On Saturday 21 October 2017 BSWN hosted a public event as part of its #There is Black in the Union Jack programme in the Docklands Community Centre, St Paul’s, Bristol in the heart of the city. The event was arranged to enable those who could not attend the similar event held on the previous day in ‘The Watershed’. The Docklands Community Centre is a more informal setting and is a popular space used for many community events. The evening started with a delicious African Caribbean buffet and everyone tucked in. There was a large attendance – standing room only! An estimated 80+ people packed into the hall. The audience consisted not only of Bristolians but many had travelled from all over the South West Region, even from Cornwall.
Then Michael Jenkins from 8th Sense Media screened his documentary film as a prelude to a discussion about heritage, race, identity and what being British meant after the ‘ Leave’ vote in the 2016 EU Referendum from a BAME standpoint. Dr Edson Burton, the writer, academic and historian and Programme Curator at Pervasive Media Studio introduced the Panel and chaired the discussion. On the panel were Michael Jenkins himself and Delano Gournet-Moore who had helped to make the documentary and featured in it. Delano is a graduate student in Bristol currently researching African Caribbean identity and culture. Other panellists were Desmond Brown from ‘Growing Futures’ which works with vulnerable communities across Bristol and looks (among other things) at diet and nutrition; Kunle Olulode, Director of Voice4Change (England); and Councillor Estella Tincknell, Cabinet Member at Bristol City Council for Equalities, Culture and Events. Estella is also Associate Professor of Film and Culture at the University of the West of England.
Michael spoke of growing up in Bristol as a person of mixed Black and English heritage and the problems he had experienced with Stop and Search for no other reason than the fact that he was of mixed heritage. Delano who is also of mixed heritage (Caribbean and Irish) had faced similar problems to those of Michael growing up in Bristol to the extent that being Black and British presented him with problems: he felt more comfortable identifying as a person from Guadeloupe as ‘ Britishness’ did not seem to include him. Kunle drew attention to the Brexit vote which for some seemed to legitimise racism. He said that Voice4Change believed that the Government should have a cross Government Race Equality Strategy and is highly concerned by the use of the term ‘integration’ which fails to recognise the value of diversity. Estelle drew attention to the sea change which had taken place since the election of Marvin Rees as Bristol’s first black Mayor and the appointment of Asher Craig, a black woman as Deputy Mayor. The City Council now had a Cabinet Office in which she was proud to serve which saw the diversity of the city as a massive opportunity.
Edson opened the discussion to the audience and a lively exchange of views ensued. The view was expressed from a member of the audience that if Black South West Network was to live up to its name it should endeavour to hold events such as this across the region and particularly in Plymouth where she came from. Other contributors expressed the view that the campaign for equality and inclusiveness should try to be as practical as possible and not over-intellectualise the issues and challenges.
Overall there were ‘good vibes’ from the evening and a feeling that Bristol was on the move.