My Cultural Review of 2020 part two: Nos 11-20

 No11: Icon. David Olusoga
I could award this for his Twitter feed alone. In a year of racial reckoning his insights and cultural crusade stood strong. Book. Talks. Essays. Bristol TV series https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/b09l64y9/a-house-through-time and the BBC Obama interview. Peerless.

No12: News. Christine Amanpour. CNN
An extraordinary year at home and abroad with podcasts and TV programme on in-depth interviews from Covid to Black Lives Matter. She also graciously shares interviewing duties with her team. I really enjoyed BBC interview with her on her journalistic career from her birth in Iran to her coverage on the Iraq War. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jf7v
https://edition.cnn.com/audio/podcasts/amanpour

No13: News. Marcus Rashford Feeding Britain’s Children. BBC

In a year of heart-breaking news quite how a kid born into poverty Marcus Rashford and his Mum made child hunger & #foodbanks an issue in the 6th richest country in the world is extraordinary. Both a national treasure and a national disgrace. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000qq41 

No 14: Theatre: National Theatre – Death of England – Delroy

One thing I’ve missed more than anything is live performance @national theatre tried to re-imagine the process with their back catalogue shown online Bristol Old Vic also kept the home flag flying during the summer. Delroy was my personal fave. https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/death-of-england-delroy 

No15: Online Events: St Pauls Carnival and Bristol Museums.
The innovation of Latoyah McAllister-Jones, Marti Burgess and Edson Burton as the creative juice for the first British Digital Caribbean Carnival meant we could still keep the culture and connect safely. https://www.stpaulscarnival.net/carnival2020 Enjoyed being part of Brizzle Week too and my article here. https://www.bristol247.com/opinion/your-say/bristol-my-brizzle-1/ 

No16: TV. I May Destroy You. BBC
Rarely do I watch something as ground-breaking and innovative as this jaw-dropping BBC drama from Michela Cohen that stuck two fingers up at any red lines… Great to see a different view of modern Black-British life. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m000jyxy/i-may-destroy-you

No17: Book: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Rarely make the time to read fiction but Colson Whitehead writes about the horrors of racism with such economy and skill. Back-to-Back Pulitzers after Underground Railroad. https://www.pulitzer.org/winners/colson-whitehead-0

No 18: RIP Good Trouble John Lewis
A fitting tribute to an extraordinary life in this poignant documentary gave a wonderful guide to his life of public service and fighting injustice. https://www.johnlewisgoodtrouble.com/ 

No 19: Music: Fight The Power 2020 by Public Enemy

Fight The Power Public Enemy Do The Right Thing had reboot from Nas, Rapsody YG & Black Thought Video depicts Black Lives Matter protesters during pandemic. Chuck D Flava Flav and crew still unapologetic after all these years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNUl8bAKdi4

No 20: TV. Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip Channel 4
Quite simply if we are to dismantle structural racism it will need more understanding for people to go on journey’s and understand its toxicity and (effect). Perry does so in wonderful insightful style in the Black capital of US Atlanta not only opening up but showing a lot of joy and love too. https://www.channel4.com/programmes/grayson-perrys-big-american-road-trip

Continue reading “My Cultural Review of 2020 part two: Nos 11-20”

What Black History Month Means to Me

Why Black History Month Matters

 

‘If a race has no History it has no worthwhile tradition. It becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.’  So said Dr Carter G Woodson who is the originator of Black History Month (BHM) across the African Diaspora. Woodson came from ultimate humble beginnings, being the son of enslaved parents. He embarked on a programme of self-education working by day and studying by night to become an educator and activist. Woodson argued that increasing social and professional opportunities between people of different backgrounds and races would help reduce racism. He also stated that black history was “overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.’’ In this guest column to launch BHM 2019 I outline what BHM means to me.

For a variety of reasons BHM has had controversy attached to it. Many like myself bemoan the fact that black history is packaged into one month. To us it can feel like it is too neatly commodified and just like a Christmas tree put back into a box for the rest of the year. I have however reflected on several conversations over the years that have helped me to re-think its overall contribution.

 

Carter G. Woodson Creator of modern day Black History Month

The Case For Black History Month  

 

We are fortunate In Bristol to have a strong vibrant black community to supply events with networks built up over decades of contribution, connections and activism. However, many others new to the black experience or have felt on the edge of that experience are not so fortunate. For them BHM provides many platforms of entry.  A white parent who brought up a child alone pointed out to me that there was very little educational support to help bring up the child in a way that reflected the child’s heritage. Another young black man, who had grown up in a rural countryside also confided to me that BHM had helped him understand more about his identity, provided links of support and boosted his confidence. Not everyone has a deep-seated knowledge of their background. Social commentator and activist Patrick Vernon OBE says ‘BMH has influenced and inspired the equalities world to organised similar months, exposing the hidden and excluded histories.’ These include LGBTQ, Disabled and Women’s History Months.

 

Of course, we can’t confine anybody’s history let alone black history to one month and that argument should be obvious to all concerned. I respect anyone for taking a proverbial NFL knee and sitting out BHM, whilst they ensure black history is represented throughout the year. For me, in my activism there is a practical and pragmatic need to do both. To ensure that the culture that gives us so much pride and inspiration reaches as many influencers and audiences as possible. We need more than ever opportunities that bring us together. During these divisive times we can tackle new emerging themes of intersectionality and demographic changes within and beyond our communities.

 

Tackling the Barriers of Exclusion with Education and Inclusion

The outcomes, gaps and barriers due to solely the colour of one’s skin are clear and exist across issues of education, employment, the criminal justice system, health and housing. BHM on its own isn’t going to change that, but over the month it does make a compelling case for achievement, celebration and putting these issues to the top of the agenda. All of this work helps to take forward local issues including one of the recommendations from the 2017 City Conversations to have a more inclusive curriculum which reflects the needs of more than 20% of its pupils. Champions like Alisha Thomas an Educator at City Academy, Sibusiso Tshabalala of Cognitive Paths are working with the Bristol One Curriculum Forum and making progress.

 

Education is always a central tenet of BHM and provides a range of opportunities to learn of the presence and contribution of people of colour in Bristol and Britain over centuries. I can’t wait to see fellow creative Black Bristolians such as Dionne Draper (DAWTA) and Lawrence Hoo (CARGO) who along with many others host contemporary challenging art that will enlighten and entertain.

Ras Judah as front cover of Black History Month 2019

Sure, we don’t have the numbers of state sanctioned police killings of unarmed black men and women as in America. That does not mean however we should wait for the bar to fall to those deplorable depths. Instead we must tackle the complacency, lack of action and continuing economic and social divides between Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and their white counterparts. A range of academic studies has shown that racism and inequality causes premature deaths, increases, mental health and directly affects the future life chances of our young.

 

Until that set of circumstances changes every action count and every opportunity must be tried and taken. This is why Black History Month matters to me. To build awareness and as an engagement campaign to fight against the daily injustices of racism…all year round.

 

Roger Griffith is an Author, UWE Bristol Lecturer, broadcaster and CEO of Ujima Radio. Libraries West have just published his booklist of 19 books for 2019 https://www.librarieswest.org.uk/client/en_GB/default

For a full list of Black History Month events go to https://issuu.com/cognitivepaths1/docs/black_history_month_magazine_online

Black History Month 2019 – Roger Selected to curate Booklist 2019 by Libraries West

To mark Black History Month 2019 LibrariesWest have launched a reading list featuring books chosen by Roger Griffith (@rogerg44 ), a successful West of England author, social entrepreneur and local radio personality. The book list features authors from around the world featuring writers lived experience. Roger has selected, biographies, poetry, history, current affairs and books for young people. Roger said “This is a very personal list of books that will challenge people’s thinking and help understand the rich and varied lives from across the African diaspora. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did selecting this list! Please let me know what you think and feel free to let me know your personal favourites and why.”

One of the 19 book selected for Black History Month ’19 The Booker Prize nominated Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo