Black London Means…

The October 2019 Symposium at Syracuse London was an evening dedicated to exploring diversity within Black Britain as we recognised the rich contributions that many cultures have brought and continue to bring to the UK and its capital.

The event showcased Britain’s past, both contested and celebrated. Stories from people working in the tourism, design, and artistic sectors highlighted the varied backgrounds of those who call London home.

The evening’s Introduction of Black History Month was given by Isaiah Brooks. Isaiah is a Remembrance Scholar and acting major in the Syracuse University Department of Drama. His professional credits include multiple stage appearances and counselling at the Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Participants then took a walk through History: Black Britain’s Lengthy Story with Dominic Burris-North. Winner of Go Make it Happen’s “Youngest Qualified Guide of 2016”, Dominic is one of the UK’s few Blue Badge Guides of colour. Dominic specialises in London’s slave trade, the London Docklands, and the street art and community activism of Brixton.

Heritage: “Africa by Design” was presented by Chrissa Amuah. Chrissa is the a textile design MA graduate of distinction from the world-renowned Chelsea College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London. She was born and raised in London with heritage stemming from Ghana and has always described living with a sense of duality. So it is only natural that her brand, AMWA Designs, illustrates a beautiful assimilation of concepts and cultures.

Finally, Simon Frederick discussed Homage: “Black is the New Black”. A self-taught artist, photographer, film-maker and broadcaster, Simon was born in London to Grenadian parents. His multidisciplinary work seeks to explore society, culture and human nature. He has produced and directed the award-winning documentary series Black is the New Black and They’ve Gotta Have Us, which features notable black artists in cinema today. Frederick served as a judge on the Sky Arts series Master of Photography and has been profiled as one of 2018’s 100 ‘Most Influential Black Britons’ in the category of Media, Publishing and Entertainment.

The evening also included a special exhibit on “Microaggressions” created by Syracuse University design students, the publication of a Black British History Timeline, and a community dinner.

Dinner was made by Ethiopic Kitchen, a vegan catering business based through Migrateful. Their head chef, Woin, was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, before moving to London in the early 1990s.

Woin says that “I enjoy cooking and eating in the company of friends and family whilst being part of the diverse community which London offers. London provides the opportunity to learn and explore many other culture and cuisines.”

Isaiah Brooks’ Opening Remarks:

Tonight, we host one of our Symposia in honour of Black History Month, as we ask what “Black London Means…”

For me, Black History is celebrating and commemorating the history of Black culture. It is championing the work of people that came before me. It is working with my peers to inspire future generations. It is advocating for change and justice for people that look like me who are underserved.

Black History is challenging myself on what it means to be Black. To find the crossroads between “blackness” and other points of identity. For me, that is finding the visibility, truth, and authenticity of being black and queer.

Black History is celebrating the art and work of those that came before me, standing on their shoulders to tell my truth, therefore inspiring the next generation to come forward.

But my Black History is just one version of a long and complicated story. Tonight, you are encouraged to consider the impact not only of history on Black communities, but of the Black community on history. Tonight, we challenge history, celebrate heritage, and pay homage to all that has come before.

“Tonight, you are encouraged to consider the impact not only of history on Black communities, but of the Black community on history.”

You can download a PDF of Syracuse London’s
Black British History timeline here.