Banner Image by Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
On 25th May 2020, science writer and LGBTQ activist, Christian Cooper, was bird watching in Central Park, New York City, when he asked a woman to put her dog back on its lead as she was in a part of the park that was not dog friendly. What ensued after has been spread across the news ever since, and has been just one of many examples of the hostility people of colour experience across the world on a daily basis.
Until hearing about Chris Cooper in the media, a lot of white people (myself included) will never have considered what it is like to be a person of colour out in nature. In the last month at W&BA we’ve been thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and how we can do more as an organisation to provide a welcoming space for people of colour in our area to share their love of nature and creativity.
Being a predominantly white community in Norfolk and Suffolk, we believe the best thing we can all do right now is educate ourselves and listen to what people of colour have to say. This is why we’ve listed some links below. We know it’s not much, but it’s a start, and something we want to work on in the future.
If you are a creative or nature-inspired person of colour living in the Waveney and Blyth area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know what more you’d like to see from organisations like ours.
Links to Visit:
Mya-Rose is a British Bangladeshi ornithologist and campaigner for equal rights from Bristol. In February 2020, she received an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Bristol, and is said to be the youngest British person to receive such an award. She founded the project Black2Nature at the age of 14, with the aim of encouraging young Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) people to engage more with nature. Reading about her work is really inspiring.
The Black History Month website is a great resource thats well worth exploring. This is one of their wonderfully curated lists. Incidentally, though she is not on this list, award winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge is also an incredible black British female writer, best known for her Sunday Times Bestseller ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’. Click the book title to read a preview of the first chapter, which discusses black British history that we should all know, yet sadly aren’t taught in schools. Despite her book being published in 2017, it has only been this month, June 2020, that she has become the first black British author to take the overall No 1 spot in the UK’s official book charts.
When reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, it shocked me how little I knew of black British history as a white woman. Surely it should be taught in schools? We have facts WW1 and WW2 drummed into us as children, but our black history has played just as much of an important roll in shaping today’s society. The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise, set up in 2019 to address the lack of Black British history in the UK curriculum. “We believe that by delivering arts focused Black history programmes, providing teacher training and campaigning through mobilising young people, we can facilitate social change.” You can read more here about how they’re working to change the curriculum in the UK and we can all help them take action through donations, writing to MPs and learning more about Black British history for ourselves.
On Sunday 7th June, roughly 1000 peaceful protesters gathered outside The Forum and 350 in Eaton Park in Norwich to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, while over 2000 people joined in from home. Speakers at Eaton Park shared their own experiences of racism and what it is like being a person of colour in Norfolk. Watch the speeches online here and show your support by following the facebook page. After the protest, the Norwich Supports Black Lives Matter group called out for creatives, events organisers and others with relevant experience to get in touch in order to help in future events.
In June 2019, Somerset House held an exhibition celebrating Black experience, creativity and influence. Get Up Stand Up Now is a 10 minute film curated by artist Zak Ové for the exhibition, reflecting upon the concept of motherland, masquerade and activism. You can watch it online today.
Recently, photo colouriser Tom Marshall released a series of colourised historical photographs to “try and highlight moments of Black British history in a way that might open a few eyes to the contributions of Black people in this country over the past century.” He writes, “I have chosen photos taken in Britain since 1889 of British and Commonwealth heroes, fighters, workers and ordinary men and women, along with examples of the hardship endured, much of which is still felt today. My aim in colourising these photos was to highlight and celebrate the rich diversity of the country I love. Anti racism is a process which includes self-education and educating others. I hope the colourised photos in this blog bring these stories and people to life.”