Black and British on the BBC

Gosh where does the time go? I looked around and it was the middle of November.

Anyway, just a quick post to say how extremely happy I am about the Black and British season currently airing primarily on BBC Two.

I watched a documentary on Wednesday (9th November) called Black and British: Our Forgotten History by David Olusoga and it rang so true to me because it’s part of what I’ve been trying to do on this website – namely bring to life the stories of black heroes and heroines which seem to have been lost and are certainly not taught to us in school or usually mentioned in the mainstream media.

David Olusoga

David Olusoga – copyright BBC

It was a thought-provoking and powerful story of Britain’s multicultural past and amply demonstrated just how much black people have always been intertwined with the United Kingdom going back as far as the third century AD.

One of the most poignant aspects of the programme for me was the story of a white man called Cedric who could trace his ancestry back to a black servant called Francis Barber. Barber was born a slave in Jamaica but eventually ended up living in York in Samuel Johnson’s house. Apparently Cedric is just one of about two to three million ‘white’ people in Britain who actually have a black ancestor – it was a fascinating twist which demonstrates how many of us are connected in ways we probably don’t even know.

The documentary was a series of eye-opening stories which eloquently demonstrated the fact that black people have been living and contributing to the development of Great Britain for centuries and have just as much right to be here as anyone else.

After the documentary there was another programme called Black is the New Black and I really enjoyed this simple, storytelling first person approach which just involved famous UK black people talking about what it means to them to be black and British.

Black is the New Black

Black is the New Black – copyright BBC

Featuring the likes of Lenny Henry, Dizzee Rascal, Naomi Campbell, John Sentamu and Les Ferdinand – it was like listening to friends recalling home, school and work life in the 70s and 80s and most of their experiences strongly resounded with my own.

I’ve said before on this website that I struggle on a daily basis with fitting into Britain – obviously I know that I am British by birth, but my skin colour seems to exclude me from fully claiming the label of my birth nationality.

Some people might say a sense of belonging is all in the mind, and to some extent I’d agree, but let’s not be naive enough to think that society, the media, and how our fellow citizens react to us does not play some role in how we feel we integrate into where we are from, and whether we feel as though we truly belong.

This website was partly developed out of my ‘belonging deficit’. I felt the need to know exactly how much black people had contributed to the UK so that I could feel a sense of pride and possession as well as learn from their experiences and achievements.

I will be watching as many programmes as I can while the Black and British season is on so that I can be encouraged, uplifted and empowered – I highly recommend that you watch them all too.

It is also definitely worth visiting the Black and British BBC website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0499smp – for lots more interesting insights and stories.

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