Moving celebration marks long journey to the Black Cultural Archives launch in Brixton

img_1181Black celebrities and dignitaries joined hundreds of others from the community for the moving launch of the Black Cultural Archives centre, in Windrush Square today.


The sun shone down on the new £7million headquarters, as guests came together to celebrate thousands of years of black history in Britain.

Among the famous faces at the launch were the footballer Sol Campbell, author Zadie Smith, Baroness Floella Benjamin and poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

A public musical celebration, in Windrush Square, was due to begin at 6pm.

BCA Chairperson Dawn Hill

Chairperson of the Black Cultural Archives, Dawn Hill told the guests in the new courtyard: “It has taken a prolific and talented combination of people with unflinching determination and belief in the aspiration and vision of Len Garrison – co-founder of the BCA – to build a 21st century archive to collect, preserve and celebrate the history of Black communities in Brixton.”


The archives were co-founded by historian Len Garrison in 1981, and he was celebrated at the launch today.

Director Paul Reid told the audience that the first statue unveiled in the new centre was of Mr Garrison. Reid also thanked the Heritage Lottery fund, which provided some £4million for the project, and Lambeth Council who have provided funding and handing the BCA a 99-year lease for the Raleigh Hall.

Poet Benjamin Zephenaiah – who was visiting the new BCA headquarters for the first time – told the Blog: “One of the most important things for me is this is something really good for the community.

“I remember when it was just an idea. Len Garrison sat down in 1979 and said he had an idea. He started out with one folder and it has grown form there. Management has come and gone but there has always been perseverance.”

Benjamin Zephaniah outside the new £7m BCA


Zepheniah said he hoped the Brixton HQ would be the first of many outposts of the Black Cultural Archives around the country. But he added: “For this location in London, you couldn;t have written the script. This is the heart of one part of the black community – from my mother’s generation.”

Floella Benjamin, former television presenter made a life peer in 2010, said: “It is great to see that the past is being recognised to include in all British history. Parts of black history have been excluded for far too long.

“This will let all children see that they can be anything they want if they put their minds to it.”

Lee Jasper, community activist, said: “This is a brilliant day, I am feeling exceptionally proud, and I am delighted this has happened. They have had real set back, but we can celebrate today because of a relentless drive and commitment to make it happen.”

The public celebration in Windrush Square has already begun.


  1. @Kelly32

    “Please drop the white supremacy argument, that’s so twentieth century”

    Really Kelly? for you maybe. Once again white privilege rare’s it ugly head.

  2. Another excuse for emphasising the separateness of the human race rather than celebrating what we all have in common.
    When will we learn?

    • With all due respect Kelly32 you are missing the point of the New BAC entirely.
      Historically humans of African and West Indian heritage have been denied the opportunity to celebrate their considerable offerings to bot only London but GB since time begun if truth be told.
      Did you attend the event Kelly32?
      I did and it BRILLIANT!
      People from everywhere travelled to celebrate the opening of the BAC.
      It is factual that media mis-representation appears to enjoy painting African-West Indian as nowt but spare parts in this land when in actual fact and in particular much of the museums, galleries and banks and a well known tube station have DIRECTLY benefited from the Atlantic slave trade, this country and a lot of Scotland was built on the blood money of this vicious trade so yes we have a new cultural centre celebrating African culture, this is great and much needed.
      Furthermore the likes of the Victoria Albert Museum have consistently failed to include any contribution from African humans despite the hand woven clothing and delicate rose quartz jewellery that African females and males design here and elsewhere.
      The British museum also fails by implying Egypt as we know it has no connection with the rest of Africa despite evidence that darker skinned Africans with ‘broad’ features created a lot of beauty B.C. in this location.
      Young Black males over-represented within the mental health system, the prison system, but not in the schools were they are routinely expelled in part sometimes due to antics but also due to belief system of teacher/s.
      This entire structure that we all live within is built upon a White Supremacy ideology and this unspoken collective agreement from all not just White persons means that very often there are active social dynamics taking place that serve to oppress a section of society.
      I think and it has been proven through research that there is a problem called ‘Colour Blind’ in which those who enjoy life within the White Supremacy go out of their way to deny this fact and to insist everyone is equal and that there is no such thing as racism, this efforts to lie to one’s self is indirect prejudice.
      The BAC is fabulous,I think you just don’t like the fact there is now a central hub for people from all over the world that focuses on the excellent and stunning contributions Africans-West Indians have made to this land.
      Everyone was in good spirits, the sun was shining, it was an excellent time had.
      As a side note I do personally think that Lyle and Tate should be financing the BAC considering their economic wealth largely linked to the Slave trade.

      • No, you are missing the point of my question and are simply re-iterating the PR of the event. I get that, I DID attend it. I’m asking a much deeper question which you seek to gloss over with platitudes. – Read ‘I live up Brixton Hill’s comments below. S/he sees the question I’m asking.
        Please drop the white supremacy argument, that’s so twentieth century, the argument and the nuances have moved on. We all agree there is racism (white on black and black on white), but that’s not what I’m asking.

    • Replace your ‘separateness’ word with ‘cultural diversity’ and see how that sounds Kelly.

      • Well that’s a nice question, And. It’s one that goes right to the heart of rather a tricky question—a question not about whether we want cultural diversity, but instead what kind of cultural diversity we want. So do we want a big happy pot where everyone is melted in together? Sounds nice. But then in a pot like that where everyone melts together people risk losing their cultural identity. So instead, how about we go for something like a bowl of tomato soup? Where you take the bowl of soup, then you add spice, and pepper, and cheese and this and that—what you end up with is still a bowl of tomato soup, but with some real nice interesting extra bits to it. Sound nice? Or does that all sound a bit too mixed in for your liking? If so, perhaps you want cultural diversity more like the tiles in a mosaic. That way everyone’s all part of the same picture, but take a closer look. Nobody overlaps. Everyone’s got their own space. Nobody shares the same space. There’s no mixing—close proximity but no melting together. Do you like that one? That way everyone gets to keep all of their cultural identity. Sounds a bit isolating to me. Sounds like the way to create ghettos. No-go neighbourhoods. You not welcome here.

        So “cultural diversity” is great, And. But it’s not a blanket answer. It’s not a knock-down shortcut to a good society. Sometimes it can go to the bad.

        Think harder.

      • Thanks for ‘getting’ the point of my question ‘I live up Brixton Hill’. You express the subtlety of the issue admirably.

    • Well said and sensitively put ILUBH. I like the sound of your soup. The problem is that it’s all too easy for one or two of the really nice interesting extra ingredients to get left out over time – without anyone noticing. I also like the mosaic. Everyone getting together and creating a big beautiful picture – while maintaining their own diverse identities. But, as you say, it could have it’s problems. Some of its pieces could fall out, become isolated or forgotten about. A mosaic needs a really good glue. And soup needs a really good base. That’s what the BCA is. It’s there to help remind future generations what the ingredients are, learn about where they came from, and about those who worked so hard to create something that could so easily be forgotten.

Comments are closed.