Since December 2017, the Stuart Hall Foundation has worked closely with groups of black and brown artists and activists to develop a Black Cultural Activism Map.
The BLK ACT MAP emerged from a series of intergenerational conversations organised by the Foundation. Younger groups of artists, cultural practitioners and activists highlighted the need to set their own agendas within a historical context, and to understand how they connect with earlier generations of culturally diverse artists and intellectuals. Taking a collaborative, intergenerational and peer-led approach, BLK ACT MAP sought to support and promote the visibility of black and brown diaspora resistance through initial research and three commissions.
Three collectives of young artists and cultural activists produced practice-led explorations of the legacies of black and brown activists:
SKIN DEEP is a London-based multimedia platform that amplifies voices of colour through the discussion of race and culture, inspiring much needed conversations around themes that are usually misrepresented or depoliticised by the mainstream media. Skin Deep’s multimedia project is based around a print publication, live events and interactive digital exhibition that responds to the theme: MOVEMENT(S). Through original nonfiction, fiction, poetry, artwork and illustration Skin Deep have invited their contributors to think about, through and around the political journeys of black and brown activists.
RECLAIM is a youth leadership and social change organisation. It was set up in Manchester in 2007 to identify and support young leaders from an intensely pressurised community. Their work allows young people to develop their skills and potential and to build their pathway to make the world a better place for all. Through their commission RECLAIM will unveil the hidden cultures in Manchester merging art, politics and creativity and look at how linking these mediums can say so much about the world we live in today. They will revisit, reimagine and revive stories of black and brown activism from the past – stories from the north that have shaped the lives of many in Manchester communities today.
VOICES THAT SHAKE! is a collective that brings together young people, artists and campaigners to develop creative responses to social injustice. Using a model of personal transformation and structural change, Shake! challenges established imbalanced power-bases and re-imagine new infrastructures in opposition to capitalism and colonialism. Shake! will deliver a multimedia performance showcase (musical oral history, storytelling, spoken word, film, soundscapes and visual collage) collaboratively devised between four artist facilitators from SHAKE!. Featured artists include Sai Murray, Dhelia Snoussi, Globe Poets and Nawi Collective.
BLK ACT MAP commissions by collectives SKIN DEEP, RECLAIM, and VOICES THAT SHAKE! were presented in a sell-out showcase at Platform Theatre, Central Saint Martins London.
The theme of these commissions was Rep the Road (inspired by poet and writer SAI MURRAY), meaning the representation of the personal political journeys of black and brown British resistance and a repairing of the roads and legacies of communities of colour in the UK. We asked each collective to explore some or all of the following questions:
- How can BLK ACT MAP be used to embed arts collectives in the legacy of black and brown activism and resistance in the UK across the generations?
- How can BLK ACT MAP highlight unsung and forgotten black and brown heroes/heroines from our communities?
- What were the political turning points and/or revelations for the black and brown individuals, organisations? How can BLK ACT MAP creatively remind us of their learning and lessons?
- How can we use the BLK ACT MAP as present-day interventions and solidarity efforts in anti-gentrification efforts in the communities we come from as the gentrification erases and dismantles another generation of black and brown contribution to culture and resistance?
This lively event generated media coverage from The Quietus and other publications.
‘THE FIGHT HAS ALREADY BEGUN’ — BY ZAHRA DALILAH FOR THE QUIETUS
‘WHEN WE ASK THEM THEY SAY “DON’T STOP!”‘ — BY JAMES MARRIOTT FOR PLATFORM
Following the success of the commissions and building on the many conversations developed throughout BLK ACT MAP the Foundation is now exploring the possibilities of a long-term, academic research project to remember, document and revive important moments of resistance by culturally diverse individuals and organisations in the UK, which have been or are at risk of being lost, hidden, erased or forgotten.
‘Britain’s black activists – you are not alone, not in the present or the past’, Zahra Dalilah, the Guardian
* We call this the Black Cultural Activism Map to honour the legacies of political blackness from which we have grown. We wish to be inclusive of black, brown and diasporic peoples. We recognise that our work is part of an ongoing conversation.
Skin Deep’s multimedia project is based around a print publication, live events and interactive digital exhibition that responds to the theme: MOVEMENT(S). Through original nonfiction, fiction, poetry, artwork and illustration Skin Deep will invite the contributors to think about, through and around the political journeys of black and brown activists.
The legacies and histories of black and brown activism for Skin Deep goes beyond the task of chronologically archiving movements. They want to create something that is about non-linear connections across generations, and think it is critical to build on the roots laid down before us, whilst simultaneously creating new routes, maps, movement(s) and pathways. The roots they are trying to cultivate grow above ground. They make visible what was previously hidden and less understood.
Skin Deep will commission original nonfiction work, personal stories, interviews and intergenerational conversations between activists in the UK. Movement(s), through time and between people, will become a way for us to map the pathways and journeys taken by our parents, grandparents and ancestors to help us arrive at and navigate the present moment.
Voices that Shake! delivered a multimedia performance showcase (musical oral history, storytelling, spoken word, film, soundscapes and visual collage) collaboratively devised between four artist facilitators from SHAKE!. The four artists of colour represent a broad mix of generational experience which allowed the commission to engage with and reflect the insight of younger generations alongside the experience of elders.
Dhelia Snoussi used film to explore what it means to live in “the richest borough in the universe” Kensington and Chelsea, and in particular, document the significant sites of local history and spaces of community and connection, which are now under threat. This included interviews from residents and local organisers at Save Wornington College and Save North Kensington Library for Public Use.
Sai Murray held a series of ‘reparations dialogues’ with key activists from the UK Reparations movement in order to broaden knowledge of the overall legacies of black and brown resistance in the UK. Interviews with figures such as Esther Stanford-Xosei and Kofi Mawuli Klu were edited into a podcast format including ‘Reparations songs’ and soundscapes of the struggle.
Amina Gichinga conducted interviews with the traditionally migrant black and brown communities that frequent the Hudson Bay pub in East London to acknowledge and celebrate their past and document their present day struggle. Working with Nawi Collective the recordings were re-imagined as songs of resistance offering a springboard for intervention and solidarity.
Globe Poets built upon their previous work on gentrification (Communal Concrete) to collectively produce a group poem that engages with issues of gentrification faced by their communities in the South East area of London/Elephant and Castle.
RECLAIM, a youth leadership and social change organisation based in Manchester, know that Black people have done some incredible things in Manchester, but to find them one has to search deep in a library and archives. Young black people in Manchester do not have a mainstream sense of their own past through the arts. There is a tendency for other people to tell their stories, removing the authenticity of the experience. Important events in black and brown history can be forgotten, at best, or, at worst, erased.
Through this project the young people at RECLAIM sought to address this injustice. RECLAIM unveiled the hidden cultures in Manchester merging art, politics and creativity and look at how linking these mediums can say so much about the world we live in today. They revisited, reimagined and revived stories of black and brown activism from the past — stories from the north that have shaped the lives of many in Manchester communities today.
RECLAIM began with master classes in art, identity and politics, empowering young people to engage with the space where these fields meet, and understand how they influence and change each other. These workshops ran over a three-week period engaging with the subject matter, followed by facilitated sessions to create group and individual artwork inspired by the research.
The project culminated in a a documentary and performance debuting at BCAM’s launch. Their documentary has since been presented at the Manchester Metropolitan University Arts Festival (October 2018), and a public debate titled ‘The Resurgence of Black Activism’ (University of Manchester, November 2018). RECLAIM was shortlisted as a finalist for the 2018 Youth Buzz Awards in the Best Creative Campaign Category.
Samantha Asumadu is a former documentary filmmaker and journalist. She is the founder of Media Diversified, the Media Diversified Experts Directory and the co-founder of Bare Lit Festival. Her decades long commitment to grassroots activism led to her campaigning on issues such as women’s representation in Theatre, child abuse in war zones and Sickle cell anemia. As a journalist she was based in East Africa, where she covered stories such as Acid Attacks, Blood Minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Kampala bombings of 2010 for news outlets including CNN, Deutsche Welle, Sky News, France 24 and Agence France Presse. Her first documentary was broadcast by Aljazeera English in 2009. ‘The Super Ladies’ is the story of three Ugandan women rally drivers and a race with a dramatic outcome. She has written for The Guardian, The Telegraph and The New Statesman, appeared as a guest on BBC Women’s Hour, LBC Radio, the Victoria Derbyshire show and BBC World and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2016 Samantha was a judge at the Editorial Intelligence UK Comment Awards in 2016 and on the advisory panel for the British Film Institute’s Black Star Season.
Ama Josephine Budge is a Speculative Writer, Artist, Curator and Pleasure Activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism, working to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental revolutions and queered identities. Her work challenges neo-liberal feminisms, working to activate and catalyse movements that emphasize human rights, ecological revolutions and de-gendered identities. Budge’s fiction and non-fiction has been published internationally by Aperture, The Independent Newspaper, Dispatch Feminist Moving Image, Media Diversified, Skin Deep, Consented, CHEW Magazine, B. Dewitt Gallery and Autograph ABP. She is convenor of I/Mages of Tomorrow anti-conference, co-founder of The Batty Mama queer black club & performance night, and initiator of Self Love and Ecstasy pleasure collective (aka SLAE).
Tanzil Chowdhury is a Lecturer in Public Law at Queen Mary, University of London. His research focusses on post-colonial legal theory, the UK’s war powers, British Overseas Territories, and he has also written on the subject of racialised policing. He has a forthcoming book with Routledge in 2019 titled ‘Time, Temporality and Legal Judgment’. Chowdhury helped to set up the Greater Manchester Law Centre and Co-founded the Northern Police Monitoring Project. You can follow him on twitter @tchowdhury88 and find more of his work here.
Erinma Ochu is a filmmaker, curator and writer, originally trained as a neuroscientist. Since 2016 Ochu has been a Lecturer in Science Communication and Future Media at The University of Salford. Prior to joining The University of Salford, Ochu held a 2-year Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowship in residence with The Museum of Science and Industry and The University of Manchester, to explore innovative ways to immerse people in health and environmental challenges through games, interactive storytelling and temporary exhibits. She is a guest curator and creative advisor to several festivals and cultural initiatives: Sheffield International Documentary Festival, Manchester Science Festival, Creative Scene, The Sick of The Fringe.
Project Manager and Curator
Farzana Khan is a cultural producer and an award-winning arts educator. Farzana works at Platform, a climate and social justice organisation working across arts, education, research and activism. Farzana has over 10 years background in youth and community work particularly focused on arts-based education projects both in the UK and internationally. Her academic focus has been on radical and transformative education through creativity. She is the co-founder of Healing Justice London, building community repair and self-transformation models based on non-eurocentric methods for communities of colour. Farzana is a Fellow at the International Curatorial Forum and currently curating a Black Activism Map with the Stuart Hall Foundation, mapping cultural resistance in the UK. Her areas of work and writing focus on gender and racial justice, self and social transformation to interrupt cycles of harm and violence, community repair and self-healing.
Black Cultural Activism Map has been supported with funding from Arts Council England and Unbound Philanthropy.