Black History Month Reading List
In celebration of Black History Month, members of the team have curated a list on work that celebrates, embodies or shines a light on Black history, experiences, and voices.
It's no secret that #CharitySoWhite has been a crucial player in our sector, moving discussions and actions forward in the voluntary world. However, escaping the structures and pitfalls of systems of oppression, and engaging in systems change in general, is no small task. #CharitySoWhite have released this statement, to share transparently and with a rare authenticity, what has worked, what hasn't, and what has hurt even the people involved in the movement. In a stunning example of commitment to inclusion and equity, the team reflects on their journey so far and discuss what it will take to truly move things forward in a sector that remains deeply inequitable.
War of Colors is a 2022 short film depicting the life of Rue, a young Black woman with Albinism, and the struggles she faces to fit in with society. Directed by Emir Kumova, this film is a powerful illustration of what it is like to not only be different but to do so within a community that is already subjected to unjust prejudice and discrimination. The film draws on Kumova’s own experience with Vitiligo and other real-life experiences of people with Albinism. Without giving too much away, the final act contains some compelling and striking dialogue, as Rue states: “Vision will take you further than eyesight ever will”.
The release of the film was a huge success and was considered for the 95th Academy Awards. To learn more about the making of and story behind the film, you can read an interview with Kumova here.
This piece of youth-led qualitative research was conducted by Romane Lenoir, an undergraduate student at University College London in 2022. The research was part of the COPE-well study, delivered in partnership with JE Delve– a youth charity set up by Jamal Edwards MBE to support young people in Ealing, London.
Published in the British Medical Journal in May 2023, the study explores whether barriers to mental health access led to worsening outcomes for young people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through semi-structured interviews taking place in the young people’s community centre, the study found that participant’s mental health was negatively impacted by the pandemic, with loneliness highlighted as the most common experience. The young people interviewed also highlighted the significant role of ‘community’ and the importance of grassroots initiatives to support BAME young people during times of crisis. Overall, the study demonstrates the value of working in partnership with BAME-led charities to effectively listen to young people from marginalised communities in spaces where they feel safe to share their views.
I’ve been loving Rebekah Reid’s Selected Works V.1 recently. Rebekah is an incredible composer, loop-pedal artist, and violinist who I first heard on the ‘28ish Days Later’ podcast a few years ago. Reid has a super extensive repertoire – this article shares more about her career and solo work, as well as how she formed and manages the Täpp Collective, which brings together Manchester and London-based musicians and artists across a huge range of genres and styles. I recommend queuing the Täpp album ‘i like what i do // i do what i like’ right after Rebekah’s solo album. Both are stunning (with a special shout-out to the sounds ‘JOY’ and ‘Orun’ on the Täpp album).
I was fascinated by this blog by the Creative Youth Network asking young people what they thought about Black History Month. Young people from the Unity Youth Forum provided their views which offer interesting snapshots of different perspectives of this annual event.
The results were mixed. Some young people pointed out how important Black History Month is in the UK as Black history is not widely taught on the school history curriculum. Black History Month was the first occasion they had heard the achievements of Black people celebrated, which was significant as they found that these figures were missing in other areas of the school curriculum such as Geography and English.
Overall, the young people felt that Black History Month was really important, however, what would be even better is the integration of Black History within the school curriculum and activities. This is a challenge that goes beyond schools of course, and it will be interesting for us to consider how we step up to this challenge in youth provision planning, delivery and evaluation.
Recently, I came across the idea of generational trauma when reading Nova Reid’s excellent book, The Good Ally. The concept itself is straight forward to grasp. In essence, it is possible for a person to experience the trauma of their ancestors, whether that be economic, familial, or cultural. For example, a descendant of a person who has experienced a terrifying event can show adverse emotional and behavioural reactions to the same event.
In the context of Black history, this serves as an important reminder that there is a real visceral connection between past and present at a time when we focus on the historical and contemporary contribution of Black people. If, like me, you are new to the concept of generational trauma this article provides a useful overview. If you would like to hear more about how we are moored by our ancestry, I also recommend you to watch ‘In Conversation with Nova Reid and Resmaa Menakem’.
I have recently enjoyed learning about Nathaniel Cole’s work with Swim Dem Crew in these interviews with Katie Clayton and Freya Bromley . Nathaniel is a writer, researcher, DJ, poet, and facilitator who also dedicates a lot of his time to building a social and welcoming community for Black swimmers to learn together through Swim Dem Crew, which he co-founded back in 2013. I love how they describe their work on the website:
“We are the bold. We are the daring. We are the awe inspiring, coach jamming, party going, river swimmers, poolside sitters, train hard, train fast, in icey blue, legendary Swim Dem Crew”.
Katie Clayton’s four podcast series further explores the historical context of and barriers to Black swimming, featuring interviews with Olympic athlete and Black Swimming Association co-founder Alice Dearing, costume designer PC Williams, and chef Victor Okunowo.
George The Poet’s BBC Sounds podcast ‘Have You Heard George’s Podcast’ is a must listen. Combining a breath-taking mix of storytelling, poetry, and music, George The Poet explores tales of strength and sacrifice against a backdrop of significant yet often forgotten events of the last 60 years, from the perspective of history’s unsung African and Caribbean heroes.
Yinka Ilori is a British-Nigerian artist whose use of colour and vibrant designs draw inspiration from his Nigerian heritage. Ilori states:
“There is so much history that I can dig into, such as post-colonialism, slavery; there are so many layers of history that I can talk about and reference in my work.”
Ilori’s work aims to be accessible and inclusive and his 2022 project ‘The Flamboyance of Flamingos’ highlights this. Designed through creative consultation sessions with local residents, Parsloes Park in East London is a vibrant space created to encourage young people to be outdoors and play. The park’s flamingo like structures (a nod to the wildlife the once inhabited the park), colourful basketball court, and unique climbing frames allow for young people to explore play in creative ways.