The Business of Being Black in Britain

Though I honestly believe that race should never be used as an excuse for diminishing one’s destiny I do recognise that the issue of race can often restrict the progress of some ethnic groups. Often those groups find themselves in situations whereby they have to take it upon themselves to promote their causes or highlight positive stereotypes – not only empowering each other but also showcasing their abilities to society as a whole.

Unfortunately this type of segmentation may be overlooked or criticised as a means of further distancing ethnic groups from mainstream society. Having networked in a variety of circles and attended a number of events geared toward ethnic minorities and specifically Black ethnic social groups I have found a number issues being raised by my counterparts – lack of consistency, lack of structure, lack of clear purpose and unity.

One recent nationally promoted pageant(which I’ll leave nameless for now so as not to add to its negative feedback) was headlined by an African American movie star. I admit that I was bemused by this choice when the event itself was geared towards African & Caribbean British females, however this was the least of the problems surrounding the event. The show started late; thus causing anxiety for many of the ticket holders and participants. The door management was not entirely courteous nor was it accommodating to the so-called VIPs or sponsors who helped to support the event. There was no crowd control; an air of rowdy gusto prevailed which dampened the event and baffled some of the celebrity judges. Contestants complained of disorganisation and poor conditions back stage, despite having to pay an application fee to partake in the pageant. To top it all off the show organisers were not forthcoming with an apology or acknowledgment of the issues that occurred including the headlining American movie star leaving mid-show. Don’t get me wrong I derive no pleasure from reporting about this- in fact it’s with disappointment that I share this tale! Having been involved in event planning and organisation in the past I understand how difficult it can be to hold an event – unfortunately given the polarised nature of the event all these issues screams out negative racial stereotypes which even people in the black community raised.

Not all is lost though – I am an advocate for positive intergration – celebrating ethnic achievements through support and transparency. I recently attended an event at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre called the Black Youth Achievements’ Awards –  an awards ceremony showcasing the accomplishments of Black Youth in Britain. Founder Kay Oldroyd and her team put together a highly entertaining and inspirational event. With sponsors such as Sophia A Jackson of and  the award winning Rhoda Wilson of The Rhoda Wilson show presenting the awards the event was a great success. What made it all the more endearing was the founder Kay’s genuinely humble interaction and availability throughout the course of the event. “The objective of ‘Black Youth Achievements – The Awards’ was to emphasise, reveal and promote positive actions and achievements of young black people (those of a African / Caribbean heritage) within the UK community.” In comparison to the aforementioned beauty pageant this fledgling event made the diverse audience from all ethnic origins feel proud.

I am not writing this to criticise nor pick sides – in fact I had to make this comparison to make it clear of what is truly possible within the black and ethnic minority community. Negative stereotypes which sometimes manifest are not the be all and end within our communities, until of course there comes a day when social groups can see past these stereotypes to a path of true solidarity.