Image: Courtesy of Manchester Archive Plus
This half-day symposium featured the voices of activists, academics and artists reflecting on Black feminist/womanist traditions, the legacies of creative and political practices since the 1970s to contextualize and resist our 21st century realities.
Featuring presentations by Rita Gayle, Dr Joy White, June Reid, Dr Lisa Amanda Palmer, and Diana Watt & Adele D. Jones.
These presentations ran counter to dominant narratives in Black British history to provide us with the language and historical understanding of our culture, self-consciousness and identity.
Black women in Britain lift as they climb and have continued to do so for decades with minimal recognition or praise. Their fierce commitment to the collective care of their communities is sometimes to their own detriment. As our carers, educators, writers, activists, labourers and friends – who are susceptible to incomparable racial and sexual abuse – Black women must be vigorously protected and honoured for their past and continued efforts, as sisters in the struggle.
Rita Gayle is a PhD Researcher at the University of Birmingham investigating how millennial Black British feminists are working collectively as a strategy to counteract their exclusion from the creative and cultural industries. Rita is funded by an AHRC DTP Midland 3 Cities Research Studentship Award. She has previously worked as a news gatherer for BBC News and as an independent filmmaker.
Dr Joy White is an independent researcher and the author of Urban Music and Entrepreneurship: Beats, Rhymes and Young People’s Enterprise, one of the first books to foreground the socio-economic significance of Grime music. She writes on a range of themes including social mobility, urban marginality, mental health/wellbeing, and urban music. Joy has lived in east London for 40 years.
Dr Lisa Amanda Palmer is an Associate Professor Deputy Director of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester. Her research focuses on Black feminism, Black cultural politics and the intersection of race, racism, gender and sexuality. Her writing covers a broad spectrum of fields including the gendered politics of lovers’ rock music, the production of local community archives, and the misogynoir faced by Black women in British public life. She has a keen interest in working with local archive collections, specifically, the Vanley Burke Archive held at the Library of Birmingham. Lisa is the co-author of the book Blackness in Britain (2016) and is currently writing her book on Black women in the UK’s lover’s rock reggae scene.
Dr. Diana Watt and Professor Adele M. Jones co-authored Catching Hell and Doing Well, which tells the story of the Abasindi Cooperative. There are few books about the lives of Black women in the UK and even fewer about working class Black women. Set in Moss Side in Manchester, it shows the resilience of Black women to the racism and discrimination that they have experienced and the strategies and actions that they used to challenge that reality. Crucial to its importance is the fact that it is written not just by the credited authors but ‘represents a collective endeavour of the women of the Abasindi Black Women’s Cooperative’.
June Reid is an MA Cultural Studies student at Goldsmiths and is researching Black women who run and operate all-female sound systems in the UK. Through a shared passion and love of music Nzinga Soundz, one of the UK’s longest running all-female sound systems, was formed by June Reid in the late 1980s with Lynda Rosenoir-Patten. The sound has played at concerts, corporate events and community-based events across the UK and in the Gambia, Barbados and Sierra Leone. June was a key organiser in 1980s Black Arts Movement; she was an early member of CEDDO Film and Video Workshop, sat on the board of the Munirah Theatre Company (Black Women's Theatre) and worked at the Black Art Gallery/Organisation for Black Arts Advancement and Learning Activities (OBAALA).
Rianna Jade Parker is a British-born Jamaican writer, curator, and researcher based in South London. Her historical research and archival specialisms encompass Black feminist thought, visual cultures, modernity and Caribbean studies. She has presented at the South London Gallery, Tate Britainٖ and Tate Modern, 180 The Strand, Somerset House, Autograph ABP and the Royal College of Art, among others. Her writing has been published in ARTnews, Frieze, Artforum, Aperture, Art in America, Artsy and BOMB, including critiques on Frank Bowling, Simone Leigh, Kara Walker and Steve McQueen. As an author, she has written catalogue essays for institutions and publishers including Phaidon Press, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Tate Liverpool, Thames and Hudson, Camden Art Centre, Charleston House, and the Hayward Gallery. She is a Contributing Editor for Frieze magazine and a founding member of interdisciplinary art collective Thick/er Black Lines, whose work was exhibited in the landmark exhibition Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers. Her first book A Brief History of Black British Art is forthcoming from Tate Publishing in 2021.