Bristol BLM

At times of injustice, listening is as important as speaking. We must speak out against injustice, but we must also listen to and amplify the voices of those speaking for change and bringing solutions.

Racial injustice and the difficulties of acknowledging the legacies of the past are not confined to the USA – they belong to us all. We at Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, the over-arching organisation which programmes Festival of Ideas, firmly condemn racism in any form.

As a forum for debate and discussion, we are committed to exploring issues around memorialisation and contested history and providing a platform for writers, artists, researchers, poets and thinkers from all communities.

Free and open discussion is essential to the betterment of society, the education of citizens and to the life and work of the city.

Here is a selection of audio recordings from some of our previous events which may be useful to revisit at this time. You can find a longer playlist on our SoundCloud page.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

In 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, three women – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Khan-Cullors – came together to form an active response to the systemic racism causing the deaths of so many African-Americans. They simply said: Black Lives Matter; and for that, they were labelled terrorists.

Khan-Cullors now tells the story that led her to become a founder of Black Lives Matter, seeking to end the culture that declares innocent black life expendable. From accounts of the brutal treatment of friends and family by the state (most notably her brother) to the severe socio-economic disadvantages handed to those born in black majority communities like those she grew up in; dismaying personal experiences of racial and LGBT stigma to her first community campaigns as an activist, she builds an understanding of the cultural drivers of the issues of inequality, diversity, oppression and racism and why they need to be actively addressed from the ground up. She is in conversation with Gary Younge.

Beyond Apologies Debate, Festival of the Future City

The status of Edward Colston in Bristol has been the source of much debate and controversy – including calls to move his statue to a museum and the renaming of Colston Hall. It’s part of a wider debate about how Bristol should deal with its involvement in the slave trade but also about how cities deal with guilt generally. Looking at the experience of how other cities have dealt with the slave trade, the confederacy, the Holocaust, and the French colonial past, among other issues, this panel brings together writers, artists, academics and activists to debate how guilty cities should feel about their past and – critically – what cities do about this to create better futures for all.

The panellists are: Thomas Hermann (Mayor of Hannover); Joshua Jelly-Schapiro (geographer and writer, author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World and co-editor, with Rebecca Solnit, of Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas); Olivette Otele (Professor of History at Bath Spa University, and Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society) who is an expert on the links between history, memory and geopolitics in relation to French and British colonial pasts; and Anne Thomas (International Coordinator, Stolpersteine Project – over 70,000 ‘stumbling stones’ now exist in Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia commemorating individual victims of the Holocaust outside their last-known freely chosen residence).

As well as the panel debate there were short presentations by Michele Curtis (Seven Saints Project), Lawrence Hoo (CARGO) and Louise Mitchell (Colston Hall). Andrew Kelly (Bristol Cultural Development Partnership) chairs.

Robin DiAngelo: Why Is It So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism?

Anger. Fear. Guilt. Denial. Silence. Robin DiAngelo coined the term ‘white fragility’ in 2011 to describe the defensiveness that even the most well-meaning white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged. In conversation with Madhu Krishnan, she talks about how we can start having more honest conversations, listen to each other better and react to feedback with grace and humility. It is not enough to simply hold abstract progressive views and condemn the obvious racists on social media. Change starts with us all at a practical, granular level. It is time for all white people to take responsibility for relinquishing their role in persistent racial inequality.

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

Afua Hirsch offers a personal exploration of British identity, the everyday racism that plagues our society and our troubled relationship with our history. We believe we are a nation of abolition, but forget that we are a nation of slavery. We are convinced that fairness is one of our values, but that immigration is one of our problems. How can we come to terms with our past and navigate our present? Hirsch tells the story of how and why this crisis of identity came to be, and discusses race and belonging with historian David Olusoga. In association with Bristol Women’s Voice.

Akala, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mother was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers – race and class have shaped Akala’s life and outlook. He now takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.

Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Akala speaks directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting the issues of race and class at the heart of the legacy of Britain’s racialised empire. He is in conversation with historian and author David Olusoga.

Lawrence Hoo, CARGO

CARGO is a new immersive multi-media experience that offers an alternative narrative to the story of the transatlantic slave trade. It will open in mid-2020 and go on tour after Bristol. Through the stories depicted in images and in poetry by Lawrence Hoo, CARGO provides an accurate historical account of the fight for the freedom of the enslaved, and their subsequent human and civil rights. CARGO will also highlight the strength and resilience of key pivotal characters who blazed a trail battling adversity, laying the foundations for the futures we all share as a result.

Lawrence Hoo’s new book linked to the project profiles the lives of many individuals from the African Diaspora, including Nanny of The Maroons, Samuel Sharpe and Mary Seacole – all people who worked within unimaginable confines but continued to inspire and empower others through their actions – to the present day leaders and change makers, many from Bristol. Hoo’s poetry celebrates their lives and work and looks forward to better futures.

Chinonyerem Odimba, The Princess and the Hustler

Chinonyerem Odimba is a rising star of contemporary British playwrighting. Her hotly anticipated new play Princess and the Hustler opened in February 2019 at Bristol Old Vic, before embarking on a UK tour. It tells the story of cheeky ten-year-old called Princess, who has a plan to win the Weston-super-Mare Beauty Contest. Set against 1963 Bristol, as Black British Civil Rights campaigners walk onto the streets, Princess finds out what it really means to be black and beautiful.

In this conversation with Marti Burgess, Chair of St Paul’s Carnival, Chinonyerem talks about the themes of black beauty and the emergence of the black civil rights movement in the UK, her theatrical influences and the role of the playwright to speak truth in a dishonest world.

Hazel Carby, Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands

“Where are you from?” Hazel Carby was continually asked as a girl, at a time when being Black and being British was understood to be an impossibility. To answer that question properly, Carby found she needed to trace not just the family history of her Jamaican father and her Welsh mother, but to untangle knots the British Empire created across the Atlantic. Tracing the skeins of this knotted past through the method of “autohistory,” she charted the empire’s violent interweaving of lives and states, Jamaica and Britain, capital and bodies, public language and private feeling. In so doing, she found herself reckoning with what she could tell, what she could remember, and what she could bear to know. In conversation with Madge Dresser.

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