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In the Middle
Contents In the Middle Associates Alex Gibbon
Music & Clubs
The importance of QTIPOC clubbing
In the Middle with NikNak
Mercury prize star: Michael Kiwanuka
Punk is Black!
Fashion 10 Credit the culture 11
Books to radicalise
The fight for Marvelâ€˜s new end game
Blogs & Lifestyle
Decolonising the tattoo industry with @jampokes
Fern McErlane Ishmael Silvestro Liam Cattermole
An ode to the Black economy Excellent educational books by Black authors
Faye Clayton Lizzie Wright Ruby Mae-McAuliffe
Black models we need to celebrate every day
Arts and Culture
In profile: Adam French and Cassio Dimande
Retroactive remedying: How can depictions of Blackface be torn down?
Overturned cobbles: Leeds Black History Walks
Why Black history should be taught in schools / Listen up: Black-fronted podcasts
The legacy of Black cuisine: Cookbooks by Black chefs
Photograph by Adam French @kamick1212
Photograph by Carmen Okome @carmen_okome
Delphie Bond Emily Parry Owen Frost Phoebe Walker Rory Yeates Sinead Oâ€˜Riordan
Anushka Searle Beanna Olding Georgie Wardall Lucy Abbott
Anyone born in 2001/2002 deserves a bloody Pride of Britain award.
Celeste - Hear My Voice BBC Sound of 2020 winner and rising star has just released this sweet and soulful gem. A perfect soundtrack to a brunch in the cool autumnal sun.
Miss Rona is lingering with all the appeal of a persistent ex and 2020 isn’t getting any less weird. The virus is rife in student areas across the UK and Hyde Park and Headingley are no exceptions. Students have been shouldering the blame from boomers (shock) and right-wing rent-a-gobs for being “selfish snowflakes” who just need to get on with the rules; not that there has been any mention of us being forced back on campus, crammed into halls or the fact that a vast number of us were serving the nation in bars, cafes and restaurant during August’s infectious Eat Out To Help Out scheme. Quite frankly, with the A-level results fiasco, accommodation lock-ins and missing out on both Results Day and Freshers’ Week celebrations, anyone born in 2001/2002 deserves a bloody Pride of Britain award. If this applies to you, I might buy you a pint in Brude if you show me some ID.
Black On Depop This Black History Month, shopping app Depop is platforming its Black sellers with showcases in its online newsletter. You can also use the hashtag #BlackOnDepop to browse through Black-owned shops.
team wince in despair, Rishi Sunak has recently suggested that “musicians and others in [the] arts should retrain and find other jobs”. As much as I would love to chinwag with Mutya from Sugababes at the Aldi checkout, it would be good to see the government have a taste of its own medicine. 5’ 6” Sunak could retrain as an amateur jockey. Tory landlords could retrain as moral people. Priti Patel could retrain as a Disney Vill-… oh wait, never mind. At this point I have realised that I have just banged on about the pandemic for this whole column and for that I apologise. If you are feeling deflated, just remember that Lorde said she would release an album next year, independent bookshops are currently thriving and, most importantly, Dolly Parton is alive and well.
For any students currently stuck in isolation, the university is offering welfare packages which include food and toiletries. The items are not specified but I’ll pray for you guys in the hope that yous get a set of lush bath bomb, crates of God’s own Kirkstall Pale Ale and a fat stack of those microwave melt-in-the-middle choccy puds. My gaff had our own COVID-19 scare this month. As we sat in our living room waiting for the results like Big Brother finalists we discussed ideas for a fun and friendly two week isolation period: cook a wholesome Sunday roast dinner; go on a lovely family sunset walk; a tapas night with an Almodovar film. For me, this conversation was interspersed with visions of passive-aggressively battling over the central heating dial and climbing down the stairs like that lass from The Exorcist in a stir-crazed frenzy, but I didn’t mention this. Luckily, we all tested negative. In a move that probably made the chancellor’s PR
Meet the editors psu.edu
With Your Outspoken
In collaboration with the LUU Black Feminist Society, the creative collective is hosting a spoken word poetry night in celebration of Black History Month. The date is 16th October and tickets are available online at Open Source Arts
In each issue we will be getting to know a member of the team a little bit better. This time it’s the turn of Associate Editor Steph Bennett What do you like to do in your spare time?
What are you currently studying and why?
I enjoy sleeping probably more than anything because I am always tired. I also try and read and do lots of volunteering with manuscripts. I’m actuallypretty boring; I’m like a 70-year-old woman in a 22-year-old’s body
I’m doing an MA in Medieval Studies. I find medieval history the most interesting and I’m eventually hoping to have a career working with manuscripts. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I have to admit that learning Medieval Latin and Old English makes me regret it most days.
What is your worst fear? I’m scared of spiders but that’s only because of an incident when I was little where the largest monster crawled up my body and onto my face. Worst day ever!
What is your worst job experience? I briefly worked in retail for a few months over the summer a couple of years ago and it was awful. My manager once told me off for walking too fast. Honestly, it was a struggle not to burst into tears when a middle-aged Karen came bustling in with a bag full of items to return. If you don’t have your receipt I cannot help you!! What is your biggest regret? Being born. What is your favourite drink?
Black Food Matters Tell LUU via their online survey how they diversify the products they stock, from food and drink to haircare and self care
I drink a lot of coffee, both because I enjoy the taste and need it to stay awake when I start to fall asleep in an online seminar. I probably drink more than I should but I can’t get enough of the magical sweet hot bean juice.
For Black History Month, our team of writers share some of their favourite and most notable Black artists.
Yves tumor Some of the most beautiful and most bizarre music is made by Yves Tumor. It’s music that makes you want to dance but also scream inside, a psychedelic blend of art rock, noise and more experimental electronic influences that is honestly impossible to define. Their live shows are something else, a twisted mix of drag, performance art and pure adrenaline. I made the mistake of bringing my mum to an Yves Tumor set at a festival once - she had to leave because it was so disturbing. I don’t think she’s ever trusted me since. Recommended track: Noid (Safe in the Hands of Love - Yves Tumor)
MUSIC & CLUBS
In the Middle
Atlantan artist Berhana creates warm and smooth R&B for the romantic at heart, though every track he releases is experimental and fresh; he states his Ethiopian parentage exposed him to a wide range of influences that resulted in his own music. His latest album release, HAN, is a cosy musical microcosm in itself, narrating a simulated flight with its overhead-tannoy-style interlude tracks. It’s easy to groove along to, with his sweetly-toned rap leading the rhythm though tracks such as the frantically paced rocker G2g may take you by surprise. Berhana isn’t afraid to switch things up. Recommended track – Health Food (HAN – Berhana)
Gil scott-heron Often chronicled the ‘Godfather of Rap’, much to Gil’s later documented distaste, Gil was a seminal poet and musician hailing from Chicago. His work remains strikingly relevant in the midst of the ongoing Black Lives Matter Movement - touching on themes of Black agency, socio-economic hardship and racial injustice. His smooth lyrics and sheer talent combined with frequent collaborator, Brian Jackson, form the bedrock of his best work. His 2010 foray into the mainstream with Jamie xx is not as worthy; his main body of work from the 1970s which consolidated his reputation as one of the best Black American artists of the 20th century. Recommended track: Black History / The World (Moving Target - Gil ScottHeron)
Babeheaven frontwoman Nancy Andersen’s soothing voice provided the comforting background noise for most of my lockdown spent essay-writing and news-browsing. Described in their Spotify bio as “channelling the spirits of Massive Attack and Cocteau Twins”, the indie-pop duo’s smooth and calm production is perfect easy-listening for days that blur into one another – as they’ve seemed to for the past 6 months or so. Though they’ve only released a couple of singles and EPs so far, Babeheaven have already cultivated a distinctive style and sound; with dreamy vocals and soft instrumentation, even their name captures their subdued, heavenly vibe. Babeheaven’s debut album is out next month, November 20th. Recommended track: Jalisco (Suspended Animation - Babeheaven)
Nova twins Wading into a genre as a painfully same-y and whitewash as punk, Nova Twins are a refreshing kick to hardcore. Cornering their own niche of frantic industrial, London duo Amy Love and Georgia South give a unique sound steeped in rock-electronics and bass. 2020 debut album Who Are The Girls? has flown miraculously under the radar, despite winning Heavy awards’ Best Breakthrough Band 2020. Maybe not to everyone’s taste, but plenty to love here. Recommended track: Taxi (Nova Twins - Who Are The Girls?)
Recent winner of the AIM Independent Awards’ ‘One to Watch’, Arlo Parks is exactly that. Based in South London, the 20-year-old poet and singer/songwriter is quickly rising the ranks in the world of music. Touching on themes of race, sexuality, and mental health, Parks explores the genres of bedroom pop, lo-fi, and RnB to create a sweet and timeless style. Heartfelt and raw, lockdown single Eugene perfectly encapsulates the tenderness of being in love, and the struggles that come with it as a young bisexual woman. Though unable to complete her first UK headline tour earlier this year, the release of singles Eugene and Black Dog saw Parks join the list of artists flourishing under the COVID lockdown. In both tracks, as with all her music, Parks utilises her poetic background to create a ductile sound. Her raw and tranquil tone elicits feelings of metamorphosis, providing the perfect soundtrack to the universal circumstances of spring 2020. Arlo Parks continues to grow with us all as this year progresses; tipped to release a debut album before the end of this year, Arlo Parks’ discography is worth diving into. Recommended track: Eugene (Black Dog - Arlo Parks)
Musicand andClubs Clubs Music
Image Image Credit: Credit: Coachella Standard
Mercury prize star michael kiwanuka Winning the Mercury Prize for his 2020 self-titled album, Kiwanuka is a contemporary force to be reckoned with. Freya Martin takes a look at the music in question, and the man behind it. Growing up in 1980s North London, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Michael Kiwanuka was heavily influenced by performances of Black artists such as Bill Withers and Otis Redding, which directly defied assumptions at that time that a Black man playing acoustic guitar or being visibly and musically vulnerable was a rare or unconventional sight. Having taught himself the guitar whilst in secondary school, Kiwanuka has since become universally known for his alternative folkrock style, which draws on a myriad of influences such as his Ugandan heritage, gospel and soul music. Releasing his debut single Home Again and album of the same name in 2012, he earned himself the 2012 BBC Critic’s Choice award and his first Mercury prize nomination. Two more Mercury prize nominations followed, for his 2nd album Love & Hate, and finally an utterly deserved win with his third and latest album Kiwanuka in September 2020. Kiwanuka has been described as an album of its time, a masterpiece blending the lines of concept album and autobiography with protest song. This is epitomised in Hero, a standout track of the already extraordinary album, which poignantly highlights the experience of growing up Black in an intrinsically prejudiced society, even more strikingly relevant in the wake of the Black Lives Matter uprising: “Please don’t shoot me down / I loved you like a brother / It’s on the news again / I guess they killed another / am I a hero? ”. It is lyrics like this, each line poking a carefully aimed hole in the turbulent fabric of modern society, that pick apart the experience of being Black in a white-dominated society and the issues of systemic racism and police brutality, a theme which runs throughout the album. The lyrics “No tears for the young / A bullet if you run away / Another lost one / Like father, like son, we pray” in Rolling mourn the loss of so many young BIPOC as a result of racially-motivated violence and
indeed the way in which this has become such an accepted cog in the mechanism of modern white society, focusing on the defencelessness and resignation of people simply trying to exist in the world that they live in. Throughout the album, as one track seamlessly glides into the next, the impetus and gravity of the songs are initially masked by the sheer joy of the sound, created by the upbeat, arresting guitar, ringing piano and Kiwanuka’s warming and broad vocals. This is notable in You Ain’t The Problem, the album’s opening track which resounds with trumpeting chords, tambourines and a jubilant backing chorus of ‘lala’s, but conceals an ode to a past lover and heartbreak, demonstrating a feeling that is common to many. “I lived a lie / Love is the crime / It’s you I believe in (I know) / Don’t hesitate / Time heals the pain / You ain’t the problem”. It is perhaps this juxtaposition of politically charged songs with those of love and heartbreak that perfectly illustrates our shared humanity; whatever may divide us, humans fundamentally share their core emotions and innate feelings. This is heard again with Another Human Being, a short interlude prefacing the love song Living in Denial, featuring sampled quotations from participants of ‘sit-in’ protests pioneered by the Greensboro Four during the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s “You cause no violence / You have no angry words / The idea that here sits beside me, another human being.” The album as a body of work presents itself as an impeccable narration of Kiwanuka’s life and experiences as he has grown up in a rapidly changing country and global society. It marks his journey to (and achievement of) self-acceptance, identity and heritage and presents his view of issues of police
brutality faced by so many people of colour worldwide on an unacceptably regular basis. Long-awaited recognition, in the form of the prestigious 2020 Mercury Prize, voted for by a near-on unanimous voting panel, as well as widespread laudations, has finally come to a man and musical talent who overwhelmingly deserves it.
ITM Recommends: Hero (2019) Love & Hate - Live (2016) Black Man in a White World (2016)
the importance of qtipoc clubbing The first club that I set foot into when I moved to Leeds was Mission, for an R&B night that I had bought a group ticket for with my new flatmates in the weeks leading up to fresher’s week. I had moved to Leeds with high expectations for the nightlife, after reading about it on websites such as The Student Room, with everybody raving about venues such as Beaver Works, Canal Mills and Mint Warehouse where all the ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ kids frequented. As Freshers’ Week progressed, I found myself buying more and more tickets to events, splitting my time between the group of friends that I had made in halls and the Afro-Caribbean society. Whilst I had a good freshers experience, it started to begin to feel like a chore to go out, and after seeing such staples as Hybrid Minds and Chase and Status for the 20th time at Mint Warehouse, I had had enough. Although I had come to university as an out and proud queer black woman, I began to feel myself supressing my queer identity as I navigated these majority white, straight spaces and I felt lost and desperate, initially clinging to the Afro-Caribbean Society as a safe haven away from this. At first, I quite enjoyed being a part of ACS as it connected me to my culture and reminded me of home, but then I began to realise that I needed more than what it could offer me, and again I had found myself hiding my identity in the name of keeping in touch with my culture. I hadn’t joined the LGBT society as I didn’t feel as though it was a space for me and found it hard to fit in to the mainstream LGBT clubbing scene at venues such as Tunnel and Viaduct. By the end of my first two months at Leeds I felt defeated, isolated and conflicted. My love for underground electronic music simply did not align with either of these two groups, and whilst I love afrobeats and feel good pop anthems, I wanted to step out and explore.
Attending a screening of ‘The Bi Life’ organised by a member of the ACS committee completely turned everything around for me. I had no one to go with and almost didn’t turn up out of fear, but I did, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, opening doors that have changed my life forever. There, I met more individuals like me, queer people of colour looking for spaces that were safe and accommodated for them. After being added to the QTIPoC (Queer, trans, intersex people of colour) Leeds group chat, I got to know more of the community and began to attend QTIPoC events, my first being the Pxssy Palace takeover at Open Source Arts. My second semester was spent attending DIY events such as Slut Drop, Not Exotic, Flesh in Tension, and Tongue n Teeth where I heard amazing Black female DJs like as Plugkeisha and Kessie play. Each night I would go back to my dingy flat at James Baillie Park, feeling fulfilled and inspired by the music they played, delving into experimental forms of techno and club music with RnB and Grime influences.
Alternative alcohol-free spaces such as Late Night Tea were also available fortnightly for those that wanted to meet other QTIPoC, a chance to meet the wider community in Leeds. In these spaces I finally felt at home, and most importantly – seen. The rest of my first year was spent developing new clubbing experiences, making new friends, listening to queer POC DJs and exploring my own identity as a queer black woman. By the end of the year I had found a community that I loved and was passionate about preserving. A key event for me was the House of Flava ball, which took place in the summer at Freedom Mills and was sponsored by Red Bull in collaboration with Our Space Leeds. It was my first Vogue ball, and featured DJ’s from the Pxssy Palace collective, House of Flava (A Leeds based QTIPoC kiki house), LSDXOXO and a legend in the ballroom scene; MikeQ. I’ve been obsessed with ballroom culture ever since I first watched Paris is Burning at the age of fifteen, so going to a ball was a dream come true, especially as it served as a representation of the socio-political struggles of the QTIPoC community and queer youth. The ball was where I met two of my best friends and was the beginning of the formation of our own queer collective, RAT Party, a collective led by and supporting QTIPoC, sex workers and the gender diverse. A big part of our ethos is to help facilitate more safe spaces in Leeds for queer youth, taking techno back to its origins as a genre led by and for QTIPoC. Through this, I want to remove the stigma of listening to ‘untz untz’ music, a term coined in the black community to label the genres of house, techno, garage and drum and bass as ‘white’. When I first started getting into the genre, I watched a documentary called Black to Techno, learning about the birth of techno in Detroit, and how white DJ’s from Canada and Europe co-opted and whitewashed the genre, turning it into a largely white and straight subculture. The gentrification of our spaces over the years has led to the development of ‘Rave Reparations’, a self-described social experiment based in Los Angeles working to hold event’s organisers accountable for curating diverse line-ups and working closely with party promoters to offer discounted tickets for POC. This kind of work has already started in Leeds, with clubs such as Wire and Wharf Chambers facilitating safe spaces for black, brown and queer people and offering discounted tickets through events such as Not Exotic and Love Muscle. Despite the impact of COVID on the nightlife industry, I’m hopeful for the future, and hope to see more QTIPOC reclaiming our culture back in Leeds.
In the middle with niknak
Image: James Ward
As soon as I call NikNak, one of her cats, Smudge, decides to jump up on her lap and disturb our Zoom call. Smudge is now sitting on one of Leeds’ most legendary DJs, a member of the collectives Equaliser and Slut Drop, and recently founder of Slipmat Sessions, a series of workshops aimed at teaching the art of DJing to women and members of gender minorities. In between the felines crazily jumping around (she adorably stops the interview at multiple occasions to tell her cats to behave), I am eager to discover why promoting diversity is something that NikNak has made such a crucial part of her personal mission statement. “It’s about levelling the playing field” she replies assuredly. “The music industry is very white and male dominated, and I want to help in the sense of normalising the fact that music comes in all different shapes and forms and so do the people who make it”. This is translated into her teaching in two different ways – by inspiring confidence in her students as performers, but also by projecting as a defiant statement to the outside world: there’s an insane mixture of people out there playing and making an equally insane range of music. She shares her frustration with me about so often being the only person who looks like her in a creative setting. “From my experiences, I have often been the only Black woman in the room”. Too often, organisers will book one woman or one person of colour for a sense of tokenism, thinking that they are helping to make the problem better. This falls far short of should be expected from organisers, she explains. “I don‘t want people to think that “oh we have one person who‘s not white and male on our lineup, so that means we‘re doing a good job”. Well, you‘ve got one out of how many people on your lineup? That‘s lazy”. In my conversation with NikNak I realise how subtle, and yet damaging, this sexism is, and how much hard work must be done to overcome it. The wealth of diverse talent that exists in Leeds is mindblowing, and NikNak expresses her anger at how underrepresented this is in the line-ups you’ll see posted around the city. “There are a lot of promoters out there who are still struggling to find more non-white non-male people to come and play at their events. I just find that very interesting, for somebody to be like, “Oh, we can‘t find anybody like you”. Google is your friend! What are you talking about? I‘m just challenging that way of thinking”. NikNak devised the Slipmat Sessions programme to help in this effort, and originally the aim was to have every participant to play together in one event, helping to launch many people headfirst into their future careers, giving them “the confidence to record a set, put it online, share it with people and see who picks it up and who asks you to play”. She coaches her students to question the relationship they have with their music in the
safe environment she has created. “DJing is more of a conversation than anything,” she expands, “Its having the confidence in the songs that you have in your library, and the reasons why you‘re choosing the music you‘re choosing to play. It‘s you, you‘re making that choice already, you‘re thinking like a curator”. In this way, NikNak focuses on much more than just the technical skills behind DJing, also giving students wider lessons on protecting their mental health and nurturing something she has named “professional self-worth”. One of the most important lessons she aims to teach her students is giving themselves the freedom to fail. “A lot of people will say “No, you‘ve got to beatmatch everything, you have to get it spot on the first time, otherwise you‘re shit”. And it‘s like, Um, no, actually, some of the best DJs don‘t. They use a myriad of skills, so how about I show you examples of that? It‘s about building confidence in people to just trust their instincts when it comes to DJing”. Another valuable lesson she teaches her students is the importance of being able to say no, out of respect to yourself as a performer. “There have been instances throughout my career where I‘ve wanted to say no, and didn‘t, and then ended up regretting doing the set, And then, because of that, my mental health took a dive at that time, or I just became ill”. She tells me a distressing story of a difficult gig with an abusive crowd. “I‘ve had a panic attack during a set before and still had to finish the whole set. And that was like a six hour one. It was really horrible. But it taught me a lot in terms of just being able to say no, in managing my boundaries and managing my mental health”. The main thought I take home from my conversation with NikNak is how much I admire her self-belief. “I feel like a lot of DJs who look like me get pigeonholed into playing a certain style of music”, NikNak admits, but she has always refused to fit into the boxes other people expect her to. “Being a DJ is not a set parameter of things, that you have to look like this or you have to be from this place – a DJ is a DJ”. I get the impression that through her hardships, NikNak has been able to create a deep sense of self-identity as a person and as a performer, and it is these attitudes and beliefs I hope she is most able to pass onto to her students. Even though the interview has spilled over far longer than I intended – and I honestly could keep going for hours – I still wanted to touch upon NikNak’s approaches to music production, and I’m not surprised that she remains just as headstrong. “You‘re messing about with sound at the end of the day, who gives a fuck?”, she says. It’s a beautiful statement. Ishmael Silvestro
In the Middle
Punk is black! Punk music, as a genre, has a long and illustrious history, and most music historians list the first ‘punk’ records as The Stooges’ 1969 album, or the MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ (also released in 1969). Some go further back to the US garage scene of the mid-1960s. Either way, the frequently told history of punk music is seemingly dominated by white artists, particularly white males. A section of that history which is often omitted is the vital contribution of some incredible Black artists. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, for instance, released the single ‘I Put A Spell On You’ all the way back in 1956 (a full 11 years before the Stooges even formed), and whilst the song itself isn’t outright punk music in terms of lyrical content, it incorporates many of the devices later characterised as ‘punk’, such as Hawkins strained, desperate shouting vocals and outlandish, shocking live performances. A Detroit three-piece called Death recorded what is, in my eyes, one of the definitive punk anthems. ‘Politicians In My Eyes’ was put out in 1975 thus pre-dating the Ramones’ first album which was widely regarded as the first out-and-out punk record. The single only sold 500 copies at the time and the band was largely ignored until 2009 when Drag City Records released the demos Death had recorded back in 1975 to critical acclaim. A detail that is often not recognised in the story of Death is that ‘Politicians In My Eyes’ was self-released on their own record label, thereby making Death one of the first independent bands to exist, years before Buzzcocks selfreleased their EP ‘Spiral Scratch’, which led many to credit
them as pioneers of independent or ‘indie’ music. The UK punk scene, the start of which is signified by the release of ‘New Rose’ by the Damned in October 1976, was seemingly dominated by three white male bands: Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned. A closer look, however, suggests that some of the greatest records of that era were created by X-Ray Spex, led by Marianne Joan Elliot-Said (better known as Poly Styrene), whose overt feminism and politicallycharged anthems marked her out from the more mainstream punk artists of the time. With critiques of capitalism and consumerism, Poly Styrene was someone with something significant to say, as opposed to The Damned whose lyrical content was often closer to love than rebellion, or the Sex Pistols who were simply manufactured by Malcolm McLaren to cause outrage and profit. So why were these artists so largely ignored during their time? Why are they not widely credited for the invaluable impact they had upon the genre? Is it simply due to their race? In short, yes. The music industry, and particularly white musicians, have always, for want of a better phrase, ripped off a plethora of black artists for personal gain. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and a countless array of other early rock and roll musicians highjacked songs penned by Black blues and soul musicians in order to further their own success, often not giving these artists credit or royalties. So, following the same logic, it makes sense that the artists mentioned here were ignored in favour of their white counterparts. The facts remain, however, that without Jay Hawkins there would be no
Iggy Pop, without Death there would be no Dead Kennedys, and without Poly Styrene there would be no Riot Grrrl. Every great musical movement was pioneered by Black artists, from jazz in the 1920s, to rock ‘n’ roll in the 50s, ska and reggae in the 60s – up to the Acid House dance music of the late 80s and 90s. Punk music is no exception this rule, and it goes without saying that these artists deserve much more support and recognition than they currently hold. Countless Black-led punk bands continue to dominate the music scene and influence other genres, from Bad Brains, Negro Terror, Bob Vylan, Big Joanie, Crystal Axis and The OBGMS, to name just a few. We must support these artists and stop whitewashing music.
In focus: Bad brains Bad Brains were a pioneering hardcore punk band formed in 1977, whose incorporation of reggae and funk distinguished them from other contemporary outfits. Roxanna Zoughi tells us about their historical legacy. vocals, typified by a quick-fire delivery of verse and ranging from guttural tremolos to falsetto shrieks – they could do it all.
While acid rock bands like Led Zeppelin dominated the mainstream in the early 70s, there was a different kind of sub-culture growing within Washington D.C.’s underground, characterized by a fast-paced, unrelenting sound that would soon be identified as hardcore. This new sound was beginning to emerge in the late 1970s but had not yet solidified an identity, so when Bad Brains came onto the scene with an experimental fusion of funk and punk, this was a cornerstone in the development of the genre. Bad Brains formed in 1977 and soon earned a reputation for their explosive live shows, eventually prompting their ban from many venues across the state capital, after which the band fled to New York to freely resume their project. Performances would transition seamlessly from fast-paced punk to slower, bass-heavy reggae lead by H.R.’s versatile
But Bad Brains weren’t the first instance of a punk and reggae unification. Visually and artistically, both subcultures were mutual outcasts whose paths were bound to cross, and soon enough bands like Steel Pulse performed at Rock Against Racism shows alongside Generation X in 1976. But this was more of a side-by-side co-existence of punk and reggae rather than a true fusion of the latter and the newly emerging hardcore sound which had not yet been fully realised - until Bad Brains. Although the band was influenced by anti-establishment groups like Sex Pistols, they did not seek to emulate the same nihilistic tone in their music which had previously defined the punk sound of the early ‘70s. In other words, they weren’t simply another punk band intent on protesting their frustrations with the system or helicopter parenting. Instead, Bad Brains promoted the power of PMA (positive mental attitude), a term borrowed from self-improvement book ‘Think and Grow Rich’. “We started kicking PMA in our music, and the message was different than the regular punk rock. You know, a punk rocker can write a song about hate, I hate my mom or some shit, you know? We wasn’t on no shit like that.” tells bassist, Daryl Jenifer, to Jon Kirby in Wax Poetics 2008. The group rejected the pessimistic worldview many punk bands had, and instead embraced a
traditional, yet progressive approach to their music and the kind of message they wanted to promote to their listeners, embodied by Positive Mental Attitude.
We had to come up with an angle […] that would be very radical and creative but then at the same time, traditional. And something that people would be able to relate to. recalls vocalist H.R. in 2006 documentary ‘American Hardcore’. The group certainly demonstrated their creative grit in their acclaimed first album ‘Banned in D.C.’ in 1982, which achieved a kind of unsynchronized harmony in the placement of reggae in-between hardcore tracks, taking affect as the calm before (and after) the storm. Punk bands had previously sought to deliver only the storm as they protested their contempt and distrust of authority. But Bad Brains offered a different angle, a new meaning for punk other than the frustrated nihilism of bands before them, whilst at the same time maintaining the musical essentials of the genre. Bad Brains reminded people that punk didn’t have to have a single identity; punk didn’t have to mean sticking it to the man or playing strictly fast tempo heavy music, because it didn’t have to conform to one meaning at all. roxanna zoughi
Images: Hannah Buck (@hampy_lu)
In The Middle
credit the culture Nisha Chandar-Nair discusses the theft of Black culture in the fashion industry.
As brought to light by discussions during the recent Black Lives Matter movement, the fashion industry owes credit to the Black community for many of the most successful trends in history, which marketed off designs created by Black people; most of the time, without giving recognition. It’s important to first acknowledge that the absence of recognition given to the origin of these designs is intricately linked to the racism that riddles the industry. From all white catwalks, to racially insensitive designs and most significantly the reliance on the exploitation of Black and Brown workers in sweatshops. It’s clear the industry continues to play a massive role in perpetuating institutionalised racism. Starting off with potentially one of the biggest trends in the history of fashion is trainer culture. Trainers have become much more than a sports shoe over the past decade. A recent survey discussed in The Huffington Post stated that British teens own an average of six pairs of trainers each. Trainers in fashion emerged simultaneously with the rise in popularity of hip-hop culture in the 1980s in America. Michael Jordan released his iconic ‘Air Jordan’ trainers in 1985, which are still sold today as one of the best-selling pairs of trainers. During the emergence of the trend, trainers acted as a form of expression for African Americans. In America, sneaker culture continues to be associated with racial matters. Chad Jones, from Brooklyn almost lost his life in 2012 when he was stabbed in the chest whilst waiting in line of a store in Harlem, New York for the Kobe Black History Month trainers. The African American community have pioneered one of the most successful trends in fashion history and have yet to reap the benefits from it. Instead, trainer culture was heavily associated with violence by the media, who cast Black communities in a negative light. In 1990, the highly popular magazine Sports Illustrated published an article titled “Your Sneakers or Your Life”, highlighting brutality within the culture. A SneakerHeadz video by GQ’s in 2015 claimed that 1,200 people die over trainers every year. Except as analysed by Shaquille- Omari Beoke at the City University of New York, the video did not provide any data or statistical evidence to support the claim. Trainer culture had been not only stolen from marginalised people, but it had also been used against them. Another symbolic trend in fashion established by the Black community is hoop earrings. Coming in various sizes, colours and shapes, hoop earrings can be found virtually everywhere. Kate Middleton was recently spotted wearing a pair of £5,000 hoop earrings when dropping her
children off at school. Andre Leon Talley explained to Vogue “In the 1960s and 1970s the hoop earring became associated with African beauty, when Nina Simone and Angela Davis started wearing the hoops”. Aside from this the hoop earring was also prominent among men and women in Ancient Egypt and is significant in Hispanic cultures. Talley described the accessory as a “beautiful ethnic symbol”. The presence of hoop earrings in pop culture is overwhelmingly due to women of colour. Despite this, women of colour have often received backlash for wearing hoop earrings. Alegria Martinez, told The New York Times, “White people can walk into conference rooms wearing hoops and it is still business attire. But if I did that, it is like I am bringing a ghetto aesthetic into the conference room”. The iconic monogram print has recently resurfaced during the resurgence of 2000s Y2k fashion. Logomania, the repetitive pattern of a brand’s logo, is often credited to brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. African American designer Daniel Day, known as ‘Dapper Dan’, pioneered the logomania trend through his reworked prints of designer logos which were worn by popular hip-hop artists. He used the print to create the monogram effects for a range of products such as car covers, curtains and furniture. Day’s designs were favourited by the Rap, Hip Hop and R&B communities. Despite his success, earlier in his career Dan faced massive hurdles in his career as companies refused to do business with him because of his race or location. It was due to this that he began teaching himself to create his own designs from scratch. The “knock-off” logos that he used in his work were created after teaching himself textile printing. It’s important that during that at all times, not just during Black History Month, we recognise the struggles behind the easily accessible designs, as well as the stigmas faced by Black people for wearing them. In creative industries such as Fashion, it’s easy to be led by the belief that everything is up for grabs, as designers are seen constantly taking inspiration from previous moments of history. The double standards of the fashion industry when it comes to white people and people of colour is something that can no longer be ignored. Brands need to step up. Instead of posting a black square on your Instagram, credit the culture. Work towards eradicating the microaggressions that are still faced by the people that created the trends you’re profiting off.
black models we need to celebrate every day The need for inclusivity, diversity and representation is more pressing than ever in the fashion
industry. Though the last fashion season was the most diverse in history with people of colour making up 47% of all the models in NYFW, there‘s still work to be done. Fatima Abdelwahab showcases eight of the most remarkable and influential Black female models that we need to celebrate every day.
Akeh is highly sought-after in the fashion industry. She has opened and closed several Chanel shows-being the second-ever Black Chanel bride. Adult Spent her first 7 years in a refugee camp in Kenya and it is for that reason that she does not only aspire to represent Black women but also anyone who worked their way up from nothing. The TIME recognized her as one of the “25 Most Influential Teens of 2018.” and she was named ‘Model of the year’ at the British Fashion Awards.
The British model was discovered in one of Primark’s stores in London. In a time where Black women were still not immensely represented in the fashion industry, Dunn madehistory by being the first Black model in over a decade to walk a Prada runway in 2008. Also, in 2015, she was the first Black woman in 12 years -after Naomi Campbellto be featured solo on a Vogue UK cover.
Halima has battled the traditional definition of beauty and did many firsts in the fashion industry as a hijabi model. Not only was she the first hijabi to compete in Miss Minnesota USA pageant, but she also worked her way up till she got featured on several Voguecovers and walked many fashion runways. She was the first model to get featured on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit with her hijab and burkini.
As empowering as it gets, Woods started her fashion career while in Labour by walking the Savage x Fenty runway back in 2018’s NYFW. She breaks all the mainstream beauty criteria and conquers the fashion world with her buzzed hair, gap teeth and tattoos. Even though Slick is undergoing chemotherapy after being diagnosed with stage three skin cancer she remains positive, strong and a empowers us all.
Winnie came out of the gate strong after her appearance in the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model in 2014. She immediately became one of the most successful and profitable fashion models. She is a public spokesperson on the skin condition vitiligo but she refuses to be defined by it.
Borges is an Angolia model who started her modelling journey in Angola. After moving to New York, she walked 17 runways in her first fashion week - She then became a Givenchy exclusive. Significantly, Borges is well known as the first model to walk the Victoria Secret Fashion Show with her afro hairstyle.
Precious Lee is one of the very first Black plus-size models. For years she was not called by her name in the fashion industry as her agents thought that she should stick to a more mainstream name, Victoria. She fought for her own identity and got called back by her name in 2015. Since then, she became the first Black plus-size model to be featured on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
This 70s supermodel broke many boundaries in the fashion industry and was the first Black model to be on a US Vogue cover, in 1974. She’s a heroine of the civil rights movement as she changed the idea of beauty in the US after her appearance. During her modelling career, she starred in over 500 magazine covers.
In The Middle
decolonising the tattoo industry with @jampokes After studying History of Art and English at Leeds University, Jemima Edwards started experimenting with hand-poking (a more DIY approach to the traditional tattoo gun) on herself and her housemates. However, it was lockdown that gave Jemima the push to start pursuing tattooing more seriously. “I think I just came across someone’s Instagram who was a handpoke artist; I didn’t realise it was a thing that people actually did”, she says. “I must’ve just looked on Youtube and watched some videos, did some research. Then I bought some needles and some tattoo ink and just went from there really. It was quite organic I think… I had a lot of time so i started doing my own thing”.
Jemima’s style is shaped by her art history background; her illustrations reference medieval woodcuts and gothic type. However, she builds on these foundations to create something new, from line drawings of afro picks to pieces written in Yorkshire dialect. “It is in itself a very white style; you see all these old manuscripts and they’re all white people”, she says. “I’m trying to figure out a weird little balance between doing that, because that’s the kind of art I’m interested in, and being able to reflect my own identity in my practice”.
However, it’s not just Jemima’s style that sets her apart from other tattoo artists, it’s also her approach. Jemima is committed to providing a service for her Black and brown peers amidst an industry that, despite its origins, she feels excluded from. Her Instagram bio articulates her dedication to working with “all bodies, genders and skin tones” and her profile reinforces this: it is a display of beautiful line work on pigmented as well as white skin. Jemima also offers a sliding scale, an anti-capitalist mechanism which offers reduced prices for clients from marginalised backgrounds. “It’s about feeling safe when you’re getting a tattoo done. I’ve had so many where the artist has just commented on my skin tone and said, you know, whatever weird things that make you feel like you’re not the norm for them. They really make you feel like a weird kind of experiment, I’ve felt like that a few times” Jemima explains. “I think it’s just really necessary [to provide a more inclusive service]. The thing about getting tattoos, you put a lot of trust in that person that’s altering your body for the rest of your life, basically.”
Whilst there is a wave of POC- and QTIPOC-led studios opening up in America, Jemima is bringing that spirit to this side of the Atlantic. “I wanted to contribute to that kind of thing for people who look like me, and for people with darker skin tones too, to make sure they know that tattooing is for them as well.”
The effect is tangible, according to Jemima’s clients: “A few I’ve had who are brown or Black have always just commented on it, like ‘it is a really nice, different experience to be tattooed by someone who knows how to work with my skin type’, and stuff like that.”
When I ask about racism in the industry, Jemima has a lot to say, from the lack of non-white people on tattooists’ portfolios to her own experiences being tattooed by white artists: “Most places aren’t gonna be overtly racist; like with anything, it’s just kind of subtleties. I get it, it is new for them, but I think they need to think about why it’s new for them and why they might not be getting any clients who have darker skin.” “Their feeds don’t reflect these people and they need to think about that.” Jemima also reflects on the more aggressively racist side of the industry, with many tattoo artists and their clients flirting with Nazi and fascist imagery in their work.
Though Jemima has an open mind when it comes to design, she knows her boundaries. “I think it’s really within your right as an artist to say no to something that’s not in your comfort zone, or something that you don’t agree with. To be honest, I think most tattooers will do that but people just have different standards for what they will personally do or won’t do.”
One thing Jemima is sceptical of is cultural appropriation. When I ask about how she feels about tattooing in a client’s non-native tongue or style, she gives a considered answer. “It’s a hard one when there’s certain styles that people want, like tribal styles or kanji text. There’s some white artists who only work in that style, thinking it’s theirs; it’s just a bit… I don’t really get it. I get that you need to earn money and stuff but I think, if you’re gonna do something, it needs to come from something you’re familiar with personally. Like, I wouldn’t ask a white artist to write something in Jamaican patois on me or something, it would just be really weird”. “Yeah, I won’t do anything I’m not happy with. It’s really hard for me to say no to things but anything that involves any kind of appropriation or anything I might suspect, it’s off limits.”
Jemima’s work and the perspective behind it marks her as an exciting figure in the Leeds community. You can follow her and ask questions about DIY tattoo work via her Instagram @jampokes. Safi Bugel
What we‘re loving this month
My pick this month is the Juvia‘s Place Nubian II Palette - the formula is super pigmented and the blue in this palette is the best I‘ve ever used. - Lizzie Wright
Image: Image Gang
This month I have been loving Image Gang - they are a Black owned jewellery and accessory store who make extremely cool pieces! - Bella Wigley
I came across Affandjam this month and fell in love with their pieces. They are a sustainable clothing company who make wearable art. - Faye Clayton Image: Jemima Edwards
Image: Jemima Edwards
Arts & Culture
Books to radicalise
In They Can’t Kill Us All, award-winning journalist Wesley Lowery presents his findings after a year investigating the reality of police brutality and racism within the USA. This book delivers an honest, eye-opening account of the front-line through interviews with the families of victims of police brutality, as well as the activists who are demanding change. Lowery effortlessly presents not just statistics, but the human stories that exist behind them. By doing so, They Can’t Kill Us All provides a well-reported, captivating account of the beginning of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the fight against racial injustice. Even though this book is three years old, it could not be more relevant today.
When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Livers Matter Memoir is a crucial text to read during the current political climate, but also incredibly heart-breaking to read. The book discusses powerful topics such as police brutality, racial profiling and jail abolitionism with remarkable insight and clarity. However, it is the addition of Khan-Cullors’ personal memoirs of childhood and how she became one of the founders of the #BlackLivesMatter, and the susequent Black Lives Matter Movement, that really make this an inspirational text. Written with award-winning author and journalist asha bandele, this book creates a reading experience that will make you laugh, cry and ultimately, emerge with a new-found understanding of why the fight against racial injustice is so important.
100 Great Black Britons is a brilliant entry-level book if you find yourself, like many, lacking in knowledge of Black British History. Patrick Vernon OBE started the ‘100 Great Black Britons’ Campaign in 2004 as a response to a lack of representation and diversity on the BBC’s ‘100 Greatest Britons’ list. Vernon’s campaign collated nominations by the public of the Black Briton they admired the most, in order ‘to honour the remarkable achievements of key Black British individuals over history’. This endeavour was incredibly successful and Vernon, with Osbourne, decided to commemorate the ‘100 Great Black Britons’ Campaign into a book. The chapters are easy to read, engaging and include amazing Black Britons that range from actors, to abolitionists, to LGBTQI+ activists. If you wish to learn more about some truly inspiring Black Britons, please pick up this book.
Carruthers, a truly inspirational and influential activist, not only masterfully puts forward a call-to-arms that is insightful and accessible, but also provides real stories of social movement work that represent the change for which she advocates. Drawing on historical movements such as the Haitian Revolution and the US Civil Rights Movement, Carruthers delivers a powerful manifesto that provides a roadmap to organising and activism that is thorough, powerful and thought-provoking. Unapologetic not only explores these themes, and demands that we take action to eliminate racial injustice, but also critiques the violence and history that it stems from. This text is vital, well-researched and a truly powerful analysis of why Black movements are crucial for us all to understand and support.
Multi award-winning author and professor, Ibram X. Kendi, has written a book that is absolutely vital reading for today. How To Be An Antiracist argues that racism does not stem from ignorance, but rather, is propelled by profitability and utility within society. Kendi’s work is truly eye-opening, and asks us to honestly reflect on how we are all complicit, to some degree, and how we should all self-evaluate our own actions. Not only this, Kendi also manages to balance provocative revolutionary ideas with a sense of hope for humanity’s ability to grow, change and accept. Essentially, Kendi provides a transformative handbook on how to recognise, reflect and change our understanding of racism in a way that is accessible, and pivotal, to everyone.
Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic novel made up of interconnected stories narrated through Evaristo’s original style which blends together both poetry and prose. The Booker Prize winning novel tells the tales of 12 characters, most of whom are Black British women, whose lives and stories overlap, interlink and connect despite their contrasting and distinct backgrounds and experiences. Evaristo creates a rich eclectic collection of perspectives from engaging, complex and flawed characters through tales of their families, friends and lovers. Girl, Woman, Other is a vignette of the lives of Black British women and the stories that make up their modern-day experience, exploring a wide range of relevant issues, questioning feminism, race and privilege throughout, ultimately displaying a huge sense of interconnectivity through the characters as well as the reader.
Emma Rivers & Madeleine Gauci Green
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THE FIGHT FOR MARVEL‘S NEW END GAME There is no denying the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a juggernaut of a conglomerate- seemingly percolating into every part of societyfilm, television, video games, comics and merchandise. Even if you are not a fan there is a high likelihood you could name an Avenger. But one issue the titan faces is that across it’s twenty three films only one of those has had a Black actor take top billing. Marvel’s nearly decade long success is an inclusivity nightmare. Only one film has billed a Black actor at the top of the list. Many Black characters such as Don Cheadle’s War Machine and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon have been relegated to side-characters, who suffer from lack of character development and feel tokenistic in their presence on screen. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon even said in Captain America, ‘don’t look at me, I do what he does, just slower. 69% of all actors in the MCU are white, this is staggeringly disproportionate in its representation of cinema and the diversity within society. Anthony Mackie recently called out Marvel, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and was asked to comment on Marvel’s seemingly white-washing of comic book heroes. His response noted that Marvel, like many companies, suffers from an ‘unawareness problem rather than a racist problem.’ This shows that like many companies in the world right now Marvel is facing a reckoning with systemic racism within the film industry and that by not facing up to it before and following the status quo- it has wrought itself a huge cross to bear. Mackie, in a further interview, condemned Marvel for not only it’s lack of representation on screen but also behind. He decried Marvel’s hypocrisy for hiring ‘Black people for the Black movie’ whereas on the other seven Marvel films Mackie has worked on the crew has predominantly white. The fact that 90.7% of all Marvel’s directors have been white, shows there is a lack of diverse voices telling stories, limiting the scope of diversity that can ultimately be seen on-screen. Flashback to 2018 when Black Panther was released. It was undoubtedly a reckoning and perhaps, a risk for the thus far white-led film sphere. Having a black superhero take the centre stage, with a strong African accent, a predominantly Black cast (there were only two white actors who made the billing) was the MCU’s biggest risk to date. It has emerged that despite Kevin Feige (the head of the MCU) vehement protestation that he does not want Marvel to feel like it has ‘a completely white, European cast’ it has been revealed the late Chadwick Boseman fought ardently to have The King of Wakandaa fictitious country in Africa- speak with an African accent. Marvel representatives when in talks with Boseman regarding the traits and presentation of T’Challa wanted him to speak with an American or European accent, fearing it would be ‘too much for an audience to take’. This is staggering that a company that is practically a cornerstone of society, is still fearful of presenting powerful black characters, in fear that audiences will reject the film. As it happens Black Panther became a critical and a box office success, becoming the twelfth highest-grossing film in history and allowing Marvel to enter an arena it had thus far been vacant from- the prestige of awards season. It achieved the prestige of being nominated for Best Picture at 2018 Oscars; was nominated for an additional five awards and won three. The success of Black Panther has encouraged Marvel to take more risks and diversify into a wider and more inclusive representative of
society in the casting of its heroes. At the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, Hall H was filled to the rafters with Marvel fans eagerly awaiting the revealing of the new line up of heroes, filling our screens for the next ten years in Phases Four and Five. The Avengers seem to have been replaced by The Eternals, a superhero hero team, made up of Black, Brown, Asian, and white actors. Black Panther II was announced- although following Boseman’s death it is uncertain whether that will happen. Blade, starring two time Academy Awardwinner Mahershala Ali in the titular role was also a huge and exciting reveal for the studio. These next phases for Marvel are crucial- it was behind in its first three phases, but sought to correct that in it’s next two at a time before the world was called into action to dismantle systemic racism. This shows that Marvel conceded to the criticism that it was predominantly white and sought to fix it. Let us hope then that the film industry giant can be leading example in showing how simple it is to be more inclusive, by simply opening the door and allowing diversity to enter. Phoebe Walker
Artist profile Langston hughes The Harlem Renaissance refers to the cultural, artistic and intellectual movement in the 1920s that celebrated African American culture. Artists such as W.E.B Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Joséphine Baker, Aaron Douglas, to cite a few, were involved in the movement, but Langston Hughes was pivotal. The American poet, social activist and novelist (19011967) is well known in the history of art. In fact, Hughes‘ most known invention is called jazz poetry, which can be seen as poetry mixed with jazz music and rhythm. In 1926, Hughes published his first book. In the meantime, his short poem I, Too, Sing America was published. Here, Hughes depicts the story of a family member who is discriminated against due to his high concentration of melanin.This is likely a reference to the Jim Crow Laws which meant that Black and caucasian people couldn‘t eat and sit together in the same place. Hughes‘ poetry serves as a call for equality. Marjolaine Marsile
Arts & Culture
By Chloe Prentice @chloeprenticedesign
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In profile: Adam French and cassio dimande Our Editor-in-Chief Safi Bugel caught up with Leeds-based photographers and friends Adam French and Cassio Dimande to dicuss influences, home developing and capturing Black communities and identities. When did you both get into photography and how?
They’re really beautiful photos, and they’re also really intimate- are they people you know or?
Cassio: In 2013, I was talking to a friend and he said he did a film photography project at his university, where they developed film. The reason he said that was because I said I wanted to get a camera but they were really expensive, so he told me about film cameras. He said they were dirt cheap, you could just get one off eBay for next to nothing. When I came back to Leeds from summer break, I went on ebay and bought my first camera. And then it got out of control after that.
Adam: It started with people I know, like Cassio, but then so far it’s been people who know people; it’s all been word of mouth. It kind of helps because it means the person who’s already had their picture taken can just be like “Yeah it was fine”. The way I photograph is probably a little different to other people; my cameras are very old and very obtrusive.
Adam: I don’t really know, I’m trying to think about all of them years ago. I think probably it started with my mum. She has a terrifying amount of pictures, of everything, of all things except from when she was young because they all got destroyed. So, I‘ve had some sort of weird obsession with taking pictures constantly, and then it turned into a uni degree and now I‘m still doing it. And my cameras have got exponentially bigger. Adam, was your mum a professional photographer or just a casual photographer?
I always find that when taking portraits, people panic and shy away, but I don’t know if I‘m just friends with a really insecure bunch of people (me included). How do you develop that feeling of trust and comfort between you and the person you’re photographing? Cassio: Safi, no way, your friends are not insecure, get used to it! Get used to hearing people flake or change their mind or whatever; it’s just part and parcel. As for sitting with people, I think just having a conversation with them. When they’re just staring at your setup, if you’re talking to them, they almost forget about it. Adam: Conversation is key.
Adam: She just carried a point and shoot. She just kept taking pictures and getting other people’s pictures and kept them all in one place. She’s got two huge boxes at home of just endless pictures she goes through every so often. Your mum must be a pretty big influence then, but for both of you: who or what inspires you when it comes to photography? Adam: Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, Lewis Hine, Julia Margaret Cameron, Francesca Woodman. Cassio: Right now, it’s Pieter Hugo, a South African documentary photographer. I was given his book by an ex and I just kind of became obsessed with his documentary work in Africa because there’s almost none, it’s so hard to come by. Over time, it’s been people in my circles, so first I was influenced by Tom Porton, who used to own West Yorkshire Cameras with Nick Parker, and then I started shooting more black and white because saw Nick’s work and thought ‘ok, black and white isn’t just boring and moody’. And now I’m really influenced by Adam’s work, as he’ll probably tell you from the endless stream of questions he gets from me. So it’s always been people around me. If I know you and I really like your work, it‘s gonna have some kind of influence on what I’m doing.
Adam, I’ve seen a lot about your project on Black Identity, can you tell me a bit more about that? What influenced it, what’s your approach, etc.? Adam: There’s no big plan with it, I didn’t come up with it in a dream or anything, I just had a thought while I was on lunch with my girlfriend a few weeks before starting it. We were just sitting, having lunch, when a group of Black guys on the table next to us started saying “Brother! Brother! Brother!”. I didn’t react to that because it’s not something I naturally react to, but then they asked if I smoked weed, and I don’t, so I said no. I overheard them saying “he’s not Black enough”, so I sort of thought, what is Black? I don’t know, I’ve never known it from either side- I’m mixed race so I’m half Black, half white… I just see it from both sides in different ways. So I thought, after reading a few books on August Sanders, who documented people and life, I may as well have a go at it and just document. At the moment it’s just a work in progress of just taking pictures. There’s no massive idea at the moment, that‘s just what I‘m doing.
So it’s always been people around me. If I know you and I really like your work, it‘s gonna have some kind of influence on what I’m doing.
Cassio, you also take quite striking portraits. Is the theme of exploring Black identity also a conscious decision for you? Cassio: No, I don‘t think so. I grew up in the US and then moved to Mozambique, where I was born- big identity crisis, right. I was like, I’m American, what am I doing in Africa? I really didn’t identify with being Mozambican, and just when I WAS starting to, I moved to England to go to university, so I kind of like finally got to a point where I accepted by Mozambican-ness, despite having grown up in the West. Like what Adam said, I get told I’m not African enough because I have an American accent, because I look the way I do, because I grew up in the West. So my work for a while was really centred in the West, street photography and portraits in the West. But now it’s moving more towards how I can represent Mozambique in the world. It sounds really ambitious but there‘s maybe like 5 or 6 Mozambican photographers in the entire country, publishing photographers who’s work is out in books or galleries
Arts & Culture
Adam: for me, I think it’s a practical thing. I cut all my film down from a big box of film; I can’t get colour film like this, it would be stupidly expensive. The film I use doesn’t exist anymore so I have to make it myself and I can only do that in black and white. But also, most the cameras and lenses I use wouldn‘t work with colour anyway, because of their age. Cassio: I’m the same as Adam. My visa expires on the 1st November so I’m going back to Mozambique indefinitely; I can’t shoot colour there, it’s so impractical. You have to have the film, which you can’t just get in a big box like Adam, and then you need a lab to process it, and then you pay per roll to have it processed which costs even more money. So I am transitioning to colour in digital and black and white in film, thanks to Adam’s help.
Do you both process your photos yourself then? Adam: Yep, my room is my lab. I do everything at home, I can’t afford not to do it at home. Through the whole of uni, I was just collecting random stuff so I could be self-sufficient after uni. I can’t even sleep in here, there’s too many chemicals. So tell me about your experimental approach to cameras and film? Adam: Since I work at West Yorkshire Cameras, I end up getting a lot of the semi-broken or unsellable cameras, and from them I build other cameras. That started back before uni when I couldn’t afford anything. I built a camera out of the staging at my college; because I couldn’t afford the chemistry, I made the chemistry from coffee, washing powder, vitamin C tablets, caffenol. And the fixer was made from an ammonium-based aquarium cleaner. I couldn’t afford it so everything’s always been made, and everything is botched together with tape! Cassio: Yeah, use it until it breaks and then replace it, that’s usually the approach. Like with Adam’s point, if I’m going home, I’m doing exactly what he said he did coming out of uni: trying to collect to cover all your bases, get an enlarger, get tanks to develop. And then try to figure out how I can still take photos in this slow, inconvenient and outdated way with these really old cameras for as long as possible without running into problems.
Will you carry on doing this in Mozambique then, Cassio? Cassio: I will regardless, but the non-negotiable is doing it on film. I don‘t wanna do it on digital, as a matter of principle. What’s in the pipeline for both of you? Cassio: Right now I’m going through a period of not shooting so much, but looking back through everything i’ve shot. It’s been a lot of go, go, go, shoot, develop, shoot, develop. I took three years off from posting on social media and I’ve just started posting again, so I wanna create a few things. One is a book on rural life. Mozambique gained independence in 1974, so my parents were born before the independence movement. It’s a really young country. People were alive before the country was liberated; they‘re still alive today, so there’s been a big change in lifestyle. Money came into the country, which meant quality of life improved, electrification happened, we got internet, 3G, people started moving to the city because the city was growing, and rural life became left behind in a lot of ways. So right now, I’m working on a book that‘s gonna draw comparison between rural life in Mozambique and what life is like with technology and cellphones. The other book I’m working on is very personal. My father passed away in January 2019, and leading up to him passing away, I went home for a year and a half and I was with him the whole time. I took photos the whole time, from when he had a stroke and was paralaysed until he passed away. I have pictures from when I first went to see him in the hospital until his funeral, so I wanna make some kind of thing to remember him by; to remember that whole process we spent together because I was with him every single day. So right now, I’m not really focused on shooting, I‘m just kind of like a squirrel trying to get my nuts for winter. I’m looking back on a lot of the things I have shot. I wanna close off some chapters before looking forward. Adam: For me, just keeping on shooting- its a bit shorter of an answer. I don’t have anything in the works at the moment because most of my personal, non-project work I would do outside, but now it’s getting cold and I’d need some light for it but there‘s no sunlight left. So I can’t really do much until summer next year.
Cassio: Check out Adam’s Instagram, big up adam because he’s not just a really good photographer, he’s a really good guy, such a good friend. I can’t emphasise that enough Adam: Haha, I’ll say the same to Cassio. Adam French: @kamick1212 Cassio Dimande: @mr.cassio Safi Bugel.
All images from Adam French‘s project on Black Identity
Adam, you’ve been shooting in black and white a lot, Cassio you’ve also shot in black and white before- what is it that draws you to black and white film?
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Retroactive Remedying: how can depictions of blackface be torn down? Image: Amazon
After my weekly comfort viewing of Community the other day, I was alerted to the fact that Netflix had purged one of the comedy’s most absurd yet revered episodes, ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’. This episode featured Community regular Ken Jeong’s Spanish teacher Chang, who starts the episode dressed up in full-body black makeup with an accompanying white wig. Despite Community’s plaudits for being a ‘woke’ show and criticsing the obvious parallels between Chang’s “dark elf” and the historically abhorrent tradition of Blackface, the episode was axed. ‘Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ is widely considered one of the best episodes of the series, and currently has a 9.5 rating on IMDb. The removal from Netflix sparked a Twitter war, where many users pointed out the diverse show’s main focus during the episode is suicide awareness. Is full erasure a necessary step? Over the last few months, episodes from numerous other big hit broadcasts such as 30 Rock, The Golden Girls, The Office, Scrubs and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have all retroactively succumbed to the editorial chopping block. Subsequently, many white actors also quit their voice roles as Black or mixed-race characters, including Family Guy’s Mike Henry and Central Park’s Kristen Bell. In a Radio Times interview in July, Idris Elba dismantled these acts of censorship, arguing “viewers should know that people made shows like this” and that to “mock the truth, you have to
know the truth.” Viral Success Munya Chawawa agreed, saying that “racism in Britain has always been more subtle and insidious – we need those blatant examples to remind us.” He argues that this removal is just a new form of gaslighting for Black people and people of colour. Similarly, television writer Alanna Bennett, believes it is “just trying to Band-Aid over the history.” Bennett asserts that these purifications are only effective at erasing mistakes rather than acknowledging them. She goes on to state it “feels like trying to protect the legacy of those creators instead of actually trying to address what those episodes did.” Stand-up comedian and writer Dane Baptiste equally illuminates the issues of representation which emerge from these incidents. Baptiste declares that the main problem “isn’t just the fact that you have things like Little Britain and Come Fly With Me… It’s the fact that two white men have been able to depict Black people in two shows and the BBC won’t even give one Black person a show.” A key lesson to be learned from these now outdated shows is the dearth of opportunities for emerging Black stars in British television to portray diverse, complex characters. Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You is an excellent example of the latest step in this beneficial direction – a step well over 20 years in the making.
Certain shows such as AMC’s Mad Men appears to have taken a different approach in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Recently, I came across the series 3 Mad Men episode where John Slattery’s Roger Sterling is in obvious Blackface. However, the solution the creators took was to disclaim ahead of viewing: making audiences aware of the racist content. In an official statement, Mad Men’s production company Lionsgate stated that they chose to leave the scene in as they want to expose “the injustices and inequities within our society“. HBO Max also initially came under fire for removing infamous epic Gone with the Wind due to its racist characterisation of Black Americans. However, HBO Max then reuploaded the film with both a disclaimer about the racist content and a supplementary historical documentary where scholars discuss the film’s impact. Clearly, the way forward is not outright censorship. The questionable content instead needs either an apt preface which educates audiences on the wrongful history or an accompanying apology. Now more than ever, these incidents are showing the need for us to expose the flaws and racist stereotypes manifest in numerous artistic industries. Past events instigate activists to keep sight of goals of greater representation and attainment of an increasingly diverse world of television and film. Owen Frost
Arts & Culture
Overturned Cobbles: Leeds Black History Walks
Image: Sinead O‘Riordan
‘The pattern of historic silencing becomes disturbinglY clear...‘
Recolouring an erased history is an intimidating task, yet a necessary one. Over a two-hour period, Joe Williams and Vanessa Mudd take their fellow walkers through millennia of rich Black history in Leeds; overturning the cobbles so carefully laid by eurocentrism. Joe, a Leeds-born actor and alumnus of the university, regularly takes groups around the campus, with each stopping point being another setting for chapters in a forgotten history. Beginning at the Parkinson Steps, walkers follow Joe to the Clothworkers Court, passed the Pyramid Stage, through Clarendon Place where the walk scenically concludes in St George’s Field. While the places of reference change, the overarching narrative is constant: too many aspects of African heritage have been “swept away”. The walks go ahead throughout the year, come rain or shine. Such is the dedication to this philosophy that Vanessa and Joe have invested in a yellow umbrella printed with ‘Leeds Black History Walks’. The next walk (October 10th) is a particularly special one, as Joe will be joined by guest performance artists. After participating in the walk and reflecting on it, one must conclude that Joe’s dedication to his role as educator makes the experience all the more special. As a creative, Joe artfully inhabits historical figures, giving accounts of their lives in the first person, rendering the walk a sort of ambulatory theatre at times. As he becomes figures such as Olaudah Equiano, their stories step even further out of a darkness into which they were forced. A few stopping points pass, and the pattern of historic silencing becomes disturbingly clear. What is never quite reconciled, however, is the frankness. At one point, you stand
in campus facing the Edward Baines building, with Michael Sadler behind you and Parkinson around the corner. To be surrounded by dedications all to white men and yet still colour them all with elements of black history is testament to the power of the walks. To put it another way, you do not feel you walk back on the same streets you walked in on. A particularly harrowing fact shared on the walk was the existence of a monument to commemorate the lives of animals that died in World Wars One and Two and yet no such monument exists in remembrance of West Indian slaves, whose exploitation has benefitted every aspect of British life. The Black History Walks aim to reshape narratives to benefit the future, and so, naturally, Joe and Vanessa do not shy away from discussing relevant issues concerning race or political correctness. Stories of the struggles of the Windrush generations and police brutality provide a context to recent events and reminds us that we live in just another episode in the fight for equality. Vanessa recognised the need for an overhaul in the language we use when referring to atrocities of the past: she corrects Joe when he recounts Europeans “taking the slaves” to using the word “enslavement”. With this use, there is no implication that we just conceptualise West Africans in this period as slaves. For ten years, these walks have gone unfunded by any sort of council or arts body. Vanessa herself works three days a week unpaid to see to their administrative responsibilities. The popularity of the Leeds Black History Walks has meant that Joe often is asked to contribute to various exhibitions however regularly does so feeless. It is only this year, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, that they have begun charging for the walks.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Securing funding is an active pursuit for Joe and Vanessa as, not only will it aid in their security, but it is also an indirect source of validation. With funding comes the recognition that Leeds’ Black History Walk does invaluable work for enriching local culture and understanding of local history. One can’t help but think that their content has perhaps overturned one too many cobbles. It’s only appropriate to echo the words of Joe Williams: “history has given the impression that only certain people can be heroes and there is a continuity of African creativity being removed.” With Joe and Vanessa on the Leeds Black History Walk, each step you take leads you further into the injustice and misrepresentation of Black history yet also leads you into its richness and interest.
Facebook: Leeds Black History Walk Instagram: @leedsblackhistory Twitter: @heritagewalker
An ode to the Black Economy Abigail Busenze reflects on the importance of supporting Black entrepreneurs and Blackled businesses, with a focus on those here in Leeds.
This has been highlighted by Black Pound Day: a day occurring once a month where people are encouraged to spend on Black-owned businesses in lieu of their usual purchases. This was created by So Solid Crew’s Swiss in response to the death of George Floyd and the current Black Lives Matter movement. Mahogany Market is a market focused on Black Pound Day, creating a platform for Black businesses in Leeds to come together to connect and trade. Though this occurs once a month, it is encouraged to invest in Black-owned businesses in general. Leeds is a hub for entrepreneurs; amongst these entrepreneurs are Say It With Your Chest, RD Designs and Sable Radio. Say It With Your Chest is a Leeds based art collective focusing on Black creatives working together and holding events centring Black arts, film and sound. They believe in speaking power to truth with confidence through poetry. Living in the streets of Leeds, it is clear that the arts are at the forefront of entrepreneurialism. AD, a former Leeds Arts University student embraces the words of Pyer Moss designer, Kerby Jean-Raymond, that “If I’m going to be the Black designer, I’m going to tell it my way”. With RD designs, AD created a fashion line that tells the Black community that they are beautiful. This came from recognising that media has painted a negative narrative of the Black community; therefore it is fundamental to take ownership in how we see ourselves. We as the Black community should empower ourselves rather than wait for the media to do it for us. This means taking initiative, which can be seen by Sable Radio: a Leeds-based, Black-led community radio station created as a direct response to the lack of Black and Brown creatives in the radio and music industry. Alongside broadcasting, they do other arts and culture programming. These endeavours allow them to platform and support a variety of creative practices, achieving their aim to facilitate creatives of colour in northern England.
Malcom X expresses that not only do we need to re-educate ourselves on the importance of supporting Black -owned businesses, we also need to be aware of the importance of going into business. This allows us to have autonomy over employment and therefore eliminate the necessity of begging to get a seat on somebody else’s table when we have now built our own.
I write this in attempt to encourage engagement with the endeavours of Blackowned businesses and, thus, to be a part of a trajectory that will lead to Black liberation.
Black owned spaces for Black people is necessary. Both taking a seat at the table and making your own table is necessary. [Those] who can use that space are responsible for who is allowed to be involved. - Say it With Your Chest
The Black community want to be accepted into Black aristocracy and opulence. We need to create opulence. We need to create our own platforms. Our generation can be the beginning of generational wealth if we take charge now. - RD Designs
Having spoken to all three businesses I asked “Why are Black-owned Businesses important?”. As you read their responses on the following page, it is elemental that you answer this question for yourself too.
BLOGS & LIFESTYLE
In The Middle
At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence. - Booker T. Washington
A Black-led radio is important because Black people and nonBlack people of colour deserve the right to self-determination in digital media. We deserve to be able to represent ourselves and showcase our creativity and talent. - Sable Radio
Blogs & Lifestyle
Images of Mahogany Market by Maariyah Fulat
In The Middle
Excellent Educational Books by Black Authors As an English student and avid reader, it is my belief that the best way to understand someone else’s experience is to read about it. Even books which are fictional can educate us. Below, I have listed three major fictional books by Black authors that are exceptional in their presentation of very different Black experiences.
1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 2. The protagonist of this novel is the 16-year-old girl, Starr Carter. Though this is Young Adult fiction, the book begins with Starr witnessing the murder of her childhood friend, Khalil, who was shot by a police officer and, unsurprisingly, Khalil was unarmed. Much like the protests we have seen for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark (and many others), protesters head to the streets shouting Khalil’s name, and begging for justice. As Khalil’s only witness the pressure is on Starr to come forward and speak up.
“The strongest aspect of this book is it's social commentary and political criticism. This is the kind of book that should be in the hands of teens, making them aware of current issues, educating them on pressing matters, and encouraging them to get involved to create change.” – (Emma Giordano) If you don’t have time for reading at the moment, The
Hate U Give was also adapted into an incredible movie.
This book begins with the protagonist Emira Tucker, a young Black woman, being accused by a security guard in a supermarket of stealing the white toddler she is babysitting. Though this scene sets the precedent for the rest of the novel, Reid speeds past this and has Emira shake off the whole event. This does not make the details of the event any less effective, but Reid wants the reader to focus on the essential context of the novel, which is the relationship between Emira and her white wealthy employer, Alix Chamberlain.
“Narratives about race and privilege are not unfamiliar literary fodder, but in her novel, Reid demonstrates a remarkable insight by taking on the monumental challenge of revealing the state of America through what she called the “everyday domestic biases that we don’t even know we have.” Reid’s exploration is a fresh and interesting look at the uneasy performance of “wokeness”—a paper-thin tissue of a word, so conspicuous that it now immediately breeds distrust.” – (bookswithchai) Credit: Goodreads
3. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“it’s impossible to be unarmed when our Blackness is the weapon that they fear”- (April Offrah)
This novel is about twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, who grow up in Mallard, L.A, which is a town mainly comprised of light-skinned black people. One of the sisters, Stella, makes the decision to live her life as a white-passing person, while Desiree chooses to embrace her Black identity. This book weaves together multiple generations of this family, ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s, and presents an emotional exploration of family, race, gender, class, and integrally the lasting influence of the past and our decisions.
ASK AUNT BONNIE
“A story of absolute, universal timelessness… For any era, it‘s an accomplished, affecting novel. For this moment, it‘s piercing, subtly wending its way toward questions about who we are and who we want to be….” – (Entertainment Weekly) Anushka Searle
QUESTION How can I bond better with my flatmates?
cafes with free WiFi which you could visit and have a productuve study session. try not to let it get on top of you, detach yourself Try and find something you have in common! from the situation by going for a walk or practicing mindfulness! Whether this is a tv show or video game it will be to nice find common ground. Go out and do actvities as a flat! Go for walks QUESTION My diet is really bad at uni! Should I bet cutting or to the oub for a pint. Perhaps cooking a big meal together back? could be fun! Fajitas nights were a big hit in my first year flat! ANSWER The most important thing to do is listen to your body! QUESTION I‘m worried my boyfriends friends don‘t like Don‘t restruct your diet unnecessarily but make sure to eat 3 balanced meals a day. Especially with coronavirus it‘s important to get your me, help? fruit and veg intake! Don‘t feel guilty about treating yourself though. ANSWER It is easy to overthink whether your boyfriends friends like you or not as you obviously are keen to QUESTION Any book recommendations to read while i‘m make a good impression! All you can do is be friendly stuck indoors? :( and get to know them! Ask them questions! All the amazing things your boyfriend likes about you they will too! ANSWER For deep and intellectual reading try The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. For more light hearted reading try Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. QUESTION How do you suggest staying social now we are in a local lockdown? QUESTION Should I do a masters? Don‘t want to waste moANSWER It is frustrating not being able to hang out with ney but no clue on careers? friends at university. Make us of zoom or FaceTimeANSWER Don‘t do a masters just for the sake of it but it is even Netflix Party to mix things up! Perhaps utilise this time to focus on university work and getting ahead! defo worth looking into whether it will help your career wise! If you are wanting to go into a career where you need QUESTION I‘m having WiFi problems and so i‘m struggstrong industry connections then it might be worth i as this is what most masters degrees provide alongside speciality. ling big time with virtual uni!! What should I do? ANSWER
I struggle with this too! Maybe ask your housemates to stop streaming when you have uni if possible! There are many local
Image Credit: Pixels.com
Blogs & Lifestyle
WHY BLACK HISTORY SHOULD BE TAUGHT IN ALL SCHOOLS Image: National Geographic Kids
Image: The Guardian
The British memorialise things well - we have world-famous art museums, technologically-advanced science museums and military history exhibitions; the curriculum in schools is said to be forward-thinking and comprehensive. So why is it that Black history is being forgotten? Or are we choosing to forget it? The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global Black Lives Matter protests have seen a fresh demand for curriculums to be decolonised, targeting the whitewashing that is prevalent in all levels of academia. Schools in particular have had pressure put on them to study the work of Black authors, educate children on Black culture and, most importantly, teach Black history. There are numerous reasons why this is not only crucial, but also beneficial. Racism is learned and taught, not inherited – by educating children on Black history it can be hoped that society will learn to recognise and celebrate the contribution black lives have made to the progression of our country, rather than be ignorant or ignore it. Currently, the education system is failing young people, particularly those from minority ethnic backgrounds who are not being taught about their history within Britain, taking away from their sense of identity and belonging. To fully appreciate the role Black lives have had in Britain, we must overhaul the current imperialist agenda, and move away from the idea that Black history can be taught
for one month of the year in a tokenistic gesture to satisfy diversity quotas. We must cultivate a deeper understanding of how nuanced history is - recognising the impacts of European colonialists, celebrating the contributions of black individuals to technological and social developments, but also recognise where failures have occurred so that we can learn from them. Teaching Black history year-round sends a message that it is not a part of our past that can be overlooked or ignored, nor is it a ‘separate body’ of information, but rather a key part of the fabric that has built our society and should be taught as such. There is clearly a pressing and very real need for change to be made to our national history curriculum. What’s Moreover, the Macpherson Report produced in 1994 important is that we do not forget the gravity of this matter found that if cultural diversity within the curriculum in the ever-present whirl of fast-journalism and 24-hour was improved, racism within schools would lessen. The news. Let George Floyd’s death be a flashpoint in modern government has also been advised to ‘ensure histo- history – a time when, as a society we decided to champion ry lessons are relevant to all young people in Britain’ diversity and inclusion, teaching children about how their as a remedy to the underachievement and disaffec- past is shaping their present, rather than letting it pass us by. tion currently experienced by young Black people. Annabelle Levins Image: Time Magazine
The Black-Fronted Podcasts You Need To Know About The Receipts: Dishing out some of the most frank, real and hilarious advice of any podcast Agony Aunts, hosts Milena, Tolly T and Audrey are all heart and no filter. Recent guests have included Tinie Tempah, Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne and Ncuti Gatwa (aka Eric from Sex Education) but the real highlights always come from the “Your Receipts” episodes, where listeners send in their personal dilemmas to receive no-holds-barred solutions. Problems have included sleeping with married men, becoming friends with your ex-partner and what to do if your boyfriend’s mum keeps pooing in the bath. Listening to the show feels like a never-ending brunch with three straight-talking best friends who are guaranteed to have you crying with laughter. Episode Pick: 95. Beautiful Black Sister – Amidst side-splitting recollections of budget child beauty pageants and impressions of Anne Robinson, Audrey and Tolly highlight their love of black emojis, the problem with Little Britain and their experiences of colourism. Who We Be TALKS: Made to accompany Spotify’s biggest Hip-Hop, Afrobeat, Dancehall and RnB playlist, this podcast is for all the behind the scenes gossip from your favourite artists. Harry Pinero and Henrie strike the perfect balance between keeping the chat light-hearted while also delving deep into the lives and backstories of their guests. This is the show to celebrate Black culture and the music that comes from it.
Episode Pick: S3 E9 feat. Koffee, Spice, Bunji Garlin and Mike Anthony: Carnival is a Contact Arena – To mark what would have been the build-up to the iconic Notting Hill Carnival, Harry and Henrie speak to Spice, the true Queen of Dancehall, Grammy-winning Reggae upstart Koffee as well as Bunji Garlin and Mike Anthony. Regain those summer vibes with this ultimate flavour of carni season! The History Hotline: In true BHM style, it would be wrong to omit a podcast dedicated to the rich but often overlooked story of Black history in Britain. Created by Deanna Lyncook, a Masters student at the University of Birmingham, The History Hotline gives a thorough, clear and accessible overview of a topic of Black British History in each episode. This summer’s Black Lives Matter movement called on people to educate themselves and listening to this podcast would undoubtedly be a useful part of that process. Episode Pick: The British Black Panthers – Across the pond, the legacy of the Black Panther Party is well-known throughout the black community but few know that the UK has its own version of the movement. Deanna does a wonderful job of explaining the differences in historical context between the two and highlighting what the community organisation managed to achieve. Image: PNG and Icons
Growing Up With gal-dem: The first ever podcast from the media company that champions women and non-binary people of colour, Growing Up chronicles the early life of a different guest each week through diary entries, letters and text messages from their younger selves. With the inevitable cringing from guests such as Clara Amfo and Michaela Coel at their mid-noughties text speak and overly-sentimental love letters, Liv Little and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff encourage guests to take a good-humoured yet nuanced view of their past. The show is raw, funny and profoundly revealing in equal measure as it explores the challenges of our formative years and how they continue to affect us throughout our lives. Episode Pick: Munroe Bergdof on ending toxic relationships – The model and transgender activist revisits a WhatsApp chat from an ex-partner whose politics became more radically right-wing towards the end of their relationship. Her earnest account examines the experience of a declining romance, the turmoil of emotional abuse and how queer people must unlearn the impulse to seek validation in heteronormativity. Alex Gibbon
Blogs & Lifestyle
The legacy of black cuisine: cookbooks by black chefs Before the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, I didn‘t own a single cookbook written by a Black author. In fact, I could probably only name two British Black chefs Ainsley Harriot and Lorraine Pascale. Growing up in Newcastle, where there was only one Black student in my whole year group, it was only too easy to ignore the history of Black people in the UK. It was easy to forget that the history of British food is one of violence and oppression - without sugar plantations, and the labour of the enslaved people who worked on them, we would not have our Victoria sponges and puddings, for example. The mainstream media contributes to this whitewashing of food culture, with a spotlight on white chefs and cookbooks that alienate any foods with origins outside of Europe.
The Taste of Country Cooking Edna Lewis, born in 1916, the granddaughter of an emancipated slave, is the woman who made the case for Black Southern cooking as the foundation of our national cuisine. She is also the founder of the precursor to The Southern Foodways Alliance. She cooked for Eleanor Roosevelt, farmed pheasants and worked for the communist newspaper The Daily Worker. The Taste of Country Cooking tells the story of both Edna‘s life, and her community in Freetown, Virginia.
Black cookbooks are important, not just because they are full of brilliant recipes but because they are a reminder of who made, and continues to make, our country what it is today. Here, I have curated a list of some of my favourite cookbooks written by Black chefs to inspire some change in your kitchen.
Zoe‘s Ghana Kitchen
Vegetable Kingdom Bryant Terry‘s book is about “debunking the misconception that veganism is purely aspirational for food-insecure Black and brown communities.“ There is a tension between mainstream veganism and Blackness, which Terry faces head-on in both his life and his writing. Whole foods and healthy eating are undeniably tied up in class, race and wealth. This is a book which skillfully celebrates vegan food for what it encapsulates, not that it excludes.
Half-Irish, half-Ghanaian and having grown up in London, Zoe Adjonyoh is someone who isn‘t afraid of addressing the complexities of Black identity in Britain. Her debut cookbook Zoe‘s Ghana Kitchen - after having been out of print for far too long - is finally available again. A mixture of Ghanaian dishes, and reinterpretations of Ghanaian dishes, this book is Zoe‘s portrayal of her own identity through food. She is also a panelist on this online discussion of Black British Food Stories hosted by the British Library.
Jubilee Jubilee- where to start with it? Toni Tipton-Martin‘s collection of hundreds of cookbooks by African American authors formed the foundation for the Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks, and the source material for the recipes in Jubilee. Produced by an all-Black creative team, and with qualities of a history book as well as a cookbook, Jubilee dispels many myths and stereotypes surrounding the history of Black food, and celebrates it in all its glory.
Want even more great food writing? Check out Whetstone Magazine, founded by Stephen Satterfield and Melissa Shi, or For The Culture, a magazine celebrating Black women in food and wine.
Newsletters are also an increasingly popular place to find great food writing. One of my favourite newsletters which regularly highlighted the tension between food and equality is Vittles. I cannot recommend a subscription highly enough - Black Erasure in the British Food Industry by Melissa Thompson is a great place to start.
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