Up Your Street Issue 35
,Up Your Street subscribers joined Waltham Forest Local History Network on its first outing, an afternoon out in sunny Brixton to visit the Black Cultural Archives. The planned trip was not a Black History Month event but the coincidence looks good. I wasn’t sure what the trip was for but I wanted to see a million pound building and museum
With open minds we, an ethnically diverse group if ever there were one, attached ourselves to the teenagers and tutors led along by a retired teacher. I knew the Waltham Forest history lot were after finding ways of recording the histories of every cultural group in the borough. Currently the publicized history borough-wide is that of the White British. The network meetings are those of the White British, so I understand, which means very little except a whole heap of assumptions about individual experiences.
Brixton Riots, Swann Report, Multi-Cultural Education, Mary Seacole. In the eighties, the Waltham Forest schools were the movers and shakers when it came to valuing all members of the community. Library books changed colour and humanities bore the torch for christian love thy neighbour essays and discussion ideas. The pupils grew up with “Kumbaya” echoing from their Walkmans. The neighbours moved away and other mother tongues filled the bus queues. More people needed a burst of identity to keep the “Rivers Of Blood” at bay and still the meetings could not attract story-tellers to enhance the next generation’s well-being. The failing was abysmal. We are still doing the same: Thudding out Black History Month, raising up archives, talking about hair and repeating all of 1985 when in reality we are going backwards into our own tents, frowning at FGM, presenting theatre about back in the day, abusing our children, watching our words, and voting in fascists.
Even the force of the riots in 2011 was not the catalyst for the country’s sagging and muddled government to gift a Black Cultural Archive building to its people. Bravo to those people of passion who got in hand pretty fat Heritage Lottery money.
The current and free exhibition is all about women from African blood who inspire people even now, centuries down the line.
The display area is tiny. Before the founders had their Georgian building the collections were kept in what is now a chicken shop. They are scared of space obviously. Small and cramped but okay for eight people at a time. There’s a café with £1.50 tea.
In the sharp October sun, we, the unrecognized pearls from Up Your Street, sat at the empty picnic table on the flag-stoned courtyard, counted our £1.99 McDonald’s vouchers and ate our Penguins.
Fabulous morning at the Rio Cinema with Up Your Street people and my group the Buildings Exploratory Seniors showcasing their authentic films. The four short films showed moving images and stills of the Hackney BEE group, the buildings and spaces they visited and was filmed and produced by a professional film maker. We visited Clissold House Hackney, Shoreditch Church, and Hoxton Hall (aka ‘Oxton ‘All). There was a great soundtrack and lovely old time songs from the group participants.
What a cheer roared from we the audience at the end! Then Questions and Answers came.
I was burning inside and don’t know how I found the courage to grab the mike. Then the question just fell out of my mouth! I asked how the BEE managers would reach out to a more ethnically diverse community. I stated that “it can’t just be white history”. I heard the tuts. I understand the resistance from peers but that attitude needs reform because otherwise we all miss opportunities to share rich memories and experiences of settlement in shared environments. Buildings are always a catalyst for memory and memories gel communities and give identity to neighbourhoods.
Every funded charity must report back to its funders and tick off check-lists and you can bet the words “ethnic and “diverse” pop up. Any engagement of any community has to engage everyone. My question was relevant and respected by the answer. The answer was a version of “We’re trying”. BEE has been operational since 2007.
Importantly and urgently history should be everyone’s history and other people have bigger mouths than I do in order to push forward the construction of an oral history which embraces all the memories and contributions of every culture in London. Meanwhile we’ll plod along divided with Black History Month. What else do you see?
Then we went to Pie ‘n’ Mash in Hoxton Market. Mmm! Parsley sauce and jolly good company.
Last minute notice for a good trip on Sunday 28th October.
Sun Nov 4th free 9-5pm
Celebrating family history in East London
Come and celebrate Every Generation Media’s 10th birthday with our East London Routes family history day. …
EGM is based in east London and has been at the forefront of developing websites, publications, workshops and films around family learning and cultural heritage, particularly among people from minority ethnic heritage. As 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of independence for Trinidad and Jamaica, we play tribute to: The stories we know. The histories we’ve dug for. The generations we’ve learnt from. The heroes and heroines we applaud. We’ll have children’s arts activities, author readings and debates on family values, preserving our history and choosing our heroes and heroines. National Archives will throw open their treasure trove of old photos of the Caribbean and we’ll be running a workshop on tracing Jamaican, African and English family histories by people who have done it. Contributors include: authors Patrice Lawrence, Jacqueline Walker (‘Pilgrim State’) and Kerry Young (‘Pao’), Hackney campaigners Ian Levy and Pauline ‘Hackney Heroine’ Pearce, equality campaigner Simon Woolley, cultural campaigners and historians Arthur Torrington CBE, Stephen Bourne, Oku Ekpenyon MBE, Angelina Osborne, National Archives outreach team Sandra Shakespeare and Sara Griffiths, Cllr Michael Jones one of the youngest politicians in London, Guardian journalist Hugh Muir and Patrick Vernon OBE founder of Every Generation. To attend this free events please RSVP email@example.com
.uk or firstname.lastname@example.org www.everygeneration.co.uk (new site to be launched on shortly).
How’s that for starters? Went from Hackney PictureHouse eaterie having enjoyed watching the mums and babies as they came out of The Big Scream Club and the helping of the latest film,”Liberal Arts” and got myself a lift to the Rio Cinema in Dalston where for free “The Help” was being screened to seniors who were out in overcoats and force with bags and sticks. Every month there’s “Classic Matinee” with its free screening dished up with tea and cake. All good. Over 60s go free and so do their carers.
I resisted “The Help” after having seen the trailers and having read all the hype from inclusive Christian and/or black promoters . I refused to waste my money but today in order to have an informed opinion I forced myself to go the the Rio’s free screening.
Now the screening remember is for seniors so it was kinda different trying to lip read US southern drawl at the same time as audience members were hollering and snoring. Those that hollered did so because because they are ill and because they can. Coincidentally I am on a medical research programme which investigates hearing amidst cacophony!
The film is packed with stereotypes; air-headed skinny white women in 60s prints and obvious wigs, and second generation black mammies with their straightened hair, fuller figures, perky bras and mood swings going from aggressive angst to tearful put upon droops. The catalyst to the story, the film’s star is the earnest do-gooding white journalist, Skeeter, who is just not in the era. Her hair and body are Metroland 2012. Another floozie straight out of “Barbie” who hugs (?) her newly-hired maid and belongs to tv’s The Wives of Orange State is sheer nonsense.
There were the token scenes showcasing black people on a bus (even a black maid on a bus), bright yellow uniformed gospel singers in a black church, one poor family’s group of children sharing a bed, and the “ugly” white child telling her maid that she’s her real mummy. Cue sympathy aahs from the Rio audience. Irritation after irritation. Ugh. The film lived up to my expectations and I was wasting my eyes.
What was it for? Who was it for? It was obviously wheeled out again for Hackney’s Black History Month because “The Help” has done the pictures’ rounds already. It’s not in the “classic” genre. It can only be compared with “Gone With the Wind” and “The Color Purple” because it’s a film about black people back in the day. “Gone With The Wind” which was referenced in the film (Hmm! Bit of culture crept in) is class and has an heroine in the wise black and loyal servant come seer . “The Color Purple” is the celebration of matriarchal blackness .”The Help” is the culmination of film-makers getting an imagined black sisterhood story and hoping we are naive enough to call it a film success.
There is some excellent acting in “The Help”.
I left my cake and tea and seat for someone else as my patience ran thin. Far-fetched nonsense.