Brixton’s best poetry talent shines new light on British black history at the Poet’s Corner. Natalie Whitmore reports. Photographs Naomi Louise
Poetic Unity, the Brixton youth charity, has been celebrating the spoken word with a sold-out competition at the Black Cultural Archive. The three-stage competition was part of a celebration of Black History Month.
It gave south London the unusual chance to discover black history exclusively through British voices.
Black British history can often be ignored within the triumph of the people of America’s Civil Rights Movement. Yet, in an exploration of identity, culture, struggle and love, Poetic Unity’s event showed us why we should never forget Britons’ places in Black History.”
The competition winner, Aaron James’s poem “Black Beautiful” payed homage to the “kings and queens” his fellow black British people.
“I wanted to focus more on our queens of past and present and women that mean a lot to me personally,” Aaron says.
“The good thing about this competition is that it forced me to look a bit deeper at different elements of our history. I think we spend a lot of time focusing on American black history and we neglect to do research on our own.”
“The people are the greatest thing about our black British culture. The final of the competition just shows how talented, creative and inspiring black British people are.”
Aaron’s poem speaks on the necessity for black self-love, companionship and strength in modern day Britain. He speaks to the influences of iconic black British idols dating from 1831. A verse from his poem reads:
“Dr Fiona Bartell Ellis OBE, some of you are looking lost.
Director of the Diversity Unit at British Council and my first ever boss.
I was only 14 on a two-week placement
She said this was more than experience but rather a statement
She said being black comes with many challenges
But remember it’s beautiful so none are damaging
I had to fight for my place so much adversity
I know who I am that’s why I believe in diversity”
The poet stresses the need to acknowledge our own history to enable us to work together for a better collective future.
Unrest in the UK’s black communities has reportedly worsened over the past year. MET Police statistics show that south London area s have some of the highest levels of violent crime.
Charities like Poetic Unity help to give many a light in their darkness. Poetic Unity is a growing group that focuses on alternative education through poetry.
The organisation brings young people together to work on their personal development through writing and performing and workshops. It provides London’s children and young people at risk a safe and friendly environment to learn and grow in.
The founder, Ragz-CV, has over ten years of experience working with London’s youth and has seen how self-expression and creativity through poetry can actively change lives.
“To know where some of these young people have come from and to see how they have developed into comfortably sharing their stories is something truly special.”
Ragz-CV organised the British based competition to uncover what he sees as a silenced history. “In school we never learned about black British history like we did American history, and this is something I believe is integral for us to know about.”
“Overall the competition succeeded in educating us and making everyone more aware of their background, this inspires us; this unites us.”
The competition winner Aaron James will perform at Poetic Unit y’s next big fundraising event ‘Beige Don’t Age’ in front of 350+ people on Saturday 9 December.
You can catch Poetic Unity at their weekly poetry event “The Poets Corner”, which runs every Wednesday from 6:30pm at Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives.
Find out more about Poetic Unity and the above events here: www.PoeticUnity.org.uk
Poetic Unity @Poetic_Unity Ragz-CV @RagzCV
Follow the writer @NatWhitmore_