The Black Cultural Archives restores black British history


The tragedy and triumph of children arriving in Britain from the Caribbean in the post-war period were on display. We take a look back at this exhibition on the occasion of Black History Month 2023. The Black Cultural Archives Centre was the setting for this exhibition last summer in London.

“Our mission is to collect, preserve, and celebrate the stories of people of African and Caribbean descent in the UK and to inspire and empower individuals, communities, and society”.  Black Cultural Archives clearly states its raison d’être. It was founded in 1981 by historian and educator Len Garrison. Located in Brixton, South London, the Black Cultural Archives is a leading centre for the promotion of black engagement in Britain.

The centre offers sustained and lively programmes for universities and schools, as well as private and public groups seeking knowledge and resources about Black British history. ” Our unique approach to learning enables learners to better understand how the past shapes ideas about the present and the future,” says Black Cultural Archives.

Over A Barrel: Windrush Children Tragedy and Triumph’s exhibition

The Windrush era ran from 1948 to 1971. Taking advantage of favourable legislation, many Caribbean children immigrated to Great Britain.

Entitled “Over A Barrel: Windrush Children Tragedy and Triumph”, the exhibition explores “the profound impact of separation and reunion, isolation and belonging, as well as the cultural and social adjustments these children had to make to thrive in a hostile environment”.

In the collective imagination and consciousness, this period is often associated with the exodus of adults seeking good living conditions. However, it is also true that many children were forced or pressured to leave in order to explore new opportunities.” In the Caribbean diaspora, children have often learned to be seen and not heard “. They need to be people and take action.

The aim of this re-enactment is to help relive the plight of these children by amplifying their voices, “to highlight their experiences and ensure recognition of their ongoing struggles for dignity and civil rights while celebrating their remarkable achievements and contributions to British society”.

More concretely, the exhibition sheds light on “a broad chronological narrative of migration and community development. The exhibition highlights the development of grassroots actions against racism in education, such as the Black Parents Movement and the African and Caribbean Education Resources Project (ACER). These and other community actions aimed to improve outcomes for black children in public education and to build alternatives to public education”.

Collected by the talented journalist Nadine White, the memories left behind by these children are brought together through photographs, films, and other personal or insignificant objects that form the framework of this exhibition. The Black Cultural Archives is an exceptional place for Africa and black people in the Royal Capital, which is honoured by this exhibition.

Alain Metodjo

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