’. For me personally, my love of Classical Music and Opera was still the avenue that my heart desperately wanted to explore, as it was the basis of my vocal training and childhood dreams.
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So, after I finished ‘Motown’ I really wanted to wait for roles and shows that came along that were not of the ‘pop/jukebox’ world that I was constantly finding myself pigeon-holed in. I knew this was the side of me that I needed to express. It’s so hard to hold out and wait for an opportunity that you pray is out there for you. Keeping the faith and belief alive as you take a step back, whilst not knowing how your future might pan out, is quite honestly terrifying! It is something that every actor fears. Should a job not go your way, are you strong enough to fight another day? But after a year and a half of holding out, that little bit of hope came along in a gem of a work called ‘The Man of La Mancha’ with the English National Opera, where I played Antonia and covered Aldonza/Dulcinea who was played by the world-renowned opera singer Danielle De Niese. Finally, I was getting to be seen in something that would help shape my career to this present moment and ultimately to my dream role!
What medium do you enjoy the best… live theatre, television, or the movies? If I’m honest I love all mediums. Live Theatre, TV and movies all bring something completely different and are so special in their own way. Each allow a sense of escapism and take the viewer off an individual journey that allows your mind, body, and soul to forget about everyday life and go on a wonderful and unique emotional journey.
What reaction did you get when you told your parents you wanted to become an actor? My family and friends have always been so supportive of me in my career choice. My mum has always worked so tirelessly hard to allow me to pursue my career and follow my dreams. Her advice, strength and wisdom were such a driving force! Never give up, even through the hardest and toughest times. Knowing all the challenges that would inevitably come my way, she encouraged me to always keep going and find the positive in everything. Every high and low of all that comes with our industry is a huge learning curve, it’s so important to experience, learn and grow through each and every one.
Was there a moment when you realized you could actually make a living from acting? Seeing my first West End show when I was seven was definitely the moment, I realised that this could definitely be my life too. I wanted it so desperately and that’s when the hard work kicked in. I knew deep in my soul even at that young age that this was the life I wanted to live, working on stage and screen.
What have been your most satisfying role/s so far? There are so many, but I’d definitely say that getting to play Christine in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ has been my most satisfying role to play. I love her journey, how she transforms as a character, how she senses and experiences life, how she grows into such a strong woman throughout the show whilst always showing love and compassion. Andrew Lloyd Webber has created a musical masterpiece in Phantom and singing this incredible score every night is something that is so fulfilling on so many levels.
You played the role of Diana Ross for in Motown the Musical. Now you are playing a leading role in Phantom. How do you pace yourself for eight shows a week? Playing Diana Ross in Motown and Christine in Phantom are completely different roles, vocally and physically.
‘Andrew Lloyd Webber has created a musical masterpiece in Phantom and singing this incredible score every night is something that is so fulfilling on so many levels.’ Both demanding in their own ways. Preparing for each show is different but keeping hydrated and finding as much time to rest and recover my voice and body is key. No matter what show I’m doing I can’t help but give everything I have and coming back over these past 18 months has only made me appreciate how lucky we are to be onstage even more. Doing eight shows a week demands a lot physically, emotionally, mentally, and vocally, so we must be very aware of our bodies and what we need to fuel them to keep them running at the highest of levels. What was the reaction like playing again before a live audience? I will never ever forget the reaction of our first show and re-opening Phantom. The emotion and energy running through us backstage, getting ready to perform was so moving, and as soon as the overture started the roar from the audience was something that I’ve never heard before it was electric. The curtain call for me was the most emotional and magical moment ever, as the sound and love that the audience poured out to us on stage was truly spectacular. It was so, so much more than anything I had ever experienced. It was an acceptance, an acknowledgement of change, a true understanding that the West End
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and inclusion for the current and future generations to come.
was back as a bigger, better, more inclusive community. There was such an overwhelming release of joyful emotion there was not a dry eye in the theatre. You are the first Black performer to play Christine Daaé. Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference especially for you as a person of African heritage? Representation is so, so important, not just in the Arts but in life itself. As the West End is the beating heart of Musical Theatre, it is crucial that we can, and are, leading the way of change. We live in a world full of beautiful and wonderful ethnicities and we should visually see that in all walks of life, celebrate it in its full glory in order to show current and future generations of diverse performers that the possibilities are endless. To be a woman of colour leading a show of this magnitude, portraying a woman who
is strong, beautiful, graceful, and desired is an image that I wish my younger self could have seen more of on stage. It is a life changing moment that is so much bigger than me. I have been blessed with an opportunity that I pray inspires hope, positivity, inspiration,
What advice would you give Black performers starting out? The advice that I would give to Black performers starting out is to never give up. Never ever give up! If you want to be somewhere or do something you most definitely can, even if you don’t see a place there for you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be there and make it happen. I will be right there with you breaking down these barriers and walls for future generations to come, so that hopefully their journey through this industry is never just tied to the colour of their skin but to what they bring to the industry, to shows and characters using their own individuality and talents. Together we can create a more equal, beautiful diverse and inclusive industry.
LONDON’S FIRST BLACK POLICE OFFICER: Detective Sergeant Norwell Roberts QPM
orwell was nine years old when he and his widowed mother came to England from Anguilla in the Caribbean in the 1950s. Part of the Windrush generation, they settled in Camden, north London. Norwell’s grandfather and three uncles had all served in their local police forces in the West Indies, but it wasn’t until Norwell saw a poster calling for more police officers in London, that he decided to apply. In 1967, 21-year-old Norwell Roberts became the first black officer to join the Metropolitan Police Force since the Second World War. Asked if he felt he was a pioneer, Norwell says his focus was simply on getting the job done. “They made it tough but no one said life was going to be an easy ride. Unfortunately, my detractors would be disappointed as the more they kicked against me the more determined I was
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to succeed. I was made of sterner stuff, and if I am honest, on reflection I surprised myself.” As the only black officer in the Met, Norwell received a great deal of publicity, but was still subjected to racism and prejudice both inside and outside of work. He recalls ‘the worse I was treated, the stronger it made me.’ Norwell believed that Britain needed a police force that was representative of the country’s multi-racial society. Not wanting to disappoint those who supported him, Norwell rose through the ranks and in the 1980s joined CID, becoming Britain’s first black undercover officer. In 1996, Norwell was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service, of which he says ‘I felt extremely proud and that everything I had been through had been worth it.’ In 1997, after 30 years of service, Norwell retired.
SECOND WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE ARTHUR WINT OD MBE (1920-1992) Born in Jamaica at 17 Arthur was named Jamaica’s “Boy Athlete of the Year”, and in 1938 was to win an 800m gold medal at the Pan American Games in Panama.
With the outbreak of the Second World the RAF started recruiting from what were then British colonies and Arthur joined up with his brothers, Lloyd and Douglas, in 1942. Upon completion of his training Arthur was awarded his RAF “wings” in 1944 and served as a a Spitfire pilot. Despite the war Arthur had continued as an amateur athlete and after the war he won a 440 yards race at the White City Stadium competing on behalf of the RAF. In 1947 Arthur left the RAF, to attend St Bartholomew’s Hospital as a medical student through a Colonial Development and Welfare scholarship. In 1948 Arthur took part in the Olympic Games in London, where he would win Jamaica’s first Olympic gold medal for the 400 metres, running it in a then world equalling record of 46.2 seconds. He was also to win a silver medal in the 800 metres. In Helsinki in 1952 Arthur would be part the historic Jamaican team setting a then world record time of 3 minutes 3.9 seconds while winning gold in the 4x400 metres relay, as well as again winning silver in the 800 metres. Arthur would run his final race in 1953 at Wembley Stadium, the same year he graduated as a Doctor at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. In 1954 Arthur was awarded an MBE by the Queen, before moving back to Jamaica in 1955, where he was to work as the only doctor and surgeon in Hanover Parish for many years. In 1973 he was awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction for his service to charities, schools and business and a year later returned to Britain to serve as Jamaica’s High Commissioner in London – while also ambassador to Denmark and Sweden – for a period of four years. In 1978 he returned to Jamaica to work as the Senior Medical Officer and Surgeon at Linstead Hospital, where he remained until 1985. In 1982 Arthur became a founding member of the Sports Medicine Association and received the Careeras Foundation’s Certificate of Merit for his work in Sports Medicine. Arthur died at Linstead in 1992, leaving a wife and three daughters. His name remains on a road in Kingston, Jamaica, that links the two passions of his later life, running as it does pass a hospital on its way to the country’s National Stadium.
“ Fugitive Pedagogy advances the history of black education into new territory.” —Vanessa Siddle Walker, author of The Lost Education of Horace Tate
“Jarvis Givens’s Fugitive Pedagogy is a brilliant, fascinating, and groundbreaking text.” —Imani Perry, author of May We Forever Stand
“This book is a tremendous offering.” —LA Review of Books
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SARGEANT PASCAL ZGAMBO BA(Hons) FInstLM MCMI RPTAG Zgambo joined the Royal Air Force in October 2007 and passed out of Recruit Training Squadron at RAF Halton in January 2008. On successful completion of trade training at the Catering Training Squadron at RAF Halton, he qualified as a Logistic Air and Ground Steward and was subsequently posted to RAF Benson. During his service at RAF Benson, he completed a short VIP tour of Buckingham Palace as a personal steward to the Royal Household’s Chief of Staff. In April 2010 he attended the Advanced Caterer Course at RAF Halton. In July 2010 he was posted to 3 Mobile Catering Squadron based at RAF Wittering. During this time, he undertook a tour of BFSAI Falklands as the Junior Catering Accountant within the Tri-service Catering and Rations Squadron for a period of five months. In June 2012, he deployed to London in
support of Op Olympic for a period of four months. In October 2015 he was promoted to Cpl and subsequently posted to the Defence School of Logistics at Worthy Down Barracks as a Caterer Instructor, teaching basic students and mentoring advanced students on their promotion course. During this tour, in October 2017 he was awarded the late Sqn Ldr Penny Lowe Caterer of the Year Trophy in recognition of his service and efforts to TG19’s training delivery. On completion of this tour in December 2017, he was posted within the Food Services Training Wing as the TG19 Apprenticeship Centre’s Internal Quality Assurer. He was promoted to Sgt in December 2019 and he is currently at the Airmen’s Command Squadron as a Defence Trainer on the Junior Management and Leadership Course. He is a staunch supporter of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA), devoting most of his spare time to RAFA as an Honorary Welfare Officer. In July 2018, he was awarded a long service medal by HRH the Queen at Buckingham Palace in recognition of his service and devotion to the Confederation of Service Charities. Passionate about championing Diversity and Inclusion across Defence, he currently sits on the MOD’s Race Network as the only Non-Commissioned Officer reporting directly to the Chief of Defence Staff.
What is your job role? OC Base Support Squadron, RAF Wittering. What made you want to join the RAF? Joined in 2003, Was aware of the Gulf War, wanted to be part of the greater good for the world. What is your biggest achievement? Receiving his MBE. Also helping to influence change of culture in the RAF, including policy, RAF reactions to BLM movement, RAF Response to Covid-19, making sure people from BAME communities have a voice. What would you say to other people thinking of joining the RAF? If this is how you feel I feel you should take the opportunity but don’t sit back and have the what if? moment, you need to try something and see if it works for you.
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SAC YEWNIECE HYLTON What is your job? Duty Operations Specialist, based at RAF Lossiemouth. What is your role in the RAF BAME network? I’m part of the Secretary Team. Why did you get involved in the RAF BAME network? Following a number of recent events, the struggles which people of ethnic backgrounds face is really at the forefront of society. Things are changing, however, there’s still a lot of progress to be made. I’d like to be a part of the catalyst for this change within the RAF. Black people are often underrepresented professionally in most aspects of society, we can use the network to be seen and heard within the RAF; showing the next generation that there’s a place for them in the military, ultimately creating a more positive experience for BAME personnel. What would you recommend to watch/listen to learn about BAME issues? Speaking to the BAME community will definitely give you the best perspective when talking about the issues which we face. There are also some good websites out there, including: www.dopeblackdads.com www.yoopies.co.uk/c/press-releases/ blacklivesmatter www.bameednetwork.com/courageousconversations-about-race
‘We had to work very hard and get the Air Force going’.
am King was the eldest boy of 10 children. He grew up in Jamaica where his family ran a banana plantation. When he was 15, his father became ill so Sam left school to manage the farm. At 16, Sam says he was ‘hiring and firing’ and this early decision-making helped him in his future careers. In 1944, aged 18, Sam saw an advert calling for volunteers to join the RAF. His family expected him to be a farmer, so when Sam took the test to join the RAF and scored quite highly they were very surprised, but none more so than Sam. His mother said ‘Sam, the Mother Country is at war, go!’ After basic training in Jamaica, Sam boarded the SS Cuba in October 1944, leaving behind the sunshine and arriving in freezing cold Greenock in Scotland. It was here, that Sam saw snow for the first time. ‘I landed at Greenock, and there was three inches of snow. And I was looking at it, and the sergeant said ‘MOVE! You are not dead!’. It stayed on the ground for a month, slightly different from 85 degrees most days’. Sam had read all about the progress of the war and the impact on Britain, but he said that when he actually saw the bombing of Glasgow with his own eyes, it was ‘frightening’ and he was ‘shocked’. During the war, Sam worked across at least 16 different RAF stations. The Chief Engineer would inspect damaged aircraft and gave engineers like Sam a list of jobs. If Sam or the others made any mistakes, it could cost the crew their lives. The engineers went wherever they were needed, often not knowing what type of aeroplane they would be working on until they arrived. Sam liked the Dakotas the most, because the engine was like a Ford car engine and easy to work on. He was less fond of the Lancaster bombers. They were so large, repairs always involved climbing big ladders. When the Lancaster was ready to take off, Sam would have to remove the ‘chucks’ or blocks from in front of the wheels which were half his own weight.
If an aircraft was beyond repair, the engineers would cannibalise them, to salvage any spare parts they could. The engineers also had to finish putting together aeroplanes delivered straight from the factories. This ranged from overseeing the installation of the radar equipment to aligning the propeller and putting the markings on. After the war finished, Sam wanted to stay in the RAF but was told that this was not an option, that all West Indian personnel were to be demobbed. Sam returned to Jamaica in 1947, but he could not settle. When he saw an advert in 1948 for the HMS Windrush he returned to Britain and re-joined the RAF for another four years. Leaving the RAF in 1952, Sam went on to join the Postal Service where he worked for over thirty years. Starting out as a postman, he worked his way up to Postal Executive for the South Eastern District. In 1983, Sam became the first black Mayor of the London borough of Southwark and the only black London mayor at that time. In 1996 he founded the Windrush Foundation and in 1998, on the 50th anniversary of the Windrush, he was awarded an MBE. Sam King passed away on 17th June 2016.
Be inspired Be valued Be the difference www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/jobs
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 45
Back To Africa was not Marcus Garvey’s Pan-Africanism focus
Kwaku is a London-based history consultant and co-editor of ‘African Voices: Quotations By People Of African Descent’
B Y K WA K U
arcus Garvey is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest pan-Africanists. He was born in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17 1887 and died in London on June 10 1940. Indeed, the month of his birth, August, has so many Garvey connections, and Garveyites in Britain have taken to referring the month as Mosiah month, after Garvey’s middle name. Not surprising, there are a number of mis-information about Garvey. One such mis-information is the way he, and his UNIA-ACL (Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League) organisation, is often painted with the ‘Back To Africa’ brush. I argue that, despite the prevalent view, the ‘Back To Africa’ agenda was not the focus of Garvey, who’s the inspiration behind The Marcus Garvey Annual Pan-Africanism Presentation, which I organise annually on his birthday, partly to raise awareness of the Garvey bust in Brent Museum. I suggest that Garvey ought to be remembered for much more, such as advocating for African history, confidence and empowerment, rather than “back to Africa”. Indeed, when the January 2019 edition of New African magazine published an article of mine entitled ‘Back To Africa Movement Gathers Pace’, I’m sure it surprised some pan-Africanists, particularly Garveyites, because there was no mention of Garvey.
Yes, Garvey and his UNIA organisation did advocate “back to Africa”. But as we shall see, because of his unsuccessful attempt to resettle diasporic Africans in Africa, this article argues that Garvey’s abiding legacy should be his centrality to 20th century pan-African history and nationalism, and his advocacy for the teaching of African history as a means of uplifting, empowering and encouraging Africans to regain confidence, in an effort to rise to their full potential and let, as he stated: “Africa be a bright star among the constellations.” It’s worth pointing out that the “back to Africa” ideology was neither started by Garvey nor was it his main preoccupation. By the time Garvey and the UNIA were making inroads into the United States and the world stage in the early 1920s, the “back to Africa” movement had had more than a century of history, propelled mainly by church and civil society groups. Garvey’s pan-Africanist thought and “back to Africa” ideology were influenced mainly by two men: Edward Wilmot Blyden, an African Caribbean who emigrated in 1850 to Liberia, where he became a writer, educator and diplomat, and Martin Delaney, an African American medic, military officer, and abolitionist. Delaney was an official of the Liberian Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company, which managed to transport some two hundred African American émigrés to Liberia in 1878. Although Garvey’s Liberian resettlement plan was unsuccessful, his main aim for Africa was to redeem colonial Africa for the African, rather than a quest for all Africans in the diaspora to return to Africa. He did once pronounce on the matter, saying: “I have no desire to take all black people back to Africa. There are blacks who are no good here and will likewise be no good there.” Garvey never visited Africa – the speculation was that the Western colonial authorities would not give permission to such a person, whose call for decolonisation would have destabilised the status quo of their colonies. And although the UNIA
had chapters across Africa, Garvey’s direct engagement with the continent was with Liberia, where his plans were to resettle thousands of African families drawn from the Caribbean, and north and south America. However, the hands of the British and French colonial powers, and the United States, were said to have been at play during the four years of UNIA dealings in the 1920s with the government of Liberia, then one of only two nominally independent, sovereign states in Africa. Garvey’s emissary Elie Garcia began discussions in Liberia with Liberian president Charles King from May 1920, in which he outlined Garvey’s plan to relocate the UNIA’s headquarters to Liberia, raise funds to help the chronically financially-challenged
UNIA’s millions of members and readers of its Negro World newspaper. This was also embedded in one of the articles of the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World, which was adopted at the 1920 UNIA Convention in New York. Article 49 demanded that school education of African-American children include African history. Incidentally, this and article 53, which proclaimed that August 31 be observed as an international holiday by all Africans, inspired African History Reflection Day. The Day was declared at a UNIA centenary memorial event I co-organised at the Ghana High Commission in London in 2014.
‘GARVEY’S INFLUENCE ON THE 20TH CENTURY AFRICAN DECOLONISATION AND NATIONALISM MOVEMENTS IS UNASSAILABLE.’
country, resettle his followers, and help develop the country. This was followed in February 1921 by a small retinue of officials and technicians, who conducted feasibility studies and had talks with government officials, which included UNIA members and supporters, such as Mayor Of Monrovia Gabriel M Johnson. The initial positive response to Garvey’s Liberian overtures resulted in a third UNIA party going to Liberia in December 1923, where its responsibilities included sorting out the preparations for 20,000 to 30,000 emigrant families. Sadly for reasons too convoluted to go into detail here, by the time the next UNIA party arrived in 1924, the relationship had soured. They were deported, their property was sold by the government,
the UNIA was proscribed, and land earmarked for the UNIA was subsequently sold to the Firestone tyre company for its rubber plantation. However, although Garvey’s plan to resettle diasporic Africans in Liberia was unsuccessful, he succeeded in instituting the teaching of African history. This is one of the key points he should be remembered for, as he has received little credit for this. The African-American historian Dr Carter G Woodson is credited with founding in February 1926 Negro History Week, the forerunner to today’s internationally celebrated African or Black History Month (BHM). However, prior to that, the teaching of African history was an integral part of the educational programme available to
In December 2020, Costa Rican vice president Epsy Campbell Barr managed to get enough support within the UN for the organisation to proclaim August 31 International Day for People of African Descent. She tweeted the day after the proclamation the inspiration for the Day Article 53 of the UNIA’s 1920 Declaration. So due to Garvey and his organisation, the world has a commemoration day to focus on the contributions of Africans to society, and also to help tackle racism, or more specifically - Afriphobia. Garvey’s influence on the 20th century African decolonisation and nationalism movements is unassailable. For example, Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah in his 1957 biography ‘Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah’, said: “I think that of all the literature that I studied, the book that did more than any other to fire my enthusiasm was the ‘Philosophy And Opinions Of Marcus Garvey, Or Africa For The Africans’.” Nkrumah went on to name Ghana’s shipping line Black Star Line, after the short-lived shipping line incorporated by the UNIA in 1919, which unfortunately never reached the shoreline of any part of Africa. There’s a Black Star Square in Ghana’s capital city Accra, a black star in the Ghanaian flag, and the national football team is called Black Stars. Nkrumah also championed Garvey’s African pride philosophy, by talking about the African Personality, instituted the African Studies department at the University Of
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Ghana, and commissioned the compilation of the ‘Encyclopedia Africana’, which unfortunately was never completed. However, with the support of the Africa Union and the Zimbabwean government, the concept was birthed last year as an 800 paged tome entitled ‘The Africa FactBook: Bursting The Myths’. Garvey’s influence can be found not only in other African political leaders, such as Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Patrice Lumumba, but also in faith and civil rights leaders. The Nation of Islam leader Hon Elijah Muhammad was a UNIA member, as were the parents of his deputy Malcolm X. Martin Luther King acknowledged Garvey’s influence, whilst the Rastafari faith, pioneered by UNIA member Leonard Howell, includes Garvey as one of its prophets. Also, the flags of African countries, such as Kenya, Malawi and Libya, incorporate the red, black and green tri-colours, which the 1920 Convention declared as the UNIA or pan-African colours. It is worth noting that by the time Garvey relocated to London in his last years, 1935-40, his stature on the world stage had greatly diminished. So it’s perhaps not surprising that a 1984 Greater London Council (GLC) motion to erect a commemorative plaque on Garvey’s London home was successfully opposed on the grounds that he wasn’t sufficiently known in Britain. However, within a year, Garvey was to have a most profound and enduring impact on African history awareness in Britain. Whilst some people may be aware that in 1987 Britain became the first country outside of north America to adopt Black History Month (BHM), very few know the Garvey-related backstory. Incidentally, three years on from organising Commemorating African Jubilee Year 1987-88 @30 at London’s City Hall, we’ll revisit this story this November in an online event entitled The True History Of African/Black History Month In The UK. It all started some time in 1985, when Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai-Sebo was working at a special projects advisor at the GLC. One day, he noticed one of his colleagues was distressed. Upon enquiring, his colleague explained that the night before, her young son had asked her: “Mummy, why can’t I be white?” The fact that a boy named Marcus, after Garvey, being brought up within a pan-Africanist centred home, was having identity issues stirred Addai-Sebo to develop African history programmes to engage Londoners, particularly the youth. So before the GLC was abolished in March 1986, the
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GLC supported and organised a wide range of history programmes, including a lecture series, and a major exhibition and accompanying book called ‘A History Of The Black Presence In London’. Having moved to the GLC successor body, the London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU), Addai-Sebo and his LSPU colleagues began planning in 1987 a major multi-strand, cross-London project initially to mark the centenary of the birth of Garvey. Although the project was subsequently re-named African Jubilee Year 1987-88 (AJY), it’s Garvey image that dominates the logo of AJY, which run from August 1987 to July 1988. Three significant historic milestones were commemorated within this period: the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Garvey, and the the 150th anniversary of the so-called emancipation of enslaved Africans in the British Caribbean. Incidentally, the 10th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death was also considered. Sally Mugabe stood in as the keynote speaker at the AJY launch on July 31 1987 for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who had to attend an OAU meeting. The African Jubilee Year Declaration was also officially revealed at the launch. The Declaration, which was underpinned by the GLC’s 1984 anti-apartheid and anti-racist declarations, enjoined London’s statutory bodies in marking BHM annually in October. The Declaration also called for the
promotion of “positive public images and an understanding of Africans and people of African descent and encourage the positive teaching and development of their history, culture and struggles”, and the “naming of streets, buildings and parks after Marcus Garvey and other prominent personalities of the pan-African revolutionary process and the commemoration of historic connections between the pan-African revolutionary struggle and London, including the erections of plaques, sculptures and murals in honour of such connections.” Garvey understood the importance of history, which he succinctly summarised in this often-repeated quote: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Although he was born in Jamaica, Garvey was very confident in his African identity. His first hand experience of the lives of the majority of Africans through his travels across the Caribbean, Americas, and Europe, helped him to become one of the major champions of pan-Africanism. So it wasn’t surprising that when asked whether he was African or Jamaican, he replied: “I will not give up a continent for an island.” He also knew that knowledge of self and one’s proud history produced confident people, leading him to quip: “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life,” adding: “With confidence, you have won before you have started.” This is what Garvey ought to be remembered for.
Diversity creates brilliance.
We bring brilliant minds together to crack complex issues
Problems aren’t one-dimensional. By collaborating we can find the answers. We are committed at the highest levels in all that we do. This is what makes NTU a highly effective learning environment for our students and staff, characterised by fairness, equality of opportunity, and the valuing of diversity. Principles of dignity and respect underpin all that we do, and the University had very clear expectations around how all members of its community treat-and are treated by-others. Students: As the destination of choice for an increasingly diverse group of students, we are keen to ensure that individual needs are met and that a sense of value and belonging is nurtured. Colleagues: Colleagues can access our learning and development programme, find out about staff networks and information and source advice and resources to support their working life at NTU. Contact: Nottingham Trent University, 50 Shakespeare Street, Nottingham NG1 4FQ Tel: 0115 941 8418 Visit us: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/visit-us About us: https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us
If you’re leaving school or college this year and you’re worried about the cost of university and finding a good job afterwards, a JTL apprenticeship could be a better option for you. With a JTL apprenticeship you can launch a rewarding lifelong career as an electrician or a plumbing & heating engineer, and once fully qualified you can go on to earn an annual salary of £32,000 or more. An apprenticeship can be started at 16 and completed within 4 years.
Supporting Black History Month UK’s ‘Proud to be’ campaign.
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Image Credit: Marc Brenner
Angel Coulby Angel is best known for starring as Gwen in all 65 episodes of the action adventure fantasy series ‘Merlin’, which also starred John Hurt, Colin Morgan, and Emilia Fox. The show aired from 2008 to 2012, and in 2010 Angel was nominated for a Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Deries at the Monte Carlo TV Festival. How did you get into the acting business? My acting career began with a lucky break of sorts. I was approaching the end of my final year of drama college in Edinburgh and had returned to London to take part in a mid-term work placement. A friend from college called me and told me about a message on the college notice board from a casting director at the BBC. She said they were casting a role in a comedy series which fitted my description, and that I should send in my CV ASAP, because the deadline was in a few days’ time. I faxed my CV to the relevant parties and then waited to hear back. A week or so later I was called in for my first ever casting, and several months and a couple of auditions later I landed the role. At the time I was agent-less and had zero experience of working professionally, so the sitcom’s casting director kindly introduced me to an agent friend of hers who agreed to handle the contract for me as a favour. I’m privileged to say that agent happened to be from one of the top agencies and has represented me ever since. For me this was all literally the stuff of dreams. My drama school buddies and I had spent most of our final year fretting about whether we’d ever get an agent and/or an acting job. But now, seemingly out of the blue, I had both. I felt and still feel extremely lucky to have had such a smooth journey into the industry. What medium do you enjoy the best… live theatre, or television? For me they both have their unique merits, so I couldn’t say I preferred one more than another. There’s more of an adrenal buzz with live
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Image Credit: Wil Coban
theatre because once you’re on stage there’s no going back, mistakes or no mistakes. Plus, you get a palpable response from the audience, which feels great as long as they’re enjoying themselves! But with TV you have the luxury of doing more takes if you’re not happy with your performance. And personally, there’s something I appreciate about the finality that comes with filming. There is necessarily some repetition, in that you’ll likely do several takes of
each scene. But once everything in that scene has been captured it’s time to move on to something new. I also like the fact that when you’re filming you often get to travel and experience new places. But my passion for acting has to do with the actors themselves. I’ve worked with many wonderful people over the years. This is the part I love no matter the medium. Being in a series for so long, were you ever concerned about being type cast? Generally, actors are cast based on their look, age and character fitting the role. So, I think the reality is that most actors tend to play close to their own type most of the time. I guess I wasn’t concerned about being typecast after Merlin because it’s what I’d observed to be the case for most people and therefore what I expected. However, I would certainly welcome the challenge of playing a role which is totally against type. What have been your most satisfying roles so far? At the risk of sounding anodyne, they have all be satisfying in one way or another. But if I was forced to single something out it might be the show I did at the Hampstead theatre which later transferred to the West End. It was called Good People and was written by David Lindsay Abaire. It was a really funny show and the writing was just so wonderful, it was a joy to perform each night.
RE I’M FINDING CASTING IS OFTEN MO BALANCED AND REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DIVERSE SOCIETY WE LIVE IN.
Did you always know you wanted to act? Yes. From the moment I understood that those people I’d watched in films and on the tele were in fact actors being paid to perform, and that this was a legitimate career choice, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference, especially to you as a person of Afro-Caribbean heritage and for others? I feel like it has made a difference for me personally. In the past I would regularly receive auditions for roles which, although they would specify “any race/ethnicity”, I knew absolutely they would not go to a non-White actor. Now however that’s changed. I’ve also previously experienced tokenism in my career, but now I’m finding casting is often more balanced and representative of the diverse society we live in. I’m not saying the battle has been won, but this is undoubtably a step in the right direction. What projects are you currently working on? Earlier this year I shot a series for Apple TV+ called Suspicion, which stars Uma Thurman Noah Emmerich and Kunal Nayyar. I’m currently in Vienna shooting a Drama series called The Net. I imagine both will be shown sometime next year. Looking back over your career to date, what advice can you give to other Black artists keen to make it in the industry? I can offer the following, which is what I’d say to anyone: • Start meditating - try the Z technique developed by Emily Fletcher • Don’t let the toxic types get you down. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 51
How Olive Morris fought for Black women’s rights in Britain In the 27 years she was alive, Morris raised awareness of inequalities by travelling, writing, organizing protests and setting up support groups. Olive Morris learned early in life the consequences of fighting injustice.
Morris was a political activist, who was born on 26 June 1952 in Harewood, St Catherine’s, Jamaica, the daughter of Vincent Nathaniel Morris and his wife, Doris, née Moseley. When she was nine years old, she and her brother, Basil, left their maternal grandmother and joined her mother and father in Lavender Hill, south London. There were four further siblings. Olive’s father became a forklift operator and her mother was a factory shop steward. Olive attended Heathbrook primary school and then Lavender Hill Girls’ Secondary School and Tulse Hill secondary school. She left school without any qualifications and later went on to study at the London College of Printing. The late 1960s and 1970s were a particularly challenging time for Britain’s post-war African, African-Caribbean, and Asian communities: there was increased tension between police and the black community and attacks by fascist groups such as the National Front, as well as discrimination in housing and employment. Olive Morris became a tireless organizer and fighter against racism, and also sexism and other forms of oppression. In an early example of her political activism she intervened in the arrest of a Nigerian diplomat for a parking offence in Brixton in 1969. She was physically assaulted and racially abused by the police and arrested, along with six other people, fined £10, and given a three-month suspended sentence for two
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years. The charges comprised assault on the police, threatening behaviour, and possession of dangerous weapons. In the early 1970s Morris became a member of the youth section of the Black Panther movement (later the Black Workers movement), along with others such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Clovis Reid, and Farrukh Dhondy. She was also a founding member of the Brixton Black Women’s Group. Many black political organizations were based in and around Brixton, which was an important area for counter-culture political activity. She visited Germany in 1971. In August 1972 she and a friend, Liz Obi, planned to visit the American Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver, who was in exile in Algeria, but they became stranded in Morocco. She squatted at 121 Railton Road, Brixton, with Obi in 1973. The squat became an organizing centre for community groups such as Black People against State Harassment as well as housing Sabarr Bookshop, which was one of the first black community bookshops. 121 Railton Road remained a social centre and a centre for the squatting movement until it was closed in 1999.
In 2009 Olive was chosen by popular vote as one of the historical figures to feature on a local currency, the Brixton pound. In July 1974 Morris returned to Jamaica for six weeks. The following year she began a degree in economics and social science at Manchester University. She was a member of the National Coordinating Committee of Overseas Students, which campaigned for the abolition of fees for overseas students; off-campus, she was involved in the work of the Manchester Black Women’s Co-operative and the Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group. She visited Italy and Northern Ireland in 1976. In 1977 she visited China and wrote a piece entitled ‘A sister’s visit to China’ which explored the role of China in anti-imperialist struggles. It was published in Speak Out!, the Brixton Black Women’s Group newsletter. In 1978 she, along with Stella Dadzie and other women, founded the Organization of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD). OWAAD held its first conference at the Abeng centre on Gresham Road in Brixton, a centre that Morris had helped to establish along with Elaine Holness and other members of the community. Morris graduated in 1978 and returned to Brixton, working in the juvenile department of the Brixton Community Law Centre where she was involved in the campaign to scrap
the ‘sus’ laws. She lived at 2 Talma Road, Brixton. She was also a burgeoning writer and co-wrote a piece on the Anti-Nazi League with her partner, Mike McColgan. ‘Has the Anti-Nazi League got it right on racism?’ was published in a flyer for the Brixton Ad-Hoc Committee against Police Repression in 1978 and criticized the strategy of focusing on fighting fascism, while largely ignoring the impact of institutionalized racism: the role of the police, the education system, and so on. Morris became ill during a trip to Spain in 1978. On her return to London, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent treatment which was unsuccessful. She died on 12 July 1979 at St Thomas’s Hospital, Lambeth, and was buried in Streatham Vale cemetery. She was survived by her partner, Mike McColgan. Her premature death was a shock to her friends, family, and political colleagues. A Lambeth council building, 18 Brixton Hill, was named after her in March 1986. A community garden and play area was also named after her in the Myatt’s Fields area. In Brixton, the Remembering Olive Collective was a community project established in 2008 to publicize her legacy and contribution to political struggle. In 2009 she was chosen by popular vote as one of the historical figures to feature on a local currency, the Brixton pound. In 2011 the Olive Morris memorial award was launched to give bursaries to young Black women.
GUVNA B Rapper, Author, Broadcaster, West Ham supporter and very proud Dad
Isaac Borquaye was born 13 June 1989, in London to Ghanaian parents from Accra. He is better known as Guvna B, and is a rapper, author and broadcaster from Custom House, London. He has released ten albums, two books and has produced segments for the BBC and is a football pundit for Sky Sports News’ Good Morning Transfers. He is also a staunch West Ham fan. In January 2013, Guvna B launched his own urban clothing brand, Allo Mate. He has also appeared on television to discuss topics that affect young people from underprivileged communities. He is currently on tour, but found the time to speak to BHM 2021 Magazine...
What is your family background? My parents are from Accra in Ghana, and they came over to England in their early twenties. Me and my brother were born in England. Were you interested in writing and performing at school? I actually became interested in writing and performing in primary school, and I did well in my English classes, but I struggled with my behaviour. One day when I had been sent out of class, my primary head teacher told me you are so good at English, why don’t you try to concentrate in class and develop your skill set there. It was the very first time anyone had told me that I was good at something, so I then started to take writing seriously. What reaction did you get when you told your parents you wanted to become a performer and writer? They were really supportive, but coming from a poor African family, my Mum want me to have better opportunities than they had. Therefore, she said get a degree first, so I studied Business and Journalism at got my degree at Hertfordshire University. After that it was OK to pursue writing and my music. How did you get your first big break and what was it? It was at an album launch party I did with my local youth group, when I was just 17 years old. 800 people turned up for the launch and I was shocked and surprised. Someone from Black Grape Productions came, who at the time were handling comedian Eddie Kadi and YolanDa Brown and said they would really like to become my manager. Within 12 months I had won my first MOBO award and was touring with Tinie Tempah. What medium do you enjoy the best… live singing or writing? I guess the writing, as you have to first write lyrics, as that’s the stage before you sing them or rap them. I also have to write books and TV links and scripts for documentaries.
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I always find the magic’s in the writing. The medium that comes after that, whether it’s being on tour live on stage or on TV or on the radio, that’s all great too. But every one of those communications starts with writing How did you get the chance to be a sports pundit? I am very vocal on social media, especially about my love for West Ham and having worked in radio and TV for so long. A producer at Sky Sports suggested I went on their Good Morning Transfer Show. Through the power of social media, I also went on the Soccer Bible and various other publications, and even West Ham also go in touch too. Was there a moment when you realized you could actually make a living from being a rapper and performer? It was the morning after my album launch at the local youth club. 800 people turned up and paid to get in and bought my album. When I added it all up there was £4,000, which was a substantial amount of money for a 17-year-old kid living on a council estate in East London. And the best thing about it was it was legal! I thought WOW, here was something legal that I enjoyed doing, and it inspired me to kick on from there. Was it easy to launch your clothing range, and what advice would you give to others wanting to follow into the fashion scene? I launched it off the back of the sound my music and the phrases which people liked, so I thought why not put them on T Shirts like Allo Mate. Fans would also have another keep sake, along with my albums. Just cool merchandise! I am far from Kanye West’s standard, as I feel I still must grow in my fashion. What I would actually like to do, is to employ a young person who is passionate about fashion and has ideas to manage the clothing range for me. So, if you love fashion get in touch. Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference? That’s a tough question! I think on the surface undoubtably yes, and it is obviously a buzz word for the right or wrong reasons. It causes people to have the conversations, which a few years ago were not happening. Most importantly things are being listened too, so that’s good. I just feel structural systemic change takes a lot longer, and it takes diversity to be more than a trend. The change comes when all the cogs are turning at the same time, from companies to government legislation, employers to HR organizations. I think it now on everyone’s radar How do you manage to swop one day from being a rapper to a writer and the next day designing clothes? I think what I do is who I am, and what I carry, rather than the method. So, who am I?.…Guvna B, someone who tries to inspire positivity and show the younger
generation it can be done. And I can do that by my clothing range, writing a book or by my music. I think it great to be multi skilled or a Jack of all trades, and it opens a lot more opportunities. What advice can you offer to young Black people considering working in the music industry or becoming a writer? The first thing I would say is work hard and put in your 10,000 hours. I always say to Black people its 20,000 hours to become an expert, as we are systemically and structurally set up in this country, it means we must work even harder, especially as where we are at with diversity and equality. Hopefully that will change. Until then don’t give anybody the opportunity to say you are not good enough, and embrace what makes you unique, and embrace your authenticity. There’s already a Guvna B, Stormzy or Kanye West, who ever you look up to. However, there is probably something you have which is unique to your story, that is authentic to you. Don’t hide it embrace it. Life doesn’t owe you anything, so wake up and be as optimistic as possible. If you get knocked down, get back up again, and don’t take anything too personally. Finally, what are your plans for the next twelve months? My genuine plan is to be a great husband and a good dad, and yes more music and more content in the form of broadcasting. I really have a passion to tell the stories of those who are unheard and unvalued. So, watch this space.
www.guvnab.com BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 55
REDMOND Derek Redmond may not have won the 1992 Olympic semi-finals, but he still made history with his sportsmanship, perseverance and courage by crossing the line despite his injury. Off the track, Derek experienced microaggressions within the sports industry, and now supplies event presentations on diversity and inclusion to tackle racial discrimination. In this exclusive issue, Derek revealed what diversity and inclusion means to him and the metaphor he uses to explain equality. Also reflecting on his proudest professional achievement, do not miss this official Q&A with one of sports most inspiring figures. What does diversity and inclusion mean to you and why are they important? It’s majorly important. Having competed in sport, worked in the corporate world and being somebody coming from the [Black] community, this is something that I have my own experience in. To answer the question as a whole, what it means to me is, if organisations are open, honest and fair about diversity, actually, it can be a plus for their organisation, it can actually be an asset to their organisation. Now, that’s quite a big, bold, sweeping statement to make. But if we just break it
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down a little bit. First of all, when people talk about diversity, they think of the obvious things. They think of somebody’s ethnicity, where they were born, what sex they are, male or female, if they’ve got any disabilities they think of the obvious. Actually, there are four types of diversity, and that is only one type of diversity; that’s what we refer to as ‘internal diversity’. So, internal diversity is basically the things that we are born into that we cannot change, they are us and that’s what everybody looks at. But there are three other types of diversities. We have ‘external diversity’, which are things that actually we do change; the way we dress, our beliefs, things that over time, can change. These are things that we choose to do. We then move on to ‘organisational diversity’, which really looks at where you are
and where you stand within your organisation, like your level or your position. And then we have a fourth diversity which is actually called ‘world diversity’. So these are the things again, that you have some control over, like your intelligence. We all choose to a degree how intelligent we are, and we choose how much we want to learn and be educated. Our political beliefs, we have a choice over that, our morals, how we are prepared to behave within the workplace. All these things need to be taken into consideration when we talk about diversity and inclusion. It’s not just the obvious, and the advantages give companies and organisations a much bigger pool of experience to call upon, because people come from all different walks of life with different morals, with different beliefs, with different thoughts.
“MY DAD ALWAYS USED TO SAY, ‘TREAT PEOPLE LIKE A SAUSAGE’. IN OTHER WORDS, GIVE THEM 100/100. GIVE THEM THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT AND LET THEM DETERMINE HOW FAR DOWN THE SAUSAGE SCALE THEY GO.”
Actually, to have all that on the table when making decisions and coming up with ideas and coming up with plans will take your company from where it is to where you want to be. How would you describe diversity and inclusion? I’m going to tell a story about my dad, and you will like this one because it involves food! My dad once told me to treat everybody like a sausage. He says, ‘when you’re older, just treat everybody like a sausage’. You might think, ‘what the hell is he talking about?’ I don’t mean pick a fork up and jab it in them to make sure they’re all cooked! To explain it, my dad was in the meat trade for many, many years and he sold meat processing equipment. And like every industry, there were exhibitions. There was
one that went on for a week, and one of the events that used to take place was the final of the Britain’s Best Sausage Competition. Butchers would make up these weird and wonderful flavoured sausages. There would be a panel of judges and they all walk around in their white coats on, wearing little white butcher’s hat and holding clipboards. Every sausage already had 100/100, they were all marked as perfect sausages. And then, the judges would go around a knock off marks accordingly. So, if the shape wasn’t correct, if it wasn’t soft and juicy enough, it was too salty, too spicy, not salty enough or whatever, they would knock marks off. And it was the [person] with the least amount of marks knocked off who deemed the winner. My dad always used to say, ‘treat people like a sausage’. In other words, give them 100/100. Give them the benefit of the doubt and let them determine how far down the sausage scale they go. I think if everybody took that attitude, diversity and inclusion wouldn’t even be a topic that we would need to talk about, because you would be judged on your own actions and behaviours rather than how you look, how you dress and what disabilities you may have, what sexuality you are - all those sorts of things. For me, I would always say to people, treat people like a sausage! You are described as an expert on reaching peak performance – what advice could you give to others looking to do the same? Peak performance is all about performing when it really matters - certainly in sport.
The two ingredients you need to be at your peak; you need to be physically in shape and be at your best mentally. You need to work on both of those at the same time. Interestingly enough, an hour before an Olympic final, it doesn’t come down to your physical ability because [though] you’re a talented person so are all the other seven people. It isn’t going to come down just to your talent alone. An hour before a race, you can’t say, ‘you know what? I’m going to nip to the gym and do an extra training session’, because it’s going to make no difference to you performing any better. If anything, you’ll perform worse because you’re going to be fatigued and tired. So physically, an hour before the race, there’s nothing you can do. But mentally, there’s a hell of a lot you can do. I used to do a lot of visualisations, visualising myself running the Olympic final, in beautiful weather, in the wind, in the howling rain, in thunder and lightning. With different athletes, with them going off super quick and me going off slow. And I would do this over and over and over. Every time I visualised one of those races, I won. I visualise myself winning in all sorts of different scenarios. You start to believe that you can and will win that race - you’ve run so many scenarios in your head that you have run the scenario that is actually going to happen. What has been the highlight of your career so far? If we step away from sport, I’ve had a couple of a few different businesses before. Myself BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 57
and my business partner set up a company making and manufacturing gym and fitness equipment many years ago. We started from scratch, became very successful in a two and a half year period, and then went from the height of success to going bankrupt and the company going bankrupt and me going bankrupt personally for a lot of money. And that’s something I’m proud of, because when I went bankrupt and lost everything, I had no idea what was around the corner for me. But the one thing that I always believed was that I would be successful in life. I had no idea what it was going to be, and as it turns out, 25 years later, here I am as an international speaker, bestselling author and award winning speaker! So at that time, I had no idea that was going to be the case - I’m pretty proud of that. If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career, what would it be? If I was talking to a younger me in the world sport, I would say ‘be patient’. You know, as a young athlete, I was always eager and keen, and I wanted everything straight away. I wanted to be the best, and always train hard like, ‘now, now, let’s do more, let’s do more, let’s do more’. More isn’t always better.
SECOND WORLD WAR SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
orn in British Honduras, now known as Belize, Norma was twenty years old when describing herself as ‘one of those nice middle-class Black women seeking adventure’, she decided to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) – the ATS was at the time the Women’s section of the British Army,
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Even when I got injured, I would come back too soon and aggravate the injury, and then further down the line, I’d get injured again. So, as an athlete, my advice to myself would be to be a lot more patient. I think as a businessman, it would be ‘listen, see and take advice more’. Take advice because your ego can get in the way. An ego is a massive thing, and sometimes,
you can’t see around the thing. Well, you know what? You’re going to kick that ego to the curb and ask for help, ask for advice and take it if you’re able to rub shoulders with people who have done what you want to do. Boy, do it and listen to them, take their advice! I guess it depends on which young Derek I was talking to, but that would be the advice I would give myself!
with women taking on a range of tasks which expanded over the war from cooks, clerks and orderlies, to drivers, serving anti-aircraft batteries and military police. A desire to travel and her father’s encouragement, he having served in the First World War in Egypt, provided motivation for Norma to join the ATS and support the war effort. Norma was in the second group of six women recruited from British Honduras. Before journeying to Britain, she was sent to Jamaica for initial training. After leaving Jamaica she continued her journey via New Orleans and New York. Departing New York on the Queen Mary she set sail for Britain, arriving Scotland in August 1944. Following further training in Guildford, Nora wanted to emulate her father’s role during the First World War and become a driver. However, driving around in dress uniform in a jeep was not to be, as Norma struggled to cope with Britain’s colder climate and decided instead to do office-based work instead. She served in Preston, and then Derby, and was to be in London in May 1945 when the war ended which enabled Norma to attend the parties held on the Embankment. In Steven Bourne’s book, The Motherland Calls, Norma said of her time in the ATS
“Serving in the armed forces was wonderful. It was the best experience I’ve ever had”. She went on to say of the war time spirit, “I think the spirit of the war is that we were all fighting to win. Colour didn’t come into it”. In 1946 Norma went to Durham University to become a Primary School teacher, qualifying in 1947 she was then told she had to return to British Honduras despite having a job offer from a school in Cambridge. But Norma would return to the UK in the 1950s and would be employed as a teacher from 1961-1988, ending her career as a Primary School head teacher in Brent, London.
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BHM INTERVIEW WITH...
LUKE SMITH (LUC SKIES)
Luke Smith (also known as Luc Skies) studied Performing Arts at the college of North West London and has since studied and practiced a combination of Stanislavski method acting, Brecht, and Improvisation.
He has played theatrical roles such as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, and the lead role of Ode Wale in The Gods Are Not to Blame, an adaption of the Greek Oedipus Story. Luke also began writing and recording music from the age of 16. At 18 he had toured the UK, as well as performing overseas, having been featured on R’n’B singer, Nio’s single entitled Do you think you’re special?. He has performed live in front of 30,000 people at T4 On the Beach which was also televised. He then went on to continue making music independently, releasing a string of mixtapes, an EP, and an album under the name of Luc Skyz.
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He started song writing for popular comedy/musical series 4 O’Clock Club on CBBC, in which he has also made acting appearances as character B-mode. Luke was nominated for writing at the Childrens Bafta’s and the North West Royal Television awards in 2017. What is your background and where were you born? My Mother is first generation Jamaican and my father is English. I was born and raised in North West London. When did you know you wanted to be actor and writer? Since I was a small child, I always had a vivid imagination. In primary school I always enjoyed writing stories. Like many young children, I would re-enact entire movies like Batman using figurines as the characters and my voice to bring them to life. Music and Performing Arts made my desire to create, more concrete. The arts felt like a safe space to express feelings and emotions and that resonated with me much more than other subjects such as math or science.
What reaction did you get when you told your parents you wanted to become a performer and writer? My Mum wasn’t surprised as I am from a creative and artistic family, and I had always been that way inclined.
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How did you get your first big break and what was it? My first break was being selected to write for the popular kids show 4 O’Clock Club. It threw me into the world of television and gave me experience working under pressure. What medium do you enjoy the best… live theatre or singing? No preference. I just enjoy performing. What have been your most satisfying role/s so far? Playing the character Odewale, A King in the Nigerian adaptation of the Oedipus story called The Gods Are Not to Blame. Was there a moment when you realized you could actually make a living from acting? Seeing the success of my older brother Ben Bailey Smith, made me realise that it was possible.
‘WORK HARD AND KNOW THAT THE COLOUR OF YOUR SKIN DOESN’T DEFINE YOU, EVEN IF SOCIETY SAYS IT DOES’ Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference? There are certainly more black faces on television in recent years and that’s great. I believe that anyone with an immense passion and discipline for any job, irrespective of the shade of their skin; should be given the same opportunities as anyone else, purely based on their merit and level of ability. What are your future plans for the next twelve months? I am planning to release two music singles and work towards an album. I would also like to go into development with a production company to produce an original TV series I have written. I want to expand my voice over work and be involved in something fun like an animation. I also plan to go on an acting course to improve and learn more about the craft so I can apply the practice this in front of casting directors. Have you found casting directors are now more confident in offering Black performers parts on stage and on TV? I would say yes, they are. Finally, what advice can you offer to young Black people considering working in showbusiness or becoming a writer? Work hard and know that the colour of your skin doesn’t define you, even if society says it does. Secondly, I wouldn’t let the motivation for writing a script or acting be because I think it’s current or popular. I do it because I love it and I would encourage you do to the same. Do it because it really means something to you, and yes sometimes you do it because it pays. But don’t lose your integrity along the way. Enjoy the process. Love what you do and if you don’t- change it. Walk boldly, fearlessly and above all, master your craft!
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BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 61
FIORI Johnnie Fiori has performed in everything from the Telly Tubbies to Hairspray, she’s acted with Danny Devito, and been directed by Woody Harrelson. There is not much that this talented American performer has not tackled in her career… and it seems there is a lot more to come. What brought you to London? When I moved to London, I had a one-way ticket. I knew I could sing and having previously done voice over work in Los Angeles all I needed to do was get an agent and a gig. I sent out 25 samples of my voice, I received 24 rejections, the 25th which was Speak Easy said yes! I was with Speak Easy for a couple of years, I will always be indebted to that agency. When a voice over actress whom I greatly admired told me about a brilliant agent that was leaving a world-renowned agency and starting a new one called Just Voices, she urged me to check them out. Well, I was lucky enough to speak to Leigh Matty herself. She asked me to send her a voice sample, which I didn’t have, so I changed my outgoing message on my phone and asked her to ring me. She immediately put me in touch with a company that sorted me out a voice reel. Leigh continues to represent today me along with all the amazing staff at Just Voices. Side note Leigh represented me without meeting me. I eventually did meet her.... 5 years later! How did you get into the acting business? Completely and utterly by accident. Two friends were in a play at The Hackney Empire, The Wiz. It was actually the last show at The Hackney Empire before the huge refurbishment. My friends thought it would be a great idea if all the witches were American and pushed me to audition, and I got the role as “Evilene”.
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Let me state for the record... I never wanted to act. I had recently moved from Los Angeles to London, to get more of a British sound to my electro acoustic blues. Acting was nowhere on my radar, as I was a singer songwriter! I had made a wonderful new friend, who decided to come along and support me in the show. Afterwards she suggested that maybe, just maybe I give acting a go. I laughed in her face.... rude! But she persisted.... she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. That amazing human is Jacquie Drewe, even before she started the acting and presenter’s department at Curtis Brown. Johnnie with Danny Devito
So, from there you have not stopped? I have to laugh out loud because for the last twenty years I’ve been an actor doing stage, TV, and filming, along with voice over work. Everything from Chuggington, Tinga Tinga Tales, Telly Tubbies and the Three Muses for The Disney soundtrack of Hercules. At the time I was living in Wales and flying all over the world doing House music. Jacquie called me one day to tell me I had an audition.... I said for what? She replied.... You need a job? I auditioned and got my first West End show 125th Street, which was the musical story of the night the Apollo theatre in New York. The story was that they had closed with a theatre full of people while a riot was ensuing outside. However, the show had to go on, so it came down to the stagehands to step up and perform. It was my first musical and it was also Pete Dalton’s first show... he’s better known today as MistaJam. That same cast also included the multi-talented Giles Terera, who recently won the Oliver for his role in Hamilton. Do pick up his book Hamilton and Me for inspiration. So, your career has now gone from strength to strength. Tell us about some of your roles? Well, I originated the role of Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray, directed by Jack O’Brien
at The Shaftesbury Theatre. Then I played the Iconic Ma Rainey at The Royal Exchange in Manchester, directed by Jake Murray. This was followed by Vernon God Little at the Young Vic, under the direction of Rufus Norris, and The Sunshine Boys directed by Thea Sharrock, starring Danny Devito and Richard Griffiths, at The Savoy. I also repeated my role with Danny in The Sunshine Boys in Los Angeles at The Ahmanson Theatre. I had left Los Angeles as a singer songwriter and now returned an actor! I will forever be indebted to the fabulous casting director, the late Maggie Lunn who saw that not only could I do comedy and sing, but I could also do drama. I have been very fortunate that people continue to see something in me and continue to help me develop my acting chops. Great directors, exceptional cast mates and of course my agent Jacquie Drewe. What medium do you enjoy best... live theatre, or television? I enjoy them all, however they all require a different type of discipline. Theatre is all encompassing... eight shows a week... live! in that moment it’s electric, sensational, anything can happen. I love being consistent with my character, but never becoming relaxed. I also love ensemble pieces! Everybody riffing off each other, the timing, the joy. Film...is such a joy no less demanding.... I enjoy filming because the character comes to life as soon as the director calls action. Film, like telly to me, allows several takes to get it just right, whereas theatre is loud, exciting, emotional, alive! Telly and film are more intimate. The performance comes through the emotion and the eyes.... Is it believable? Is it real? Johnnie with Woody Harrleson
That’s the gig to make it believable and entertaining. I know that I’m very lucky. But I also, put in the work...It’s about balance. I didn’t go to theatre school, but I’ve always believed that school teaches you how to count your money, not necessarily, make your money. I’m just blessed to continue to work in a creative environment. What have been your most satisfying roles? More like most satisfying times. Singing I Know Where I’ve Been, from Hairspray, the night Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.... it was magical. I don’t know when it started or when it ended, I just remember the pride and the tears. The first African American president. Even to this day when I sing that song it gives me such pride and remembrance how far we have come as a people. Reading lines with Danny Devito! Being in a scene with Danny, just him and I... magic, just magic. We ran our lines every day for our scene. I loved doing that! Woody Harrelson offering a role in his directorial debut film, Lost in London...I read with him once, he said it’s a small part, but if you want it, it’s yours...Thank you Woody and thank you to my brother from another Mother Sean Power, for telling Woody, Man you need to see my friend for this. Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference, especially for you as a person of African heritage? As a Black American Woman, in this medium it feels like things are opening up, getting better, but I feel our collective opportunities to be seen or heard should be predicated by us. Telling our stories our way. That’s why I love Steve McQueen, Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay,
Will Packer, Misha Green, Jordan Peele, Barry Jenkins....and many more. We need to show up, and show out. It’s no longer a closed set, trust me. We will shine the light in all places in which we feel we are not represented properly. Also, bring in new blood…. Black cinematographers, Black hair, and makeup (please don’t get me started), Black stylists, Black boom operators. Black show runners. By the way, just worked on a short film, Chairs, directed by James Hughes, with a brilliant Black stylist, Mekel Bailey. What projects are you working on now? Vanara: The Legend. The Muscial at The Hackney Empire. It’s a world premiere in a strictly limited run from October 22ndOctober 31st. October 3 fundraiser at The Ministry of Sound for Bobby Laviniere of The Soulful House DJ duo Bobby & Steve. Dance for Stevie is raising funds for Stevie, who has been paralysed from long Covid. Last but not least creating my own content. We are currently shopping a telly idea about King Arthur and me. My love of The Arthurian legend from a chocolate standpoint... stay tuned. Finally, what advice can you offer to young Black people considering working in showbusiness? Always show up early and be prepared. Don’t let anyone stop you from your dream always bring the fire and professional behaviour to each and every audition. You are unique believe it. It doesn’t matter what others think of you, it’s what you think of yourself. Be Brave! Thoughts become things, choose the good ones. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 63
Claudia Jones may have become better known in recent times, but her life’s story is shrouded in too much misinformation. History consultant Kwaku sets the record straight. As we mark African History Month, expect Claudia Jones be become better known this year. She’s the subject of a chapter entitled ‘Black British Activism In Notting Hill’, which is in ‘Pearson Edexcel GCSE (9-1) History: Migrants in Britain c 800-Present’, published at the start of the new school term for students taking GCSE History. This month sees the republication of ‘Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile’ by Marika Sherwood et al, twenty-one years after it was first published. She may well be even much more known in the immediate future, as I’ve read 2020 news reports that say there is a film in the works, to be directed by Frances-Anne Solomon, the director of the superb docudrama ‘Hero: Inspired By The Extraordinary Life And Times Of Mr. Ulric Cross’. The film based on Claudia’s life is simply called ‘Claudia’. More on that later. It’s worth pointing out that even books on Claudia written by academics have their share of mistakes, whilst many articles in magazines and on the internet are riddled with the prevalent, same-old, same-old ahistorical narratives. So let’s see how many of these ahistorical narratives I can disabuse your minds of. Claudia Jones was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad on February 21 1915. However, her father and mother did not name her Claudia
Claudia Jones: The Myth Buster
“Nearly fifty-seven years after her lonely death in a north London flat, let’s put the mighty warrior that was Claudia Jones in a rightful and correct context, as we tell her British African history.” Jones. She was named Claude Vera, and her surname was Cumberbatch. She did not travel to New York with her parents – she met them there two years after they had emigrated to the US. Claudia arrived in New York on February 9 1924, aged almost nine years old. She travelled with her sisters Sylvia, Meta, Irene and Lindsay, plus an aunt. Although she is very much associated with Notting Hill, Claudia neither lived in or near Notting Hill. However, taking Notting Hill to also mean the surrounding environs, such as Ladbroke Grove, it’s fair to say that she pounded its streets many times. Her friend and comrade Amy Ashwood Garvey lived at 1 Bassett Street, where Claudia would no doubt have visited Amy on either a personal visit, or more likely to discuss some issue to do with either the local area or some form of mistreatment or discrimination experienced by Africans, particularly those from the Caribbean, in the late-1950s to the early 1960s. Indeed, Claudia was one of the leaders of the London March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom “solidarity march”, which started its journey to the American embassy from Ladbroke Grove. This march took place
on August 31 1963, which was three days after the momentous march in Washington. Now, let’s blow one of the most deeply-entrenched myths – Claudia never organised a carnival in Notting Hill, neither did she start the Notting Hill Carnival nor was her, or strictly speaking the West Indian Gazette’s, Caribbean Carnival a precursor to Notting Hill Carnival (NHC).
‘Certainly the Royal Mail’s 2008 issue of the Women of Distinction postage stamps got it right, when she was described simply as Civil Rights Activist.’ The West Indian Gazette’s Caribbean Carnival was held annually between 1959 and 1964 across different London locations, of which none was remotely close to Notting Hill. By the way, it was not the first “Caribbean Carnival” in London, and neither did it have anything to do with the Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane, who was murdered in Notting Hill more than three months after the inaugural event on January 30 1959. Considering NHC started in 1966, and Claudia died on December 25 1964, and that
NHC is essentially a street affair, compared to the Gazette’s sit-down variety show, the link between the two is not even tenuous. There’s no link, besides a ubiquitously repeatedly myth that’s taken on the cloak of a fact. Then, there’s another fact worth pointing out, which is that Notting Hill Carnival did not actually start off as an African Caribbean affair! Describing Claudia as the Mother of Notting Hill Carnival, is not only factually incorrect, it also tarnishes Claudia’s legacy. No one would quibble if she’s described as the Mother of Caribbean Carnival. After all, she helped produce six in London, and two in the regions. That was an impressive cultural feat in itself, considering the times. However, the image we ought to have embedded in our minds when we think about Claudia shouldn’t necessarily be about carnival, but the fact that she is undoubtedly the greatest British African activist ever! Certainly the Royal Mail’s 2008 issue of the Women of Distinction postage stamps got it right, when she was described simply as Civil Rights Activist. The accolade was rightly deserved, because Claudia was an indefatigable activist, whether driving forward the numerous organisations she belonged to, marching on the streets, or using the West Indian Gazette as a mouthpiece for race, gender,
class or political activism. One of the things I loved about ‘Hero’ was its blending of unassailable historical facts with dramatic licence, and I am hoping ‘Claudia’ follows suit. However, the troubling part of the news reports on the proposed film is the projection of “the pivotal role played by British-Trinidadian journalist and activist Claudia Jones in launching the world’s largest street festival, the Notting Hill Carnival.” Upon reading this, I immediately emailed the director to clarify the film’s line on any
connection of Claudia to NHC. Unfortunately, I did not receive a reply before filing this story. I did point out to the director that there is a group of carnivalists, including those of Trinidadian heritage, who do not subscribe to the connection of Claudia with NHC. Although their voices may be currently muted by the prevalent narrative, if in the unlikely event that the ‘Claudia’ film supports this received wisdom, I can foresee its reception in Britain being marred by such opposing voices. Lastly, Claudia was the founding editor of the Gazette, which started in March 1958. It was a pioneering newspaper that covered a myriad of issues pertaining to Britain, the Caribbean, Africa and beyond. It was however not Britain’s first African newspaper, nor was it ever a weekly or sold in high street newsagents. “Nearly fifty-seven years after her lonely death in a north London flat, let’s put the mighty warrior that was Claudia Jones in a rightful and correct context, as we tell her British African history.” Kwaku is a history consultant and historical musicologist. He’s the organiser of the UK African Women Self-Organising Zoom event on Dec. 20 2021, which marks the 57th anniversary of the death of Claudia Jones.
From the first public sculptures of Black Britons to the home of Britain’s first West Indian newspaper, discover the Black histories of 31 places in England in October #BlackHistoryMonth HistoricEngland.org.uk/BlackHistoryMonth
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 65
Michael Fuller for Black History Month Michael Fuller changed the course of British history when, in 2004, he became the first Black Chief Constable. Following a long and influential career in the police force, Michael now campaigns for racial equality, via his candid autobiography, ‘Kill The Black One First’, media appearances and corporate speaking engagements. We sat down with Michael to hear what Black History Month means to him, and how businesses must tackle workplace prejudice - both in October and every other month of the year. Read Michael’s exclusive account of his history-defining career, in our latest interview...
What must businesses do this October to recognise Black History Month? I think businesses should celebrate Black History Month. It’s the one time in the year where we recognise the valuable contribution that Black people have made to the success of this country. It’s important that Black people feel included. There are lots of ways that businesses can celebrate [Black History Month]. I think the most important thing is that there’s public recognition. It should be celebrated through cultural events, acknowledging the fact that it is Black History Month, in some way, both publicly and within the company. Black History Month ensures the contribution of Black employees are valued and seen by that company. Outside of October, how can businesses continue to tackle workplace bias and prejudice? Well, I think the thing that businesses need to do is focus on fairness and fair treatment. Everybody, whoever they are, whatever colour or sexual orientation, should be treated fairly. I’ve run two organisations and I found that by focusing on fairness and fair treatment, nobody objects to that. Everybody wants to be treated fairly, so nobody objects to it and you make everybody feel included and part of that organisation. And it’s actually highly motivating. When you have that feeling of inclusion and belonging, and when your views are actually listened to and responded, you feel part of that organisation and you’re inspired. Certainly in the last two organisations I ran, when I managed to actually build that environment, both organisations became
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very, very successful and the performance improved exponentially. Can you describe a time in your life when you faced failure, and how did you overcome the challenge? Well, I think one of the biggest things for me was not getting a promotion, as the impact on me was quite devastating at the time. I went to an assessment centre to become a mid-ranking Superintendent in the police, and I was unsuccessful at the assessment centre. The feedback I got was not at all helpful as to why I had failed. They said, there’s no ‘one thing’ or reason, it was not obvious as to why I had failed, so I was quite despondent and disillusioned. I’d actually been very, very successful in the level below, in reducing crime. Wherever I went, I was asked to come to different policing areas as a Detective Chief Inspector and reduce the crime problems in those areas. I’d done that very, very successfully. I was quite pleased with my performance, more importantly, my bosses were and had written good recommendations.
But I didn’t succeed. So, I was going to leave the police - I think at the time, I was feeling very despondent. But then, I was asked to actually go to the Home Office and work with the Home Secretary and the Chief Inspector of Police, to be an advisor to them for two years. So, I did that, and you can imagine my morale and motivation improved. I found it very, very satisfying that my knowledge and expertise was being used on a national level - not just in London, but on a national basis. I think that restored my faith and that’s why I stayed in the police. What would you say to your younger self? I think the one piece of advice I would give to my younger self is, if you’re facing seemingly impossible challenges, don’t give up. If you can’t get over the challenge, you go around it, and vice versa! But, either way, you don’t give up. You remain determined. Persistence for me wins the race - if you’re persistent, you keep trying. You might have to be adaptable with the way you try, but either way, you’ll generally be successful. And if you’re not? Well, try something else! You mustn’t give up - that’s the thing I’ve learned. I had a brilliant career, fully enjoyed my time. I think if you find the right job and you’re doing the right thing, then it doesn’t feel like work and that’s hugely beneficial as well. See Champions Speakers’ list of the top Black History Month speakers for 2021, including Michael Fuller at
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Gloria Onitiri From Nala in the Lion King to the Godmother in Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella, Gloria Onitiri is a very busy performer... Gloria is currently playing the Godmother in Andrew Lloyd Webbers new musical Cinderella. She is also well known for her starring role as Grace Jones in Sky Art’s Emmy award winning series, ‘Urban Myths’. Her theatre credits are numerous and include: Guardiano in Women Beware Women and Katherina in Taming of The Shrew (Shakespeare’s Globe), Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol, Nancy Colberg in Green Living (Old Vic Theatre), Yomi in Chiaroscuro (Bush Theatre), Celia in Napoli, Brooklyn (Park Theatre), Fates in Hadestown and as self in Wrong Songs for Christmas (National Theatre). As well as Ida Arnold in Brighton Rock (National Tour), Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians (Birmingham Rep), Radio in Caroline, Or Change (Chichester Festival Theatre), Deadpan Delores in The Stripper (St. James Theatre), Francine/Lena in Clybourne Park (National Tour), Anne in Egusi Soup (National Tour), Spirit in The Tempest (Bath Theatre Royal), Bacchae in The Bacchae (National Theatre Scotland) and Arion in Amphibians (Offstage Theatre). Gloria also created the role Josiana in The Grinning Man (Bristol Old Vic). In the West End Gloria was an original cast member of Avenue Q London (Noel Coward Theatre), Nala in The Lion King (Lyceum Theatre) and Rachel Marron alongside Heather Headley in the original London cast of The Bodyguard (Adelphi Theatre). Gloria is also the founder and host of the podcast, ‘Letter to A Black Girl’ where she roundtables with some of the best of Britain’s leading black women.
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Gloria in Hadestown at the National
How did you start your career as an actor? I was a member of the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) aged 15-17. I was performing as Sylvia in Howard Goodall and Charles Hart’s original production of, The Dreaming in The Lindbury Studio, at the Royal Opera House. There I was spotted by a casting director, who subsequently got in contact to ask me to audition for the London production of the Lion King. I was still at school but ended up being cast as cover for Nala and singer ensemble and doing my A Levels at the same time! What reaction did you get when you told your parents you wanted to become an actor? They have always been unbelievably supportive of my endeavours in drama and music. I guess for them, they wanted to make sure I had lots of other skills added to my arsenal, because of how difficult an industry it is to be a part of and maintain a career in. Do you remember who gave you your first break? Yes, it was the casting director Pippa Allion. What medium do you enjoy the best… live theatre, television, or the movies? It’s hard to say which I enjoy best, but I love theatre, especially having been deprived of it for the last year and a half. There is nothing better than a group of people in a space sharing stories. Laughing together, crying together, feeling anger, shock, excitement all the things!!!! What have been your most satisfying role/s to date? I think Katerina in Taming of The Shrew at The
Globe is up there for me. She was a challenge, and I learnt a lot from her. But also, Grace… Grace Jones…of course… who wouldn’t be thrilled to play someone so iconic!! Was there a moment when you realized you could actually make a living from acting? It has never been about that for me. I just love telling stories. The money comes along with it.
“...it’s really beautiful to see younger/new performers not have to experience some of the difficulties that perhaps some of us slightly older cats have been through.” You played in the hit musical Hadestown at the National. Was it great fun to be in this fast-paced show, and how do you keep yourself in shape for eight shows a week? Hadestown was a revelation. The cast, the creatives, the band…the audience, the Olivier are all family. So much fun and humbling to be part of creating a magical show like this. So human! I also had to learn to play the accordion for it. Not sure I’ll ever pick one up again, but it was so much fun! Keeping in shape for eight shows a week is much like for anything else, lots of rest, lots of gym and eating and drinking the right things. You now play the role of the Godmother in Cinderella the Musical. Was it hard to have such a long delay the show because of Covid? It was more disappointing than hard. Our
gorgeous cast had worked so hard and was ready to go, so it was a shame to have to delay any further. What was the reaction eventually of playing again before a live audience? Going back and opening to a full house was euphoric! I’m not sure we all realised just how much we’d missed theatre, until then. I was extremely emotional. Do you think the move towards diversity over the past few years in the industry has made a difference, especially for you as a person of African heritage? I think I’ve been part of that move, slowly over the past 20 years. Of course, I benefit from it, but it’s really beautiful to see younger/new performers not have to experience some of the difficulties that perhaps some of us slightly older cats have been through. There is still so much more to do…but we’re on our way! What advice would you give Black performers starting out in musical theatre today? Keep building your skills. Keep training/going to class. Don’t limit yourself to one style. Be curious. Don’t seek validation, you are already seen. Concentrate on surpassing your own expectations of yourself! Finally tell us how such a busy performer managed to start your podcast ‘Letter to A Black Girl’? Lockdown!!!! I wasn’t so busy then. However, I will admit it’s been harder to get the next season up but it’s coming!! With a nice little twist... BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 69
POWERFUL JAMAICAN ART EXCLUSIVE PRIVATE VIEW
Fur by Greg Bailey
Portrait of a Lady by Alicia Brown
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Lies, Lies, All Lies by Mabusha Dennis
WORLD-CLASS JAMAICAN ARTISTS AT CADOGAN SQUARE, LONDON The Jamaican culture was celebrated with a private view of art at the home of Jamaican Cultural activist, Theresa Roberts at Cadogan Square, London on the 1st October 2021 to launch Black History Month. Co-hosted by David Johnstone, the CharitableBookings.com 3D Art Gallery event showcased a diverse array of artwork from emerging and established Jamaican artists based in Jamaica, The United States and the United Kingdom, sponsored by Duppy Share.
A.C.2062 by Lesli-Ann Belnavis Elliott
We Belong by Dave Neita
Helios by Marlon James BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021 71
a n e i l e g n A Angeliena, the bittersweet debut fiction feature film from multi-award winning South African filmmaker Uga Carlini, is to be released on Netflix globally on 8 October 2021. Set in modern-day, post-apartheid South Africa, it tells the story of a formerly homeless parking attendant, Angeliena, played by Euodia Samson. When she is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, she dares to make her lifelong dream of travelling the world a reality. Multi-award-winning filmmaker Uga Carlini specialises in female-driven stories, talks to BHM about how she made Angeliena...
How did the film come about - what was your inspiration behind the story and characters? A story gets a hold of me, resonates with me, and then I cannot let go until it’s done. I grew up with my mother, a single parent working in a local hospital, often taking her two daughters, my sister and me, into work during our school holidays. It’s there that we got a taste of the inner workings, trials and tribulations of the hospital and the people who worked there. The local car guard was the blueprint for Angeliena and then the colouring in could begin. That was 2011. The other source of inspiration was drawn from what we got RIGHT as the rainbow nation
after the triumphs of Nelson Mandela in 1994. I wanted us to meet Angeliena and to be reminded that her spirit lives in all of us. Angeliena is an unconventional heroine, what made you cast an older woman as the lead? Youth is not the only audience out there. I’m a late bloomer myself. My ‘youth’ was complicated and difficult: I want to go back to that person in her 20s and 30s and promise her it will get better. It did. Look at Andy MacDowell in full grey locks on the red carpet in Cannes, Halle Berry who found love in her fifties again, Mare of Easttown... I want a heroine that I for one can really identify with!
You’ve been a documentary filmmaker for most of your career. What made you decide to move into fiction? I’m a storyteller, a filmmaker and I chose the genre that I feel best suits the story, which gives it the most authenticity within my own personal style, which is magical realism. This is the case whether it’s documentary, fiction or music video. However, fiction is where I’m happiest and most at home. It’s just that my roadmap to it was simply via wonderful documentary pit stops.
‘I WANTED THE WORLD TO TASTE A SLICE OF OUR LIVES AND SEE HOW WE ARE ALL SOMEHOW CONNECTED IN OUR UNIVERSAL STRUGGLES, JOY OF LOVE, FRIENDSHIP AND HARDSHIP.’ What a coup to be released on Netflix globally. How did they get involved? Short answer. I asked them. Longer answer. Netflix came to visit us in South Africa. It’s what I dreamed of for Angeliena. I wanted the world to taste a slice of our lives and see how we are all somehow connected in our universal struggles, joy of love, friendship and hardship. The Netflix team are all about making real connections with the filmmakers and their stories. They read the script, however, they weren’t initially convinced. So I went
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back to editing it with feedback from my friends and industry peers and then returned to the Netflix commissioning editor, Ben. He read the script again and said yes! The first wave of Covid stopped the production of Angeliena in its tracks. However, in true Angeliena style, filming happened during the second wave and post-production during the third. Have you noticed a growing interest in African film internationally? Absolutely. At last! And I really feel that Netflix has played a massive part in it all. Film Festivals and ‘art cinema’, where we were usually given a platform, if we were lucky, paved the way but when Netflix came and said, unapologetically and fearlessly, that they are serious about telling African stories with local voices; they put their money where they mouths were and did exactly that. And the world’s audiences sat up and took notice.
parents fought for and dreamed of – where we see each other, and embrace our differences. The work is far from done. Every day is a chance to try again, to get it right.
What does Angeliena tell us about modern-day South Africa? It tells us that we are all in the same storm – different boats. South Africa has had so many challenges of late and top that with our horrid apartheid past, which has left deep and ugly scars, and for many, the scars are still festering. We are still getting to know each other but in this process of exploration, what we are finding, exceeds our wildest expectations. In our children we are seeing the South Africa so many of us and our
You’re committed to employing local cast and crew, where possible, is this something you’ve done before/what was the reason behind this? For sure! The locals know all the secret spots and cool people that location scouts who are not from couldn’t possibly know of. They have a passion and love for their community and will go the extra mile. It adds authenticity to the film. And of course, supporting the local economy is always the ideal scenario.
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