Books, films and podcasts illuminating the Black British experience

During Black History Month in the UK, we must continue our education of structural racism and the realities of Black British life in 2020

By AXS Staff

 

In recent months, millions around the world have taken it upon themselves to learn about and practise anti-racism work. Although a great start, taking a deeper dive into learning about others’ experiences is vital to truly comprehend the weight of the current moment. As we observe Black History month in the UK this month, and even when it’s over, we must strive to continually learn more about the different social and political realities lived to better help the cause.  

Check out these important books, films, documentaries and podcasts, all by Black British creators, to learn more about Black British history, perspectives and ideas for a more equal future. 

 

BOOKS

"Black and British: A Forgotten History" by David Olusoga

Published alongside the BBC Two series. award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga carefully examines the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa using genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews.

 

"Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging" by Afua Hirsch

Celebrated writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch delves into the every-day racism present in modern British society, examining identity, culpability and hypocrisy in the past and present. 

"Memoirs Of A Black Englishman" by Paul Stephenson OBE

As one of the leading black civil rights activists of his generation, Stephenson recounts his personal history and lifetime of social justice work, including his pivotal role in the Bristol Bus Boycott. 

"Me and White Supremacy" by Layla F Saad

Structured as a 28-day course for white readers, Saad’s book helps readers better identify and understand white privilege and white supremacy in their own lives.  With definitions, question prompts and action steps, Saad has created an invaluable tool for actively combatting internalized racism. 

"Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Reni Eddo Lodge

Based on her viral blog post of the same name, “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” recounts Eddo Lodge’s frustration with the many commonplace discussions of race and racism she has had with the willfully ignorant.  Touching on topics from the erasure of black history to the political importance of white dominance, and from whitewashed feminism to the intersection of class and race, Eddo Lodge’s text is a necessary explainer on the deeply-rooted workings of structural racism and a call to action for those unaffected. 

 

"Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire" by Akala

Acclaimed musician and political commentator Akala uses his personal experiences with racism to carry out a wide-reaching examination of the social, historical and political events that led to the current moment, as well as the everyday denial that decelerates progress. 

 

"Black, Listed" by Jeffrey Boakye

Blending autobiography and critical analysis, Boakye examines Black identity in the twenty-first century and the way language and beliefs have  been shaped by history and culture. 

"White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society" by Kalwant Bhopal

Although many would like to they think they live in a “post-racial society,” Bhopal demonstrates how race continues to negatively affect black and minority ethnic groups. Meant to minimize discrimination against people of color, Bhopal proves neoliberal policy has in many ways made the problem worse.   

FILMS & DOCUMENTARIES

Sitting in Limbo (2020)

This recent feature-length TV drama about the Windrush scandal depicts the real-life story of Anthony Bryan, a Jamaican-born British man who, after living in the UK for 50 years, was mistakenly labelled as an illegal immigrant.

The Hard Stop (2015)

This poignant  documentary film recounts the 2011 protests and riots that arose in the aftermath of the death of Mark Duggan, a young Black man killed by the Metropolitan Police in Tottenham during a police tactic known as a “hard stop.” 

Belle (2013)

Inspired by a 1779 portrait, this film tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a British naval officer, who was born into slavery in the West Indies. After being discovered by her father and his wife, she begins a new life in England. 

The Stuart Hall Project (2013)

This bio-doc recounts the personal and professional journey of Stuart Hall, a Rhodes scholar from colonial Jamaica who went on to become one of Britain’s most esteemed public intellectuals.

Bullet Boy (2004)

With music from Massive Attack, this compelling drama follows two brothers living in Hackney, where they must face the unavoidable violence of their neighborhood.

Injustice (2001)

This deeply stirring documentary film follows the struggles for justice by the families of people in England who have died in police custody, where, between 1969 and 1999, over one thousand people died; no police officers have ever been convicted.

Justice For Joy (1995)

This documentary examines the 1993 death of Joy Gardner, a 40-year-old Jamaican student living in London who died after being violently detained during an immigration raid. Still a source of public outrage, all three police officers  involved were acquitted, and there has never been an inquest into Gardener’s death.

Handsworth Songs (1986)

A vital essayistic documentary film, Handsworth Songs delves into the social unrest that erupted in Birmingham in October 1985 after the killing of Cynthia Jarrett by a police officer.

PODCASTS

ANTHEMS Black (Broccoli)

A new iteration of the popular ANTHEMS series, ANTHEMS Black is a collection of 31 original, various-themed “manifestos, speeches, stories, poems and rallying cries” written and read by influential UK Black voices, including Munya Chawawa, Afua Hirsch, Raymond Antrobus and Jade Anouka.

Black Gals Livin'

No topic is off limits for hosts Vic Sanusi and Jasmine Braithwaite, who cover it all: body positivity, broke shaming, black motherhood and more.

This is Spoke (Penguin)

This Gen Z podcast series takes a provocative, multi-angled look at youth culture, examining societal issues through spirited debate and conversation.

Witness History: Witness Black History (BBC World Service)

A new segment of its “Witness” series, BBC’s program goes direct to the source to reveal pivotal historical moments in Black history, ranging from the voyage of the Empire Windrush to the stories of Black professional sports pioneers.

The Black Curriculum

Created by the non-profit of the same name, this podcast explains vital moments in Black history in the form of short case studies under 20 minutes. So far, the curriculum has tackled the experience of Black people in pre-colonial Britain, the Bristol Bus Boycott and Sound System Culture, amongst others.

No Country For Young Women (BBC Radio)

Hosts Sadia Azmat and Monty Onanuga take a “no-filter dive” into the experiences of Black and Asian British women living in a white world. 

That Black Theatre Podcast

The National Theatre’s new podcast, hosted by PhD Student Nadine Deller, is a much-needed history lesson and celebration of the trailblazers of Black British theatre, looking into their personal histories and the social and political events that influenced much of their work.

Black British Geeks (IRIE)

Seth Gavriel and Terrence Wallen are the “Black British Geeks,” sharing the Black British perspective on TV, film, and gaming, with discussion around Avengers, Game of Thrones and more.