This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 23/10/2017.
Black History event lights up Central Croydon
Black History Month was in full force in Croydon Saturday, as the Black Cultural Open Day event celebrated African/black culture in a free multimedia presentation featuring music, poetry, education and more.
The event, held at the Project B bar from 2 pm to 7 pm by Black Futures UK, a Croydon-based advocacy group that helps people of African descent gain employment and attend university, featured poetry, an interactive lesson on African history, music, motivational speakers, and numerous vendors on the sidelines of the event, selling cultural items from African clothes to tie-dye to culturally diverse children’s books.
Although turnout was low, for the few dozen people who ventured to central Croydon for the event, they were treated to several hours of free entertainment encouraging positive cultural attitudes for black people in the U.K., as well as a reminder to never lose sight of one’s own history.
We want to see every black person, young and old, achieve something
Organizer and head of Black Futures UK, Oistina Romeo, hosted, addressing the crowd between performances to reflect on black people’s cultural history, the meaning of Black History Month, and the story of Black Futures UK, among other topics.
Romeo told the audience she and others had created Black Futures UK a few years ago to promote opportunity for black people, guiding them toward networking with others in croydon to build a more cohesive community, as well as to change cultural perceptions of blacks in the U.K. to be more positive and less stereotypical.
“We are a very talented people. We have a lot to give, but a lot is going to waste”, Romeo said. “We want to see every black person, young and old, achieve something.”
The most recent unemployment statistics released by the House of Commons Library show during the period of April-June 2017, while unemployment for white people in the U.K. was 4%, for black people it was 10%, showing that inequality in employment remains across the U.K. for black people.
Romeo implored the audience to not be comforted by the level of opportunity that’s been brought so far, even if it is more than previous generations, always striving for more as you look toward the future.
“We have to be knowledgeable, and in touch with what’s going on on the street, as well as in parliament”, Romeo said. “So that we can move on forward.”
The audience watched Rich with intensity, several cell phones dangling during the length of his performance
Tall Rich, a Jamaican roots reggae singer known for his socially conscious lyrics, was the sole music act of the night, spraying powerful vocals over a backing track. The audience watched Rich with intensity, several cell phones dangling during the length of his performance.
In an interview after his performance, Rich said in some ways, Black History Month was kind of a “stereotypical” societal concept. Emphasizing this point with quotes from former Ethiopian leader and central Rastafari figure Haile Selassie, Rich said he strives for a day where humans view one another as completely equal.
“We shouldn’t have to have a month just for black history…We should all be on common ground, loving each other, caring for each other”, Rich said. “But we’re not doing that are we? So this is why you have that separation.”
One of Lindsay’s poems, titled ‘Young Gifted and Black’, gave a self-reflecting expression of black pride
Educator Natty Mark Samuels, gave an energetic performance about the importance of African states throughout history. Placing more than a dozen cards with the names of East African city-states on the floor, In a call-and-response style, Samuels asked the audience what resources came from each state, attempting to show the role these states played in medieval Indian Ocean Trade.
Another performer was Mayor Lindsay, a Nottingham-based poet whose work focuses on positive themes of black pride, and his youth in a poverty-stricken section of Jamaica. One of Lindsay’s poems, titled ‘Young Gifted and Black’, gave a self-reflecting expression of black pride.
“A life, full of meaning, wonders, and beautiful feeling. It’s one, you can’t imagine. One, you can’t pay for having”, Lindsey spoke. “Such an awesome feeling to be young, gifted, and black.”
Book Love sells and promotes multicultural children’s books
Adorning the stage around the event all the way to the door was a variety of stalls selling several unique products, many related to African and Caribbean culture, from soft drinks to dolls to clothing.
One stall was helmed by Samantha Williams, a Croydon-based author and publisher whose company Book Love sells and promotes multicultural children’s books. One book featured a black girl with a cornrows hairstyle, getting into the style’s cultural roots in Africa.
Eunice Whyte, who said she had learnt about the event from a friend, said she really enjoyed the Black History month event, especially the work of Natty Mark Samuels, whom she found very informative.
Oistina Romeo hailed the event as a success, although she said she “wasn’t happy” with the turnout
“There were things I didn’t know that I learned today”, Whyte said.
Jennifer Anderson, of Peckham, said she really enjoyed the event, especially the music of Tall Rich, whom she described as “talented”. She said she would definitely come back to an event like this in the future.
“It was a very good and interesting event. It was fun and very cultured”, Anderson said.
Oistina Romeo hailed the event as a success, although she said she “wasn’t happy” with the turnout. She said Black Futures UK will be hosting another event in February celebrating reggae artists Dennis Brown and Bob Marley.