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  • Lapido Solanke - was a political activist and founder of the influential WASU

    Black History Month UK 2022 'Sharing Journeys' campaign - exploring the lives of Britons with West African heritage Chief Lapido Solanke was born Oladipo Felix Solanke in the Yoruba town of Abeokuta, in southwest Nigeria around 1886. He was the second child and only son of Adeyola Ejiwunmi and her husband, who had adopted the name of Paley from the Scottish missionary who had raised him. He was educated at St Andrew’s Training Institution in Oyo, Nigeria, and then later went to Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone to obtain a bachelor’s degree in 1922. Later that year he travelled to England, to complete his legal studies at University College London (1923-8) and subsequently qualified as a barrister. Colonial Britain was not a very welcoming place for students from African and Caribbean nations. Students often faced racism, harassment, and various other forms of discrimination daily. Consequentially, some students sort to culturally adapt to their new and hostile environment. A proud Yoruba from Western Nigeria, Solanke was shocked by the lack of interest his fellow Nigerian students displayed towards their heritage whilst in London. He took up teaching the Yoruba language to raise additional funds and for a time he worked as a teacher of Yoruba at London University. He also performed Yoruba poetry and in June 1924, he became the first person to broadcast on the radio in Yoruba. Under the moniker, Omo Lisabi, he made some of the first Yoruba records for Zonophone in 1926. His voice was popular on the radio, where he utilised the Yoruba language to dish out propaganda against colonial rule. He produced and distributed leaflets, written in English and Yoruba, which caused panic within the ranks of the British colonial establishment. But he felt that a greater effort was needed to tackle the racism and discrimination his fellow West African students experienced. Spurred on by his experiences of poverty and racism, he and twelve other students founded the Nigerian Progress Union the next month in July 1924. With the encouragement and help of Amy Ashwood Garvey (the first wife of Marcus Garvey and leading Pan-Africanist) to promote the welfare of Nigerian students. Solanke’s career as an activist and political organiser began after he successfully launched a public complaint against the 1924 Empire Exhibition in Wembley. The £20 million exhibition was created to strengthen ties within its “Empire”, stimulate trade and demonstrate “Britain’s greatness at home and abroad after WW1” by displaying the “exotic cultures of the British Empire.” It was a very popular event, attracting 27 million visitors over six months. One display, incredibly, presented a model African village with West Africans on display as curios. Offensive press coverage of the village implied the participants were “cannibals”, with an article in the Evening News (today’s Evening Standard) even claiming that “cannibalism and black magic” had been common in Nigeria until recent years. He wrote to the weekly news magazine 'West Africa' to complain and his close friend Amy Ashwood Garvey backed his protest too. As a representative of the Union of Students of African Descent, a precursor to the WASU, Solanke protested against this willful misrepresentation of African people and their customs. In a series of letters, he reminded the colonial authorities that countries like Nigeria had contributed thousands of pounds to an event where African cultures were, in his words, routinely held up to “public ridicule.” His complaint gained enough support to secure the closure of “the African Village” for the remainder of the season. The racism espoused at the exhibition mirrored the daily reality of African students in Britain at the time. These were students from elite families, who had received a European education in their home countries to train them for positions in the colonial administration. Their familiarity with British culture jarred with the hostile reception they received on arrival, where they were frequently barred from accommodation or abused in the streets – experiences that became known as “the colour bar”. This wave of students had come of age in an intellectual climate shaped by an emerging pan-African consciousness. Fundamentally, they did not see themselves as inferior to the colonial powers and expected to take the reins of government when they returned home. So not surprisingly, in this atmosphere, Solanke joined forces with Dr. Bankole-Bright in 1925 and founded the West African Student’s Union (WASU). The next year the organisation began publishing its journal, WASU, with many of the articles written by Solanke himself. While a donation from Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey, who supported the students’ pan-Africanist ideals, provided the fledgling organisation with its first temporary premises in 1928. Solanke spent the next four years traveling in west Africa to raise funds for the union and establish WASU branches across Britain’s west African colonies—Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. Whilst on the fundraising tour of West Africa, he met and married his wife Opeolu in 1932. Together they returned to Britain, and he became the warden of the WASU hostel that opened in Camden Town in 1933. Because of this tour, WASU branches were formed throughout the region, and Solanke and WASU were able to establish significant political contacts with anti-colonial forces in West Africa, and provide the link between them and the anti-colonial movement in Britain. Solanke also completed a further fundraising tour of West Africa during 1944–8, before the opening of WASU’s third London hostel at Chelsea Embankment in 1949. Solanke’s activities on behalf of WASU periodically brought him into conflict with the Colonial Office and sometimes with other black leaders in Britain. However, as WASU secretary-general, he was also able to establish the union as a significant anti-colonial and anti-racist organisation in Britain. During the Second World War Solanke established closer relations between WASU and several leading members of the Labour Party’s Fabian Colonial Bureau, including Reginald Sorensen, who subsequently became godfather to one of his children. Because of these links, they established a West African parliamentary committee, with Labour MPs as members, which enabled WASU to act as a more effective parliamentary pressure group. During the 1950s, due to political differences within WASU, Solanke was gradually marginalised from the central role he had once enjoyed. He continued to run a student hostel in London and formed his breakaway organisation, WASU Un-incorporated, which he led until he died in 1958. Under Solanke’s leadership, WASU became the main social, cultural, and political focus for West Africans in Britain for just over twenty-five years. It served as a training ground for many future political leaders, including Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, and Nigeria’s H.O Davies, and played an important role in agitating for an end to colonial rule in Britain’s West African colonies. Sadly, Solanke died two years before Nigeria gained its independence on the 1st October 1960. He died of lung cancer at the National Temperance Hospital, St Pancras, London, on 2 September 1958. His funeral and burial took place on 6 September at Great Northern London cemetery, Southgate. Sources:

  • Our top reads for Black History Month UK 2022

    Check out our list of books to read and enjoy during this year's Black History Month UK that includes fiction and non-fiction titles. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadette Evaristo The perfect companion to our Sharing Journeys campaign for this year’s Black History Month UK and our book of the month! Tracking the lives and loves of 12 characters, most of them Black British women, through generations and social classes, Girl, Woman, Other weaves a distinctive, illuminating tapestry of modern British life. Bridging the gap between short story and novel, each character has their own chapter. Within the chapters, their lives sometimes overlap but their choices could not be more different. They include Amma, a lesbian socialist playwright, Windrush wife and mother Winsome, and mixed raced Hattie who finds love with an African American soldier in 1940s England. A Black Boy in Eton by Dillibe Onyeama Dillibe was the second black boy to study at Eton - joining in 1965 - and the first to complete his education there. Written at just 21, this is a deeply personal, revelatory account of the racism he endured during his time as a student at the prestigious institution. He tells in vivid detail of his own background as the son of a Nigerian judge at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, of his arrival at the school, of the curriculum, of his reception by other boys (and masters), and of his punishments. He tells, too, of the cruel racial prejudice and his reactions to it, and of the alienation and stereotyping he faced at such a young age. A title in the Black Britain: Writing Back series - selected by Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo, this series rediscovers and celebrates pioneering books depicting black Britain that remap the nation. The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed Nadifa Mohamed’s third novel reimagines the real-life story of the Somali seaman who was wrongfully executed for murder in Wales. Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff's Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and Caribbean sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, and some-time petty thief. He is many things, in fact, but he is not a murderer. So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn't too worried. It is true that he has been getting into trouble more often since his Welsh wife Laura left him. But Mahmood is secure in his innocence in a country where, he thinks, justice is served. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of freedom dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a terrifying fight for his life - against conspiracy, prejudice and the inhumanity of the state. And, under the shadow of the hangman's noose, he begins to realise that the truth may not be enough to save him. It takes Blood and Guts by Skin with Lucy O’Brien Pioneering singer and frontwoman of rock bank Skunk Anansie tells us how she fought poverty and prejudice to become one of the most influential women in British rock. 'It's been a very difficult thing being a lead singer of a rock band looking like me and it still is. I have to say it's been a fight and it will always be a fight. That fight drives you and makes you want to work harder... It's not supposed to be easy, particularly if you're a woman, you're black or you are gay like me. You've got to keep moving forward, keep striving for everything you want to be.' Born to Jamaican parents, Skin grew up in Brixton in the 1970s. Her career as an artist began in the '90s, when Skunk Anansie was formed in the sweat-drenched backrooms of London's pubs. Since then she has headlined Glastonbury and toured the world, both as the lead singer of Skunk Anansie and as a solo artist. Her success has been ground-breaking in every way, which has come at a personal cost. She has always been vocal about social and cultural issues, and was championing LGBTQ+ rights at a time when few artists were out and gay. A Visible Man by Edward Enninful I set out to bring the 'othered' to the table. We're here to inspire and give people something to dream about as well as a sense of the possible here and now. A Visible Man traces an astonishing journey into one of the world's most exclusive industries. Edward Enninful candidly shares how as a Black, gay, working-class refugee, he found in fashion not only a home, but the freedom to share with people the world as he saw it. Written with style, grace and heart, this is the story of a visionary who changed not only an industry, but how we understand beauty. When Edward Enninful became the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue, few at the heights of the elitist world of fashion wanted to confront how it failed to represent the world we live in. But Edward, a champion of inclusion throughout his life, rapidly changed that. Now, whether it's putting first responders, octogenarians or civil rights activists on the cover of Vogue, or championing designers and photographers of colour, Edward Enninful has cemented his status as one of the world's most important change-makers. And he's just getting started. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams Published on a wave of critical acclaim – and breathless enthusiasm from our booksellers – Candice Carty-Williams’ luminous debut is a joy-filled, painfully funny coming-of-age story set in modern Britain. Fabulous but flawed, defiant but vulnerable, Queenie Jenkins is one of the great fictional creations of the twenty-first century, and her story is, by turns, hilariously funny, dramatic and movingly tender. Caught between the Jamaican British family who don’t seem to understand her, a job that’s not all it promised and a man she just can’t get over, Queenie’s life seems to be steadily spiralling out of control. Desperately trying to navigate her way through a hot mess of shifting cultures and toxic relationships and emerge with a shred of dignity, her missteps and misadventures will provoke howls of laughter and tears of pity – frequently on the same page. Tackling issues as diverse as mental health, race, class and consent with a light yet sure touch, Queenie is refreshingly candid, delightfully compassionate and bracingly real. The perfect fable for a frenetic and confusing time, Carty-Williams’ stellar novel is undoubtedly one of the year’s most exciting debuts and announces its author as a fresh and vibrant new voice in British literature. Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola In this heart-warming romantic comedy, the sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo is an expert in relationship-evasion, and likes to keep her feelings close to her chest. As the host of the popular student radio show, Brown Sugar, it is her mission to make sure the women who make up the Afro-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University also do not fall into the mess of 'situationships', players and heartbreak. But when Kiki meets the distressingly handsome and charming newcomer Malakai Korede - who she has publicly denounced as 'The Wasteman of Whitewell' - her defences are weakened and her heart is compromised. A clash embroils them in a fake relationship to salvage both their reputations and save their futures, and soon she finds herself in danger of falling for the very man she warned her girls about. The Day I Fell Off My Island by Yvonne Bailey-Smith The debut novel of Yvonne Bailey-Smith, mother to the award-winning and acclaimed writer, Zadie Smith, tells the story of a young girl who travels to England to be reunited with her family after the death of her grandmother. The Day I Fell Off My Island tells the story of Erna Mullings, a teenage Jamaican girl uprooted from her island following the sudden death of her beloved grandmother. When Erna is sent to England to be reunited with her siblings, she dreads leaving behind her elderly grandfather, and the only life she has ever known. A new future unfolds, in a strange country and with a mother she barely knows. The next decade will be a complex journey of estrangement and arrival, new beginnings, and the uncovering of long-buried secrets. The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton takes place in 1826 London, and tells the story of Frannie, a maid to the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Benham — and the prime suspect for their murder. Collins writes from Frannie’s point of view, centering the protagonist in her own story as she is put on trial for the murders. Tracing Frannie’s life from a Jamaican plantation to Georgian London, this ambitious novel introduces a bold new voice to the period novel genre. Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm by Robin Diangelo Racism is not a simple matter of good people versus bad. In White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo explained how racism is a system into which all white people are socialized. She also made a provocative claim: that white progressives cause the most daily harm to people of colour. In Nice Racism, her follow-up work, she explains how they do so. Drawing on her background as a sociologist and over twenty-five years working as an antiracist educator, she moves the conversation forward. Writing directly to white people as a white person, DiAngelo identifies many common racial patterns and breaks down how well-intentioned white people unknowingly perpetuate racial harm. These patterns include rushing to prove that we are 'not racist'; downplaying white advantage; romanticizing Black, Indigenous and other peoples of colour; pretending white segregation 'just happens'; expecting BIPOC people to teach us about racism; carefulness; and shame. She challenges the ideology of Individualism and explains why it is OK to generalize about white people, and demonstrates how white people who experience other oppressions still benefit from systemic racism. Writing candidly about her own missteps and struggles, she models a path forward, encouraging white readers to continually face their complicity and embrace courage, lifelong commitment and accountability.

  • Our TV picks for Black History Month UK 2022

    Black Power: A British Story of Resistance Originally aired in March 2021 this programme exams the Black Power movement in the late 1960s in the UK, surveying both the individuals and the cultural forces that defined the era. At the heart of the documentary is a series of astonishing interviews with past activists, many of whom are speaking for the first time about what it was really like to be involved in the British Black Power movement, bringing to life one of the key cultural revolutions in the history of the nation. Charlene White: Empire’s Child streaming on ITV player Broadcaster Charlene White takes an eventful journey into her past. Follow her as she explores how the legacy of the British Empire has shaped her family's history. Loose Women anchor, Charlene White describes “It’s a story about who we all are as British people”. Troy Deeney: Where’s My History? Streaming on All 4 Footballer and anti-racism campaigner Troy Deeney sets out on a mission to get Black, Asian and minority ethnic histories and experiences on the curriculum in schools across the UK. Una Marson: Our Lost Caribbean Voice streaming on BBC iplayer The extraordinary story of Una Marson, a trailblazing poet, playwright and campaigner, and the first black producer and broadcaster at the BBC. A Caribbean woman born in the early 1900s, Una defied the limits society placed on her. Joining the BBC’s Empire Service during World War II, she was the first broadcaster to give voice to Caribbean writers and intellectuals, bringing their stories and culture to a global audience accustomed to hearing only English accents. During her time in London, Una wrote and produced a play for London’s West End, the first black writer to do so. She was also an activist, championing women’s rights, the rights of black people, literacy programmes and the education of children, and working with the deposed Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. Una’s writing, letters and her BBC personnel file are used to gain a unique insight into her life and work, while leading academics and her friends consider Una’s life as a black woman in a professional role in Britain at a time when that was highly unusual - and had significant personal costs attached. Fresh Cuts streaming on ITVX In celebration of Black History month, ITV have commissioned five rising Black filmmakers including David Adeyemi, Jason Osborne, and Yemi Adegbulu to produce a series of programmes exploring Black Britishness. The series includes a documentary exploring tattoos in British Black culture by following tattoo artists Sammy Inks, Nish Rowe and Tianna Tatts and their customers. While the Yemi Adegbulu helmed documentary follows basket ball players Melita Emanuel Carr and Jon Johnson and their teams as they battle their way through the Ball Out 3x3 tournament. Focusing on black talent.... TOGETHER WE RISE: The Uncompromised story of GRM Daily available on Youtube Featuring interviews from the likes of Stormzy, Giggs, Kano, Ms Banks, JME and Dizzee Rascal, the docuseries tells the story of a generation through the game-changing channel, GRM Daily and its founder Posty - the young, Black, British entrepreneur who helped contribute towards giving a new generation of talent opportunities via a global platform which in turn became a benchmark for their success. Mo Gilligan & Friends: The Black British Takeover streaming on All 4 Filmed at the O2 Arena in December 2021, this show features some of the best British comedians, from Eddie Kadi to Ola Labib, plus music from The Compozers. Jungle streaming on Prime Video UK UK rap culture brings you a crime drama like nothing you’ve seen before. In a near-future London, two young men try to better themselves, but are forced to face the consequences of their actions. Mood streaming on BBC iplayer Debuting earlier this year, this six-part drama was written and executively produced by the multi-talented Nicole Lecky, who also stars in the series. Mood centres on an aspiring singer and rapper who becomes wrapped up in alluring world of social media influencing. The show is inspired by real events and touches upon themes such as how young women navigate social media today, and the blurred distinction between liberation and exploitation that exists both online and in real life. “I originally wrote the story because I saw this website where men were shaming these actresses, dancers, models for secretly being sex workers,” Lecky clarified. “I was really shocked by that, and I just felt really compelled to write about it.” Harder they Fall streaming on Netflix Premiered on Netflix in November 2021, this western film was directed and co-written by multi-hyphened UK Black creative Jemel Samuel. This Black western has all star cast including Idris Elba, Johnathon Majors, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, and Lakeith Stanfield. Its characters are loosely based on real cowboys, lawmen, and outlaws of the 19th century American West. The story follows outlaw Nat Love and his gang who are seeking revenge by taking down enemy Rufus Buck, a ruthless crime boss who just got sprung from prison. You Don’t Know Me streaming on BBC iplayer and Netflix UK If you haven’t already watched this smart courtroom drama, then this month is a great time. The four-part series stars Samuel Adewunmi as the accused, known only as ‘Hero’. A young car salesman from South London who has been charged with murder of an acquaintance. As all the evidence points to him being guilty of the crime, there is only so much Hero can do to prove his innocence to the court. Filled with unusual twists that makes you think – can someone be morally in the right while legally in the wrong? – and strong performances from lead actor Adewunmi and his supporting cast. Photo credits: Mo Gilligan & Friends: The Black British Takeover. Conor O'Leary/Channel 4

  • Ottobah Cugoano - the radical Abolitionist & first African to publicly call for the end of slavery

    Black History Month UK 2022 'Sharing Journeys' campaign - exploring the lives of Britons with West African heritage Quobna Ottobah Cugoano (usually known simply as Ottobah Cugoano) was born in the village of Ajumako (also spelled Agimaque) circa. 1757 on the coast of present-day Ghana. He was a Fanti, as he recounts in his anti-slavery book, “[I was born] at Agimaque, on the coast of Fantyn… in the country of Fantee” and his family was close to the local chief. At the age of 13, he was seized with a group of children and sold into slavery. He later recalled: “[in 1770] I was early snatched away from my native country, with about eighteen or twenty more boys and girls, as were playing in a field. We lived but a few day’s journey from the coast where we were kidnapped... Some of us attempted, in vain, to run away, but pistols and cutlasses were soon introduced, threatening, that if we offered to stir, we should all lie dead on the spot." After several weeks in captivity, Cugoano was eventually brought to a trading post. There, he sees "many of my miserable countrymen chained two and two, some handcuffed," and "several white people, which made me afraid that they would eat me, according to our notion, as children, in the inland parts of the country." Cugoano's African captor sells him for "a gun, a piece of cloth, and some lead," telling the new slave that he must "learn the ways of the browfow, that is, the white-faced people." Cugoano and the other children were transported to Grenada in the Caribbean (then referred to as the Westindies) via the notorious ‘Middle Passage.’ He gives a harrowing account: "We were taken in the ship that came for us, to another that was ready to sail from Cape Coast. When we were put into the ship, we saw several black merchants coming on board, but we were all drove into our holes, and not suffered to speak to any of them. In this situation, we continued several days in sight of our native land.” On board the ship there is "nothing to be heard but the rattling of chains, smacking of whips, and the groans and cries of our fellow-men... The slaves agree that death is "more preferable than life; and a plan was concerted amongst us, that we might burn and blow up the ship, and to perish all together in the flames: but we were betrayed by one of our own country women, who slept with some of the headmen of the ship, for it was common for the filthy dirty sailors to take the African women and lie upon their bodies; but the men were chained and pent up in holes. It was the women and boys which were to burn the ship, with the approbation and groans of the rest; though that was prevented, the discovery was likewise a cruel bloody scene." After enduring the gruelling ‘Middle Passage’, Cugaono and his fellow enslaved Africans were sold to work on sugar plantations. In his autobiography, he writes of the brutality that he and his fellow enslaved Africans had to endure. "Being in this dreadful captivity and horrible slavery, without any hope of deliverance, for about eight or nine months, beholding the most dreadful scenes of misery and cruelty, and seeing my miserable companions often cruelly lashed, and, as it were, cut to pieces, for the most trifling faults; this made me often tremble and weep, but I escaped better than many of them. Describing in detail how enslaved Africans discovered eating sugar cane are “cruelly lashed, or struck over the face, to knock their teeth out." Others have "their teeth pulled out, to deter others, and to prevent them from eating any cane" even before they ever work in the fields. Cugoano worked in a ‘slave-gang’ on plantations in Grenada and other islands for nearly two years in the service of their slave-owner, Alexander Campbell. He was brought to England by his ‘owner’ in late 1772. There is some dispute on how he obtained his freedom, but in his book, Cugoano says he was ‘freed’. It’s probably not a coincidence that this was during the year of the Somerset Case that ruled that any runaway enslaved person couldn’t be forcibly sent back to the colonies to be enslaved and sold again. On 20th August 1773, he was baptised as ‘John Stuart – a Black, aged 16 Years’ at St James Church, Piccadilly. He implies in his own account that the conversion to Christianity had been intended to stop him from being sold into slavery again, though it seems he did later develop a Christian faith that was authentic and meaningful to him. It’s believed that in the intervening years before he was documented entering the domestic service of the Royal artist Richard Cosway in 1784 that he learned to read and write. He wrote: “[I set my mind] to learn reading and writing, which soon became my recreation, pleasure, and delight; and when my master perceived that I could write some, he sent me to a proper school for that purpose to learn.” Cugoano developed close ties within the Afro-British community and befriended Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho. He became an active member of the Sons of Africa, an abolitionist group campaigning for the end of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1786, he played a key role in the case of Henry Demane. Demane was a formerly enslaved Afro-Briton who was employed as a servant of Mr Jeffries of Bedford Street in London. Jeffries somehow duped Harry into going on board a slaver’s ship, where he was held against his will. News of his kidnapping was sent to Cugoano and another Black Abolitionist called William Green. Together they contacted the white abolitionist Granville Sharp to help in the freeing of Demane. Sharp secured a notice to remove Demane from the slaver’s ship, and William Green and the clerk who issued the notice removed him from the ship before it sailed. [Account taken from the Memoirs of Granville Sharp (1820) by Prince Hoare (1775-18340]. Through the Cosways, he came to the attention of leading British political and cultural figures of the time, including the poet William Blake and the Prince of Wales. When in 1787, it’s thought with the help of his friend, Olaudah Equiano, Cugoano published an attack on slavery entitled Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species. He sent copies to King George III, the politician Edmund Burke, and other leading British figures. In it, he called for the abolition of slavery and immediate emancipation of all enslaved people. Unlike his predecessors, John Marrant and Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, whose life stories concentrated on the evils of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In his book, he argues that an enslaved person’s duty is to escape from slavery, and that force should be used to prevent further enslavement. Advocating for the punishment of slave owners, including enslavement by their former slaves. A radical act at the time, as no Black person had ever publicly announced that enslavement should be abolished out of fear of retaliation and the lack of faith that their voice would be heard. Cugoano was the first African to publicly demand the end of slavery and to challenge the racist attitudes of Europeans against Africans. Some pretend that the Africans, in general, are a set of poor, ignorant, dispersed, unsociable people…This specious pretense is without any shadow of justice and truth, and, if the argument was even true, it could afford no just and warrantable matter for any society of men to hold slaves… which can be made better by bringing them away to a state of a degree equal to that of a cow or a horse. Cugoano failed to persuade King George III to change his opinions on the Atlantic Slave Trade, and like other members of the royal family, the king remained against its abolition. Nevertheless, the book was a success and well received. In 1787, it was reprinted three times and was translated into French in 1788. Cugoano sold it mainly through subscriptions and the book sales provided him with a supplementary income to fund his radical politics through rioting, resisting arrest, and letter writing. In 1791, he published an abridged version with additional material, addressed to the ‘Sons of Africa’ in which he expressed deep concern for the proposed deportation of Black people from Britain. Throughout the 1770s and 1780s, London’s small Black population increased significantly with the arrival of formerly enslaved African-American soldiers who had fought on the side of the British during the American Civil War. Deprived of the war pensions promised to them when they signed up to fight for the British, they were forced to work as servants to wealthy whites or were reduced to begging on the streets. Cugoano’s friend and colleague, Olaudah Equiano, took up their cause and backed a resettlement scheme to expatriate the Black Poor as they were referred to a newly established colony in Sierra Leone. Cugoano questioned the validity of the Sierra Leone scheme writing: “[can it] be readily conceived that government would establish a free colony for them near the spot, while supports its forts and garrisons, to ensnare, merchandize, and to carry others into captivity and slavery.” He organised protests against the deportation of London’s Black Poor and helped in disrupting and delaying the scheme. One can only assume that the public friendship between Cugoano and Equiano was severely tested. However, Equiano soon joined him in publicly condemning the programme after he was fired from his government role as Commissary Officer in March 1787. In the new version of his book, Cugoano announces his intention to open a school for Afro-Britons. About 1791, he writes a letter to Granville Sharp expressing an interest in being part of the second attempt to establish a colony in Sierra Leone that was now targeting Black Pioneers from Nova Scotia in Canada. After the failure of the first resettlement scheme, the organisers turned to Canada for new colonists at the suggestion of Thomas Peters (a Black Pioneer - formerly enslaved African Americans who fought on the side of the British during the War of Independence). Nova Scotia was home to about 3,000 Black Pioneers. They lived in terrible conditions in segregated societies and felt no loyalty to the land which had not welcomed them. It’s estimated that just under 12,000 Black Pioneers migrated to Sierra Leone in 1792. They help to create the colony at Freetown which grew into the country we have today. Cugoano also talks about the prejudice he experiences while promoting his book in the UK in his letter to Sharp. He wrote: ‘in the last three months b[een] upwards to fifty places but, Complexion is a Predominant Prejudice’. His travels were perhaps a precursor to the anti-slavery lecturing circuit that would flourish in the coming years. After 1791, Cugoano disappears from historical records. No record has been found of either Cugoano starting a school or participating in the resettlement scheme in Sierra Leone. Some historians speculate that he may have died sometime in 1791 or the following year in 1792. In his introduction of the 1999 reprint of Cugoano’s book, historian Vincent Carretta writes: Of the four major writers of African descent – Ignatius Sancho, John Marrant, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, and Olaudah Equiano – whose works were first published in London during the 1780s, Cugoano remains the most radical and least familiar. Cugoano argued for the end of slavery and the economic plundering of Africa. Advocated for the economic independence of Africa and its people, demanded reparations, and questioned the European perceptions of Africans. Questions that are still important today in the 21st century. In November 2020, an English Heritage blue plaque honouring Cugoano was unveiled on Schomberg House in Pall Mall, London where he had lived and worked with the Cosways from 1784 to 1791. Sources: Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species by Ottobah Cugoano with an introduction by Vincent Carretta (published in 1999) Staying Power – The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer Why did Black Londoners not join the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme 1783-1815? By Michael Sivapragasam

  • Google Doodle celebrates Louise 'Miss Lou' Bennett-Coverley's 103rd birthday

    Louise "Miss Lou" was a famed poet, folklorist, and the first Black student to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1945. On the 7th September 2022, Google Doodle celebrated Louise "Miss Lou" Bennett-Coverley's 103rd birthday with an illustration by Jamaican guest artist Robyn Smith. The Jamaican poet, folklorist, activist and entertainer empowered the country to take pride in its language and culture. Known by many Jamaicans as “Miss Lou,” Bennett's social commentary and sense of humour made her a popular personality in the country. Bennett was born on September 7, 1919 in Kingston, Jamaica. She developed a passion for literature and Jamaican folklore in school and began writing poetry. Fascinated by her native language, Bennett wrote in the local dialect. Her first public appearance was her recital of a poem in Jamaican patois at a concert. Soon, Bennett was given a weekly column in The Gleaner, the island’s newspaper at the time, though they originally rejected Bennett’s poems. The majority of Jamaicans speak patois, but critics denounced it as an inferior and improper language. Her column, which captured the experiences of Jamaicans in their own language, gained support across the country. In 1942, Bennett published her first book of poetry, Dialect Verses. It earned her a British Council scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. As the school's first Black student, Bennett worked for the British Broadcasting Commission (BBC) where she hosted the radio program Caribbean Carnival. After completing her degree, she hosted other programs like West Indian Guest Night and acted in theatre companies. Returning to Jamaica in 1956, Bennett worked as a Drama Officer and later Director of the Jamaica Social Welfare Commission. On behalf of the commission, she moved around the country to train village instructors and regional officers with workshops like playmaking, improvisation and mime. She gave lectures on Jamaican folklore in the United States and England. Bennett also hosted radio programs like Laugh with Louise and Miss Lou's Views, and Ring Ding, a beloved Saturday morning children’s TV show airing on Jamaica Broadcasting Commission (JBC). In 1998, the Jamaican government appointed Bennett as the country’s Cultural Ambassador at Large. She was also inducted into the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II. Bennett was a champion of her country’s language and culture, inspiring Jamaicans to take pride in both. Happy Birthday, Miss Lou!

  • What is the theme for Black History Month UK 2022?

    Angela M explains Black History Month UK and how to celebrate this October. October marks the start of Black History Month UK – a time to celebrate and remember African and Caribbean heritage peoples' achievements and contributions to the British economy, culture, and history. It's a chance to tell the stories of those less well-known Black Britons who we will forget if we don't showcase them. What is Black History Month UK? Black History Month UK began in October 1987 by Akyaaba Sebo, a special projects coordinator of the Ethnic Minorities Unit at the now defunct Great London Council. He wanted to boost the self-esteem of Black British children and young adults by educating them on the long history and achievements of Black people living in the UK. Taking inspiration from Black History Month (also known as African American History Month) in the United States. The first event was held on 1 October 1987 at County Hall and was attended by American historian Dr. Maulana Karenga, who founded the African American holiday of Kwanzaa; and Kenyan women’s activist Wanjiru Kihoro. It has since evolved into a national movement recognised by the British government and observed throughout the UK. It is also recognised in other parts of the world during October in Ireland and the Netherlands. In the US, where Black History Month originated, the awareness month is held in February. It is also celebrated in Canada in February too when it was officially recognised in 1995. Since the 1990s, the significance of Black History Month has gradually increased throughout continental Europe and it is now observed in Germany, Belgium, and Italy in February. What are the origins of Black History Month? In 1926, African-American historian Carter G Woodson started national Negro History Week to advocate for the inclusion of American Black History in the US national public education system. Over time, and with the momentum and support of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the week gradually morphed into the month it is today. In 1976, US Black History Month (or African American Month as it’s now regularly referred to) was officially recognised by President Gerald Ford. Why is it celebrated at different times across the globe? After visiting America in the 1970s, Addai-Sebo created a British version of Black History Month in 1987, but they are not officially linked. In the United States, Black History Month takes place in February to coincide with the births of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Addai-Sebo choose to celebrate Black History Month UK in October because of the month's importance in the African calendar. More importantly, it was the start of the British academic year. Why should we separate Black History Month celebrations in the US and UK? When Black History Month UK started in the UK, there was a big emphasis on African American history. Over time the focus has moved to celebrating and recognising Black British history and key Black figures in the UK. It’s important also that we focus only on British Black history as the Black British community is a composite of peoples with different cultures and identities. Some individuals with a lineage beginning long before the Windrush generation and others with distinct and very different cultures rooted in the African and Caribbean continents. Why do we celebrate Black History Month UK 2022? Following the anti-black racism protests that swept the globe in 2020, there was a step-change in how racism was addressed by individuals and organisations. Honest dialogues were opened, however, contentious, over Britain’s colonial past, and diversity and inclusion became a key component of corporate policy, however performative the action. Change is happening but there is still a long way to go. As our stories enter the mainstream and UK Black history, is rightly seen as just British history. We must ensure that the stories of our lesser-known Black Britons are not forgotten and that the authenticity of those stories is not lost, and are told in their own words. ‘[UK] Black history is a series of missing chapters from British history’ said David Olusoga, historian, and we must be involved in the telling of these stories. Black History Month exists to tell these stories in our own voices. It’s our chance to shine a light on individuals who aren’t featured in the mainstream and whose contributions would be forgotten without Black History Month UK. It's a time to celebrate Black Britons who are making history now too. It also provides us with a space to tackle racial discrimination head-on within our society by encouraging government, institutions, and corporations to advocate for diversity, equality, and inclusion. Do we really need Black History Month UK? Some campaigners argue against the existence and usefulness of the month as they believe it marginalizes UK Black history and that it should, rightly, be remembered all year round. Organisations such as The Black Curriculum are working hard to address the lack of Black British history in the UK curriculum through campaigning, training teachers, and delivering Black history programmes. But Black History Month UK, like many other national and international events, provides us with an opportunity to remember individuals and events that would never be included in a racially inclusive national curriculum and would remain forgotten to the annals of time. What are the aims of Black History Month in the UK? Celebrate and recognise the achievements of African and Caribbean heritage people's role in helping to shape UK culture, history, and economic development. Educating the UK population on how the relationships between Britain, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States helped create modern Britain. To encourage government, institutions, and corporations to embrace and adopt equality and diversity policies. What is the theme of Black History Month UK 2022? The theme of Black History Month UK 2022 is ‘Sharing Journeys’. This October we’ll be exploring the lives and stories of the people who came to Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries and helped laid the foundations of today’s diverse Black British Community. Throughout the month we’ll be taking a look at the lives of African-American soldiers who came to the UK during the Second World War, examining the impact of West African students on Black Britain and their part in campaigning for the end of colonial rule in Africa, and the highly influential Caribbean Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. We’ll also be shining a spotlight on notable Black Britons with heritages ranging from West Africa, the Caribbean, South and North America, and East Africa; including Amanda Alridge, Ottobah Cugoano, John La Rose, and Kathleen Wrasama. Not forgetting that Black History Month is also about documenting history in the making. We'll be asking the UK Black Community to commemorate the month by sharing their own family journeys using the hashtag #bhmfamilies How can I celebrate Black History Month UK 2022? Black History Month is an excellent opportunity for people from all backgrounds to educate themselves on Black Britain’s history and familiarise themselves with the lesser-known Black Britons who have made a difference to the country. There are a variety of ways you can observe the month: Attend any of the hundreds of events taking place up and down the country to commemorate Black History Month. Check out our Events page for more information. Take on the #BHMFamilies selfie challenge Enter our BHMUK treasure hunt, and you could win prizes! Attend the #BHMUK22 launch event and Play our Big Fat Black History online quiz Why not watch our '10 ways to celebrate Black History Month UK 2022' video for more ideas? How should educational organisations and business corporations recognise the month? The theme of Black History Month UK 2022 is ‘Sharing Journeys,' and we advise any schools and colleges interested in exploring the topic in greater detail to visit The Black Curriculum website, which has an extensive range of educational resources relating to the theme. We encourage business corporations to provide a safe space for all individuals who wish to commemorate the month in which stories can be shared – personal experiences and/or inspiring stories. But to also remember that not everybody may want to be involved in your Black History Month UK planning simply because of their ethnic background. Such assumptions place the burden of responsibility on them, and if they’re a visible minority in your workplace, they might feel tokenized about their role in your workplace. Remember, for best results, you should be recognizing all your employees, all year round! Companies are also advised to run a DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) audit of their business. Surveys make it easier to understand the current state of DEI at your company, pinpoint focus areas, and run intersectional analyses that can guide companies towards meaningful action.

  • Google Doodle celebrates St Lucian Economist Sir W. Arthur Lewis

    Sir W. Arthur Lewis is one of the pioneers of Development Economics and was of the first proponents of reparations to the Caribbean and other former colonies of the West. On the 10th December 2020, Google Doodle, illustrated by Manchester-based guest artist Camilla Ru, celebrated St. Lucian economist, professor, and author Sir W. Arthur Lewis, considered one of the pioneers in the field of modern development economics. A trailblazer not only in his research, he was also the first Black faculty member at the London School of Economics, first Black person to hold a chair in a British university (at Manchester University), and the first Black instructor to receive full professorship at Princeton University. On this day in 1979, Lewis was jointly awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his pioneering work to model the economic forces that impact developing countries. William Arthur Lewis was born on January 23, 1915, in Castries on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, at the time a British colony. Despite facing challenges with racial discrimination, in 1932 he won a government scholarship and set out to study at the London School of Economics, where he eventually earned a doctorate in industrial economics. Lewis quickly ascended the ranks of academia and by 33 was a full professor—one of the highest distinctions of a tenured professor. Lewis shifted his focus to world economic history and economic development and in 1954 published his foundational article “Economic Development with Unlimited Supplies of Labour.” Among many valuable accomplishments, Lewis contributed influential work to the United Nations and shared his expertise as an adviser to governments in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. He also helped establish and served as the first president of the Caribbean Development Bank. In honor of his lifelong achievements, the British government knighted Lewis in 1963.

  • Sarah Bonetta - African princess and god-daughter of Queen Victoria

    Black History Month UK 2021 'Black to the Past' campaign - Victorians of African and Caribbean descent in Britain Sarah Bonetta was born Omoba Aina in 1843, in the newly independent city-state of Oke-Odan following the collapse of the Oye Empire (present-day southwestern Nigeria). The empire had been engaged in a war with the Dahomey Kingdom since 1823 after Ghezo, the King of Dahomey, refused to pay annual tributes to the Oye Empire. During the war, the Oyo Kingdom was weakened and destablised by the Islamic jihads launched by its fast growing neighbour - the Sokoto Caliphate (modern day Northern Nigeria) - and by the 1830s it had fragmented into several smaller city states including Oke-Odan. In 1848, the Oke-Odan state was invaded and captured by the army of the Dahomey Kingdom (present day Benin). Aina's parents, Oke-Odan royals, died during the attack and other residents were either killed or sold into the Atlantic slave trade. Aina ended up in the court of King Ghezo in the Dahomey Kingdom as a state prisoner. Two years later in June 1850, she was 'gifted' to Captain Forbes as a present to Queen Victoria. Forbes was a British royal navel captain in the West Africa Squadron (WAS) and was on a diplomatic mission to negotiate with King Ghezo to end Dahomey's participation in the Atlantic slave trade. On her way to England, she was baptised "Sarah" and given the names of Captain Forbes and his ship "The Bonetta," stripping her of her original name Omoba Aina, Yoruba heritage and her Egbado identity. Forbes described her as a "perfect genius" and expressed admiration for her quick learning and talent for music. A few months later, she was taken to Windsor Castle and received by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The queen described Sarah in her journal entry of the 9th November 1850 and day of their first meeting: 'She is 7 years old, sharp & intelligent & speaks English.' The queen paid for Sarah to be educated and raised as her goddaughter in the British middle classes. Captain Forbes and his wife became her guardians and she visited the queen regularly. Later, in 1851, after developing a chronic cough, which at the time was attributed to the cold climate, her guardians sent her to the Church Missionary Society school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The intention was that Sarah would become a missionary but she returned to England after four years. Despite being deeply unhappy at the missionary school she excelled academically. Upon her return, Queen Victoria arranged for her to be live with the middle-class Schoen family and former missionaries, in Gillingham, Kent. Sarah lived with them for six years before moving to Brighton, against the wishes of the queen, where Victoria arranged for a Miss Welsh to oversee her introduction into British society. Sarah remained in contact with the queen and in January 1862, was invited and attended the wedding of Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Alice. At the age of 19, James Pinson Labulo Davies, a Yorubian merchant prominent in missionary circles, expressed an interest in marrying her. Sarah and James were first introduced when Sarah was at the missionary school in Sierra Leone, but hardly knew each other. Sarah described her feelings in a letter to Mrs Schoen: Others would say ‘He is a good man & though you don’t care about him now, will soon learn to love him.’ That, I believe, I never could do. I know that the generality of people would say he is rich & your marrying him would at once make you independent, and I say ‘Am I to barter my peace of mind for money?’ No – never! But the match was considered a suitable one and Sarah was encouraged to accept. Davies was more than a decade older than her and a widower. She initially turned him down, but the Queen approved the match. Sarah would lose her financial independence if she refused, so the marriage went ahead. The couple married on 14th August 1862 in a lavish ceremony at St Nicholls Church in Brighton that was officiated by the Bishop of Sierra Leone. Large crowds gathered to witness the event and it was reported in the newspapers of the day. On her marriage certificate, Sarah gave her first name as ina - perhaps a variant of her African name. Shortly afterwards Sarah and James had a series of photographs taken by Camille Silvy, the celebrity photographer of the day, underlining their status in society. The queen herself may have commissioned them and a few of the images can be found in the National Portriat Gallery. After the wedding, the newlyweds moved to West Africa and Sarah was baptised at a chruch in the town of Badagry, a former slave port. They settled in colonial Lagos where her husband became a member of the Legislative Council from 1872-74 and ran a cocoa business. The couple had three children: Victoria Davies (1863), Arthur Davies (1871) and Stella Davis (1873). Sarah Forbes Bonetta continued to enjoy such a close relationship with Queen Victoria that she and Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther were the only Lagos indigènes the Royal Navy had standing orders to evacuate in the event of an uprising in Lagos Their first daughter Victoria was named after the queen with her blessing. When she was christened the queen sent her a gold cup, salver, knife, fork and spoon. Together with her daughter Victoria, Sarah made a trip back to England in 1867 and the queen fell in love with the five-year-old girl, becoming a godmother to little Victoria as well and paying for her education. Unfortunately, that was the last time Sarah saw the Queen Victoria. She had been sick for several years and in 1880 she died of tuberculosis on the island of Madeira at the age of 37. Sarah’s daughter Victoria, then 17, heard the news of her mother’s death just as she was travelling to Osborne to visit the queen, who reported that ‘my black godchild … was dreadfully upset & distressed.’ The queen paid for Victoria to be educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, and stayed in touch throughout her life. Sarah's remarkable but rarely told story is just one of the many Black Victorians who lived in Britain. In recent years, creatives have sought to breath life into British history by giving a voice to those forgotten Black Britons. Playwright Janice Okoh explores Sarah's story in her play The Gift and actress-singer Cynthia Erivo is set to produce and star in a film about the African princess. Several books have also written about her including the children's book 'Princess Aina: Queen Victoria's Yoruba Godchild' and the historical novel 'Her name was Aina' by Sierra Leonan writer Yemi Lucilda Hunter. In October 2020, artist Hannah Uzor created a portrait of Sarah in her wedding dress. The artwork is on permanent display at Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight and was commissioned by English Heritage as part of their effort to recognise UK Black History. A plaque commemorating Sarah Forbes Bonetta was placed on Palm Cottage in 2016, as part of the television series Black and British: A Forgotten History. Sources Elebute, Adeyemo (2013). The Life of James Pinson Labulo Davies: A Colossus of Victorian Lagos.

  • William Davidson the political radical

    Black History Month UK 2021 'Black to the Past' campaign - African and Caribbean heritage Georgians in Britain William Davidson was born the illegitimate son of the Scottish Attorney General of Jamaica and a local Caribbean woman in 1781. At the age of 14, against his mother’s wishes it is said, he was sent to Glasgow to study law. His time in Scotland coincided with the democratic ferment that followed the French Revolution when, as Lord Cockburn noted: “Everything, not this or that thing, but literally everything, was soaked in this one event.” Agitation for reform was intense in Scotland and would ultimately lead to the infamous trials for sedition and the conviction and transportation of the advocate Thomas Muir of Huntershill. It was no surprise then that it was during his time north of the border that Davidson first he became interested in radical politics. During the repression that followed the trials for sedition, Davidson moved to Liverpool and served three years of an apprenticeship before he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy. After his discharge, he returned to Scotland and his father arranged for him to study mathematics at Aberdeen. But Davidson withdrew from study, moved to Birmingham, and started a cabinet-making business with a legacy from his mother. The failure of this business prompted Davidson to move to London. In London, Davidson married Sarah Lane, a working-class widow with four children and had had two more children with her. He became a Wesleyan Methodist and was incensed by the Peterloo massacre. He returned to radical politics and joined the Marylebone Union Reading Society, a club that offered a reading room of radical newspapers such as the Republican and the Manchester Observer for a subscription of twopence a week. He also read the works of Tom Paine, which had been banned in the 1790s. At the Marlylebone society Davidson met another Jamaican-Scot and Wesleyan radical – Robert Wedderburn – the son of a Scottish plantation owner and an enslaved African woman who had joined the radical Spencean Philanthropists and became famous as a campaigner against slavery. Davidson joined the Spenceans and became embroiled in the Cato Street Conspiracy, an entrapment exercise by government spies, which was opposed by Wedderburn. A police officer was killed by one of the conspirators when the trap was sprung and police raided a hayloft where the men were meeting in Cato Street near Grosvenor Square. Davidson’s presence in the hayloft and possession of a blunderbuss sealed his fate. During proceedings at the Central Criminal Court, William Davidson protested his innocence. It was argued that the evidence of a man named Edwards, an agent provocateur, was unreliable. Edwards seems actually to have instigated the murders, and it was on his evidence that the conspirators were convicted. A number of other witnesses provided statements, including John Davey, who confirmed that Davidson, 'a man of colour', was a cabinet maker. In his defence before the court, Davidson told the jury ' may suppose that because I am a man of colour I am without any understanding or feeling and would act the brute; I am not one of that sort; when not employed in my business, I have employed myself as a teacher of a Sunday-school...'. The presiding judge responded ' may rest most perfectly assured that with respect to the colour of your countenance, no prejudice either has or will exist in any part of this Court against you; a man of colour is entitled to British justice as much as the fairest British subject'. Of the eleven conspirators charged, one was freed for testifying for the prosecution, five were transported for life and the remaining five, Davidson among them, were publicly hanged outside Newgate jail on May 1, 1820. They were decapitated and their heads were held aloft with the ancient cry ‘Behold the head of a traitor!’.

  • Our TV picks for Black History Month UK 2021

    Check out a few of our TV recommendations to help you celebrate and learn more about UK Black history, culture and talent. Sorry, I Didn’t Know, S2 ITV and ITV Hub, Sundays at 10:30pm Jimmy Akingbola returns as the host of this comedy panel show, for a special five-part series throughout the month. He's joined by team leaders Judi Love and Chizzy Akudolu, as well as a host of special guests including Kojo Anim, Russell Kane, Sikisa, and Stephen K Amos. Each team goes head-to-head test knowledge and come out victorious. Ashley Banjo: Britain in Black and White ITV and ITV Hub, 19th October 9:00pm A year on from winning a BAFTA award for his dance group Diversity's BLM inspired performance. Ashley Banjo explores Britain's relationship with race, opening up about his experiences of racism in the UK, and meeting with British civil rights activists and those who criticised his dance troop's performance on Britain's Got Talent. The Blackprint ITV and ITV Hub, 14th October 9:00pm African-American music producer and rapper, explores what it means to be Black and British whilst comparing the experience to that of the USA. He meets members of the UK Black community from school children to trailblazers in technology. Uprising Streaming on BBC iplayer Acclaimed film director Steve McQueen's three-part documentary series focus on three key events in 1981 which significantly impacted race relations in the UK. The New Cross Fire, which killed 13 young British Caribbean people, the Black People's Day of Action, and the Brixton riots. With testimony from those who lived these traumatic and turbulent events, the series reveals how they intertwined and defined race relations for a generation. Spending Black Streaming on BBC iplayer until October 2022 Aaron Roach Bridgeman explores the concept of 'spending black' and its impact on the black community and on the businesses themselves. He meets businesses that have benefitted financially and culturally from consumers choosing to “spend black” and utilises the latest data to draw conclusions on who and in which areas people are choosing to “spend black”. Ultimately Aaron questions to what extent this surge in “spending black” will last? Could it really be the hope and tangible change that the young black community is looking for? Betty Campbell: Statue for a Heroine Streaming on BBC iplayer until 31st October 2021 Cerys Matthews presents the story of Wales’s first black head teacher, Betty Campbell, and the new statue that will honour her lifetime of remarkable achievements. Reflections on Race: Three Black Scientists You Need to Know Streaming on BBC iplayer until September 2021 "These three black scientists didn't only dream of a better future, but had the determination to make it a reality." Space scientist and broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock selects three unsung heroes - one from the past, one from the present, and one up-and-coming - who she thinks deserve wider recognition. Salt, by Selina Thompson Streaming on BBC iplayer until October 2022 Performance artist Selina Thompson recreates her award-winning dramatic monologue about a journey she made by cargo ship to retrace the triangular route of the transatlantic slave trade. Poetic and deeply personal, Salt is part testimony, part performance and part excavation of collective memory through archive and music. Chi-chi Nwanoku on Samuel Colerdige-Taylor Streaming on Sky TV and Now TV Chineke! orchestra founder Chi-chi Nwanoku pays tribute to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the pioneering English composer of Sierra Leonean descent. Yorkshire Cop: Police, Racism and Me Streaming on All 4 from 18th October until 11th November 2021 Bill Thomas, the first Black male police officer in South Yorkshire, revisits 40 years of public service: the battles, the racism, and the friendships of a remarkable career Focusing on black talent.... Peckham's Finest ITV and ITV hub, launches from 20th October 2021 ITV launches a new reality show set in Peckham during Black History Month UK. Among the cast include social media personality Queen MoJo, Peckham-raised Ghanaian artists the Flag Twins, choreographer and personal trainer Gilly, model Isla Loba, BMXer Tre Whyte and radio host Teeshow. Big Age Streaming on All 4 Originally aired as part of Channel 4's Black to Front day on the 10th September 2021. Bolu Babalola's comedy about four young Black-British friends. Sade's 25th birthday gets off to a rocky start when she quits her job. So her best friend prescribes a day of decadent distraction. Highlife Streaming on All 4 Originally aired as part of Channel 4's Black to Front day on the 10th September 2021. This reality series follows the lives and loves of a group of ambitious, glamorous, young British West Africans who are all chasing their own idea of success. I May Destroy You Streaming on BBC iplayer Your chance to discover (or rewatch) Michaela Cole's groundbreaking drama about a young writer in the public eye who seeks to rebuild her life after being raped. Cole wrote, co-directed and executive produced the series and was the first Black womon to win an Emmy for best writing in a limited series or anthology.

  • John Blanke the royal trumpeter

    Black History Month UK 2021 'Black to the Past' campaign - African Tudors & Stuarts in Britain John Blanke is probably the most well-known African from Tudor England. He has been traced through both written records and pictorial images of him at a Tudor event. He was a royal trumpeter in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VII, making his first recorded appearance there in 1507. Not much is known about his early life, but research suggests he came to England as part of the entourage of Katherine Aragon in 1501. She came to England to marry Prince Arthur, eldest son and heir of Henry VII, and older brother to Henry VIII. Many Africans were living in Portugal during the period of 1400 to 1500. In the city of Seville, they represented 7.5% of the population, so much so that the city was described as 'a giant chessboard containing an equal number of white and black chessman.' So it's not surprising that Katherine's royal court included an African trumpeter. It's likely that Catalina of Motril, a Muslim Moor and one of Katherine's servants of the bedchamber, was also part of her entourage. John Blanke first appears in records when receiving a payment from Henry VII in December 1507. He was one of eight royal trumpeters under the leadership of Peter de Casa Nova between 1507 and 1512. The entry shows that he was paid 20 shillings (or 8d. in old pence) each day for his service in November. Monthly payments for the same amount continued throughout the following year. Sometime after the death of Prince Arthur in April 1502, he joined the household of King Henry VII. Katherine, deprived of her dowry and short of money, was reported to have complained that she couldn't even afford to pay her servants. Perhaps John was forced to find employment elsewhere. John Blanke was part of a long medieval and renaissance tradition of African musicians serving at European royal courts. In the 12th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI had African trumpeters in his entourage. While in the 16th century James IV of Scotland employed a drummer who was a Muslim Moor. Historic Royal Palaces website When King Henry VII died in April 1509, Blanke was one of the trumpeters who played at his funeral, dressed in black. He would have had an important part to play in the ceremonies that followed, accompanying the procession from Richmond to burial in Westminister Abbey. A month later, he played at the coronation of Henry VIII on 24th June, dressed in scarlet livery. A colour reserved for higher-ranking royal servants. Written evidence of John Blanke is found again when he petitioned King Henry VIII for a promotion and pay rise after the death of a fellow trumpeter. Blanke was well paid for those times, and his wage of 8d. (old pence) each day was the equivalent of a skilled craftsman. In addition to his wages, he also received room and board. On occasions that these were not required, he could have claimed an additional allowance called 'boardwage.' Later, in 1526, it was decreed that the royal trumpeters' 'boardwage' was to be 4d. each day. However, ambitious John wanted more, and after the death of a more senior trumpeter called Domynck Justinian, he petitioned the King for his former colleague's position. He argued that his wages were not sufficient to serve the King properly 'as other your trumpets do' and noted that he intended to serve the King for the rest of his life. The petition was a success, and his wages were doubled to 16d (old pence) each day. The petition still survives today and is now held in the National Archives. In February 1511, Henry VIII held a two-day grand jousting tournament in Westminster to celebrate the birth of his short-lived first son, Prince Henry, who was born on new year's day. It was a huge event, comparable to the World Cup or Olympics in modern times, and of course, the royal trumpeters were paid highly - more than ten times their daily wage. The event was recorded on the 60 foot long Westminster tournament roll of 1511 which is now held by the College of Arms. John Blanke is depicted twice on the roll, as one of the six trumpeters on horseback in the royal retinue. All six trumpeters wear yellow and grey livery and bear a trumpet decorated with the royal arms; Blanke alone wears a brown and yellow turban, while the others are bare-headed with longish hair. He appears a second time in the roll, wearing a green and gold head covering. The last time he appears in records is in 1512 when he got married because Henry VIII gave him a wedding present. On the 14th January 1512, Henry VIII issued a warrant to the great wardrobe (the part of the royal household that clothed the King) to deliver to 'a gown of violet cloth, and also a bonnet and hat' as a gift 'against his marriage.' This is the last time we hear of John Blanke in records as he doesn't appear in the list of royal trumpeters four years later in 1514. We don't know who he married, but it's most likely that she was an English woman and that the ceremony took place in St Nicholas' Church in what is now Deptford. England was still a Roman Catholic country in 1512, so he must have converted to Christianity if he wasn't a Christian already. "We know that there were black Christians in Renaissance London. For example, burial records from 1618 show that Anne Vause, 'a black-more', was buried at St Botolph's Church, Aldgate. Coincidentally, Anne's husband Anthonie was also a trumpeter." Historic Royal Palaces website There is no trace of John Blanke after 1512 in royal records after then. Some historians have suggested that he may have found work in another royal court that paid more or changed occupation - at the time, it was not uncommon for court servants to marry a widow and take on her husband's former trade in London. Another theory is that he may have died in battle, fighting in Scotland or France. Whatever the reason. Blanke is remarkable in that he demolishes the view that Africans living in England at the time were slaves. "Too often, people assume that all Africans in Europe at this time were enslaved. We are bombarded with images of enslaved Africans, often dating to later periods or other countries, most recently in the film 12 Years a Slave and the TV series Roots. But people at the time made other assumptions. For example, in 1572, Juan Gelofe, a 40-year-old African man enslaved in a Mexican silver mine, told an English sailor named William Collins that England "must be a good country as there were no slaves there." Collins replied, "It was true that they were all freemen in England." Historian and Author, Dr Miranda Kaufmann John Blanke is currently the only identifiable African Tudor portrayed in 16th-century British art. He is now featured in teaching resources, including BBC programmes for seven- to eleven-year-olds and an optional module of GCSE History (Migrants to Britain C.1250 to Present). He's also included in the National Archives' guide to black history. His image was the most requested for reproduction of those held by the College of Arms. From 2003 he featured in the National Trust's annual Black History Month exhibition at Sutton House, Hackney.

  • Our book recommendations for Black History Month UK 2021

    Our list of books to read during BHMUK21 including fiction and non-fiction titles Manifesto: A radically honest and inspirational memoir by Bernadine Evaristo From the bestselling and Booker Prize-winning author of Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo's memoir of her own life and writing, and her manifesto on unstoppability, creativity, and activism. Bernardine Evaristo's 2019 Booker Prize win was a historic and revolutionar occasion, with Evaristo being the first Black woman and first Black British person ever to win the prize in its fifty-year history. Girl, Woman, Other was named a favorite book of the year by President Obama and Roxane Gay, was translated into thirty-five languages, and has now reached more than a million readers. Evaristo's astonishing nonfiction debut, Manifesto, is a vibrant and inspirational account of Evaristo's life and career as she rebelled against the mainstream and fought over several decades to bring her creative work into the world. With her characteristic humor, Evaristo describes her childhood as one of eight siblings, with a Nigerian father and white Catholic mother, tells the story of how she helped set up Britain's first Black women's theatre company, remembers the queer relationships of her twenties, and recounts her determination to write books that were absent in the literary world around her. She provides a hugely powerful perspective to contemporary conversations around race, class, feminism, sexuality, and aging. She reminds us of how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. In Manifesto, Evaristo charts her theory of unstoppability, showing creative people how they too can visualize and find success in their work, ignoring the naysayers. Both unconventional memoir and inspirational text, Manifesto is a unique reminder to us all to persist in doing work we believe in, even when we might feel overlooked or discounted. Evaristo shows us how we too can follow in her footsteps, from first vision, to insistent perseverance, to eventual triumph. The Louder I Will Sing: A story of racism, riots and redemption by Lee Lawrence Winner of the 2020 Costa Biography Award. What would you do if the people you trusted to uphold the law committed a crime against you? Who would you turn to? And how long would you fight them for? On 28th September 1985, Lee Lawrence's mother Cherry Groce was wrongly shot by police during a raid on her Brixton home. The bullet shattered her spine and she never walked again. In the chaos that followed, 11-year-old Lee watched in horror as the News falsely pronounced his mother dead. In Brixton, already a powder keg because of the deep racism that the community was experiencing, it was the spark needed to trigger two days of rioting that saw buildings brought down by petrol bombs, cars torched and shops looted. But for Lee, it was a spark that lit a flame that would burn for the next 30 years as he fought to get the police to recognise their wrongdoing. His life had changed forever: he was now his mother's carer, he had seen first-hand the prejudice that existed in his country, and he was at the mercy of a society that was working against him. And yet that flame - for justice, for peace, for change - kept him going. The Louder I Will Sing is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young Black man. It's a story both of people and politics, of the underlying racism beneath many of our most important institutions, but also the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response. Black British Lives Matter by Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder Featuring essays from David Olusoga, Dawn Butler MP, Kit de Waal, Kwame Kwei-Armah, and many more. In response to the international outcry at George Floyd's death, Lenny Henry and Marcus Ryder have commissioned this collection of essays to discuss how and why we need to fight for Black lives to matter - not just for Black people but for society as a whole. Recognising Black British experience within the Black Lives Matter movement, nineteen prominent Black figures explain why Black lives should be celebrated when too often they are undervalued. Drawing from personal experience, they stress how Black British people have unique perspectives and experiences that enrich British society and the world; how Black lives are far more interesting and important than the forces that try to limit it. "We achieve everything not because we are superhuman. We achieve the things we achieve because we are human. Our strength does not come from not having any weaknesses, our strength comes from overcoming them" Doreen Lawrence. "I always presumed racism would always be here, that it was a given. But the truth is, it was not always here, it was invented." David Olusoga "Our identity and experience will shape every story, bleed into every poem, inform every essay whether it's about Black 'issues' or not" Kit de Waal Maybe I Don't Belong Here. A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery by David Harewood 'As a Black British man I believe it is vital that I tell this story. It may be just one account from the perspective of a person of colour who has experienced this system, but it may be enough to potentially change an opinion or, more importantly, stop someone else from spinning completely out of control.' – David Harewood Is it possible to be Black and British and feel welcome and whole? Maybe I Don't Belong Here is a deeply personal exploration of the duality of growing up both Black and British, recovery from crisis and a rallying cry to examine the systems and biases that continue to shape our society. In this powerful and provocative account of a life lived after psychosis, critically acclaimed actor, David Harewood, uncovers devastating family history and ... Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle Nobody free till everybody free. Moa is fourteen. The only life he has ever known is working on the Frontier sugar cane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking, and the day of the uprising approaches... Irresistible, gripping and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky's War in Jamaica, 1760. This is Why I Resist, Don't Define My Black Identity by Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu In This Is Why I Resist activist and political commentator, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu digs down into the deep roots of racism and anti-blackness in the UK and the US. Using real life examples from the modern day, Dr Shola shows us the different forms racism takes in our day-to-day lives and asks us to raise our voice to end the oppression. She delves into subjects not often explored such as racial gatekeepers, white ingratitude, performative allyship (those black squares on Instagram), current identity politics and abuse of the Black trans community. Where other books take White people by the hand to help them negotiate issues of race, This Is Why I Resist offers no sugar-coated comfort, instead it challenges and asks WHEN will White people progress on race inclusion. Black Lives Matter and change is now. The Clapback: Your Guide to Calling out Racist Stereotypes by Elijah Lawal In order to have an honest and open conversation about race, we need to identify areas where things are not right. The Clapback: How to Call Out Harmful Stereotypes examines the evolution of the negative stereotypes towards the black community and arms you with the tools to shut them down once and for all. Taking readers on a journey through history, and providing facts and detailed research, this is an eye-opening and refreshing look at race and language. With a light-hearted, razor sharp wit and a refreshing honesty, The Clapback is the handbook the world needs, dishing out the hard truths and providing a road map for bringing some 'act right' into our everyday lives. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Oladah Equiano The autobigraphy of the leading African abolitionist, Oladah Equiano, was reissued ahead of Black History Month Uk with a new foreword by David Olusoga. A new audiobook will also be released read by rapper, actor and author Ben Bailey Smith, also known as Doc Brown. Olusoga will read his own foreword. Additional material is provided by author and professor James Walvin from York University.

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