Bringing the community together and finding ways to collaborate and support each other is the inspiration behind our name, Ujima, given to us by our founding Director Kevin Philemon. A Swahili word, it translates as “Collective Work and Responsibility”, the third of the seven Kwanza principles. Keeping that principle at the heart of our purpose, we have been on an evolving journey from our origins as a positive action project to become a leading Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic [BAME] led arts and media organisation embedded into Bristol’s wider cultural ecology. In the article “Why Bristol needs to face up to its past before it can enjoy its future’’ the Bristol Post announced plans to work in partnership with Ujima on a series of City Conversations to progress how Bristol as a city reflects on its relationship with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and closing some of the divides in Bristol.
In the first of a series of blogs as the Executive Chair of Ujima Radio CIC I will give some background to that article, describes future work with a range of cultural partners and sets out the vision behind our Year of Change ahead of our 10th anniversary year in 2018.
‘‘Operation Black Vote recently published a report called The Colour of Power stating that the UK’s Media and Arts is led by a white elite. This follows several studies and reports on the issues of inequality in Britain and Bristol, including one from the Runnymede Trust titled Bristol: a city divided? As the Creative Producer and Chair of Ujima Radio, and as a Black man who has fought against racism all my life, this story is as a familiar as it is depressing. Not one single Black person is a Managing Director of a major TV broadcaster, not one is an Editor of national newspaper, nor is there one CEO at any of the top 20 arts and culture organisations in Britain. This despite Black culture being at the forefront of music, arts, fashion, film and culture and the media, arts and culture sector presenting itself as being more forward looking. Added to this are inclusion gaps with discrimination against women, LGBTQ+, people of faith, those with disabilities, key age groups, and those who are financially or socially excluded coming from lower income backgrounds.
Ujima Radio reaches its tenth anniversary in July 2018 and we will celebrate this occasion alongside a number of global landmark anniversaries. These include the 50th commemoration of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, 100 years of the women’s right to vote and the 50th anniversary of St Pauls Carnival in Bristol. Also we wish to significantly herald our Black elders by celebrating the 70th anniversary of ss Empire Windrush journey to Tilbury Docks from Jamaica, whose symbolic arrival heralded the influx of Caribbean migrants. Those who came to Britain to help rebuild the country after World War II thus changing the face of Britain then and now in sport, culture, politics and music. We aim to mark these occasions by working in partnership with cultural and community organisations and businesses to influence to act as a catalyst for change. These include continuing work with our artistic partners Bristol Old Vic and embarking on a new relationship with the Bristol Post. We wish to transform the way race and inequality is viewed in Bristol and beyond. This will be a bold way of moving the conversation forward to a series of actions that provide solutions. We not only want to celebrate the achievement of ten years of broadcasting with a social purpose but also share our stories and provide a meaningful series of debates, discussion and events that lead to action which inspires, engages and empowers and to stimulate long-term change.
The Arts Council England investment has allowed us to begin to build an infrastructure at Ujima, develop and support artistic talent, put on a range of events from Sisters with Voices with St George’s Bristol to a family arts and culture fun day with Circomedia. This way of working brings new audiences and community members to Bristol’s institutions including Watershed and Spike Island. This supports our ambitions to be more than a radio station. Our social action projects create employment and training working with UWE Bristol students whilst our Green and Black projects with University of Bristol and Bristol Green Capital Partnerships have provided a different way of how to involve communities. All of this has Ujima’s principles at its core; working in partnership to create opportunities. Our work as an associate company of Bristol Old Vic has led us to visioning 2018 – our 10th anniversary year – as a Year of Change for them. In return they have created new dialogues which have included the Bristol Post editor Mike Norton and from his article you can see the impact of those conversations and partnership working. Ujima and I are keen to engage many voices in the Kwanza principles of collective responsibility and challenge Bristol’s institutions to make real changes to involve and include Bristol’s diverse wonderful communities to play their part in changing Bristol.’
Bristol Post Editor in Chief Mike Norton is a guest on my show Bristol’s Big Conversation on 11am this Thursday 16th November on Ujima Radio. www.ujimaradio.com if you have ideas email firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @rogerg44