Final Lessons From UK Black History Month 2018
By Jay Mullings
Greetings and salutations! Welcome back to the OG ‘Mirrorheads’ and a special shout out to all the newcomers. I know your eyes lit up when you saw the title, “Final Lessons From UK Black History Month 2018“. So let’s get right to it…
Hey Written Mirror Where You Been?
The end of October is within the blink of an eye. Therefore so too is the end of Black History Month (BHM) 2018 in the UK. What have we learnt from this year’s celebration of Black Culture? I’m so glad you asked.
1) There is No Plan For Black History in Britain
It sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud. Especially given it is an annual event, but where is the specific programming in celebration of Black History Month? Not any budget documentaries either. Where are the quality plays and televised events?
Content curators are out here making mad dashes last minute to fill spots on their shows and columns like it was Black Friday in America as opposed to Black History Month in the UK. The fact that you don’t ever know who is going to be doing what way ahead of time let’s you know that Black History Month is not a priority in the UK. Where were the limited edition Black skittles packets in celebration of black history in the UK? Yeah didn’t think so…
2) A Lot of Media Outlets Think BHM Happens The Same Time Worldwide
This one I can empathize with. BHM is not celebrated at the same time universally. America has its own BHM in February. Yet a lot of the questions, content and conversation speak about it as if it’s happening everywhere at once. Worst of all is when African American history is mistaken for British Black History. FAIL!
3) We’re Still Not Welcome Here…
Ryanair I’m looking at you specifically! Congratulations you played yourself! Something goes wrong in our presence and we’re automatically the focus or the ones expected to make concessions.
Then there is the language used to make headlines ‘more enticing’. For instance, The Young Ambitious Black Man who went door to door in the richest Borough of London in order to source a blueprint for success is shown as ‘The Boy who…” Anything remotely ambitious has to have a minor deviance in language or tone accredited to it. We all know you don’t go around calling Black Men ‘boy’ or do you need a moment to consult with your American media counterparts for the manual on what is and isn’t acceptable? Got it? Good!
4) Loud & Obnoxious is Still The Wave
If you really want to capture media attention in Britain as a Black person you had better jump into the mud and start slinging some. The murkier you can get the better. Speaking of Murky… I haven’t seen that much press for the Stormzy Scholarship for 2 Black British Students to attend Cambridge while he takes care of the tuition fees and the maintenance costs. I bet if he were caught drink driving even if it were months earlier it would still be in the news now.
Also where are the new waves of Black British successes each year? The media is almost always negative or a 1 in a million story focusing on the intricacies of the odds rather than the individuals achievement. It often strikes non-blacks as odd when we’re in the media for anything other than sport, music, entertainment or crime. BHM is a continuation of this theme without any purposeful attempt to switch it up.
5) The System is Still Rotten Here
Black people are still suspicious just by virtue of existing. Regular video offerings of police trying to force entry into vehicles or make arrests for being asked reasonable questions as it pertains to being stopped for no reason are still surfacing. We are still being dealt with by the harshest methods even resulting in paralysis because we can’t be non-threatening in the absence of undisputable evidence. Black people are still not equal in the eyes of employers, businesses, courts, media outlets, police and patriots. Invited but not welcome…
6) Black (UK) Culture Lacks A Central Leader
Perhaps it would be too much to ask for one person to be at the helm of our culture. It would probably end in our own people dismantling them by digging up old tweets, Whatsapp screenshots or Facebook posts anyway. Still it bothers me that there isn’t someone incorruptible and incomparable leading the way for the next generation of Black children to grow up in a society where they never need to question if they belong, if the opportunities will come or if it is okay to dream the biggest of dreams. We need a full time leader…
NB: This leader cannot be the benefactor of tokenism. All you would be candidates kindly take note.
7) Sporting/Entertainment Industries in The UK Don’t Care About BHM
Where is the evidence of proper care and attention paid to what is essentially a vital part of British culture. Alright, where are the football clubs for instance honouring the Windrush generation with free tickets to games for these elders? Where are those gestures we so often see for other causes and short remembrance events? Black people don’t count that’s why!
Where are the new Black stories on our television screens? Where are the genuine Black stories being told here in the UK? Or should we stick to YouTube and Podcasts only?
BFI where are the Black History Projects you have been funding with the lottery money? Where are the new Black artists you are featuring? Black filmmaking is about more than Idris Elba you know. You think you’re slick but we see you…
8) Politicians Stall On Delivering Black History Tributes
No it doesn’t have to exclusively come out of the mouth of David Lammy. As a whole, where is the parliamentary acknowledgement of Black History and what it has meant to the legacy of this country?
9) Until Companies Figure Out How To Monetize BHM…
They do not care one iota about it. Pride brings in money because it sweeps through the country in a rainbow coloured breeze leaving behind lots of shiny new coins along the way. When they figure out how to finesse the Black culture here the way America is starting to, watch out! BHM will become a mighty fine celebration indeed…
10)Africa and The Caribbean Aren’t United
There is an exceptionally large elephant in the room and it’s time someone addresses it. Africans and people from the Caribbean still aren’t natural allies. Anyone with a pair of eyes and ears knows it too. There are hardly any major successes in the mainstream media that come from the Caribbean culture but we are seeing the Caribbean culture being manipulated in the hands of Africans. It wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t also try to sound like you’re from the Caribbean with it too. Bring through the people whose culture you’re using to secure radio rotation and even tour the world with. Come on now don’t be greedy, share the love. Also can we get some Caribbean people opportunities that aren’t used to perpetrate messy, unsophisticated and ignorant stereotypes? You know exactly what I’m talking about too.
About Jay Mullings…
Multiple Award-winning Screenwriter, Author, Blogger, Film Director and Founder of Written Mirror Ltd. Jay is an ambitious but humble creative who wants to connect with audiences all over the world. Born in London but raised in Jamaica, Jay carries his experiences of both cultures and lends it to his work with his unique but authoritative voice which, he admits not seeing represented enough growing up. Jay can be found on Twitter/Instagram as @writtenmirror…