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Events during Black History Month for residents in Portsmouth and resources

Britain’s black history month has been running since 1987. Every October, it aims to promote knowledge of black history, culture and heritage, and highlight the positive contributions that black communities have made to British society.

In this article, you’ll find a list of events and resources to take this opportunity to explore and expand your own knowledge of black history, and the often hidden contributions.

Library events

Black History Month/National Libraries Week Reading Group discussion

Tuesday 6 October, 6.30pm (Central Library)

Lemn Sissay’s My Name Is Why is a powerful memoir that details Lemn’s childhood in care and how he found out the identity of his birth mother. Featuring Lemn’s captivating poetry, we invite everyone to participate in this Black History Month and National Libraries Week reading group special discussion.

The discussion is led by a member of the library team. To register for the event, email askalibrarian@portsmouthcc.gov.uk to obtain your Zoom access link.

Everyone welcome. Free event. Suitable for ages 16+. The book is available to download free in eBook or eAudiobook format from our Borrowbox service with your library card.

Portsmouth library has put together a collection of books to celebrate Black History Month. This is available at Portsmouth Central Library or online.

David Olusoga in Conversation: Black History Matters

Wednesday 7 October, 7.30pm – 8.30pm (British Library)

The murder of George Floyd in the US reverberated around the world. It gave way to an explosion of protest, and a closer examination among historians of the systemic racism in the way the African diaspora is described. Cultural institutions around the world are examining their own legacy within the history of colonialism and imperialism. Join historian David Olusoga in conversation for his personal perspective on how we memorialise, teach and write about racism, and why black British history matters.

Professor David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian, broadcaster and BAFTA award-winning presenter and filmmaker. He is Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester and a regular contributor to the Guardian, Observer, New Statesman and BBC History Magazine. The author of several books including Black and British: A Forgotten History and A House Through Time, he was also a contributor to The Oxford Companion to Black British History. In 2019 he was awarded the OBE for services to history and community integration. David’s new children’s book, Black and British: A Short Essential History has recently been published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

To access the event, simply go to the British Library website at living-knowledge-network.co.uk, select the correct day and time and click on the link for the event.

PEN Pinter Prize: Linton Kwesi Johnson

Monday 12 October, 7.30pm – 8.30pm (British Library)

The PEN Pinter Prize was established in 2009 by the charity English PEN, which defends freedom of expression and celebrates literature. In memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter, the prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an ‘unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination… to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was chosen by this year’s judges; The Guardian’s Associate Editor for Culture Claire Armitstead; Dialogue Books Publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove, and author Max Porter. The judges said of Johnson: ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson is a poet, reggae icon, academic and campaigner, whose impact on the cultural landscape over the last half century has been colossal and multi-generational. His political ferocity and his tireless scrutiny of history are truly Pinteresque, as is the humour with which he pursues them.’

The prize will be shared with an International Writer of Courage: a writer who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty, selected by Linton Kwesi Johnson from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN. The co-winner will be announced at the event, where they will accept their prize alongside Linton Kwesi Johnson.

To access the event, simply go to the British Library website at living-knowledge-network.co.uk, select the correct day and time and click on the link for the event.

Portsmouth Film Society - scheduled films

Portsmouth Film Society will show two films and a documentary at Portsmouth Guildhall as part of the BHM Film Festival 2020.

Covid safety measures are in place including:

  • Face coverings required for the duration of time at the Guildhall
  • Temperature checks on arrival. Anyone with a temperature above 38 degrees or are showing Covid-19 symptoms will not be allowed entry
  • Audience details will be collected for track and trace on arrival
  • One way system, hand sanitiser stations on entrances, and distanced queueing system for toilets

Please book via Portsmouth Film Society.

Harriet

Sunday 11 October, 7pm

Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, ‘Harriet’ tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes.

Queen and Slim

Saturday 17 October, 7pm

Slim and Queen’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation. When the situation escalates, Slim takes the officer’s gun and shoots him in self-defence. Now labelled cop killers in the media, Slim and Queen feel that they have no choice but to go on the run and evade the law.

White Riot

Sunday 25 October, 5pm

Rock Against Racism was formed in 1976, prompted by Eric Clapton. It blends fresh interviews with archive footage to recreate a hostile environment of anti-immigrant hysteria and National Front marches. An exploration of how punk influenced politics in late-1970s Britain when a group of artists united to take on the National Front.

Other events

Black prisoners of war at Portchester Castle, by English Heritage

In October 1796, a fleet of ships from the Caribbean carrying over 2,500 prisoners of war, who were mostly black or mixed-race, began to dock in Portsmouth Harbour. By the end of that month almost all of them, apart from about 100 women and children, were living at Portchester Castle.

English Heritage tells their incredible story: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/portchester-castle/history-and-stories/black-prisoners-at-portchester/

‘Black Power: Great Black Leaders & Liberators’ children’s workshop by Black History Studies

4, 11, 18, 25 October, 1 and 8 November on Zoom

Children and parents can learn about black leaders and liberators from Marcus Garvey to Malcom X and Harriet Tubman with a number of workshops running in October and November.

Led by Charmaine Simpson of Black History Studies, the workshops will focus around black racial identity, pride and self-determination.

The workshops are aimed at young people aged 8 – 16 years old. Tickets cost £5 for each workshop.

For a full list of workshop details, visit Black history Studies’ website.

Other resources

Books exploring UK Black History
  • Black and British – A forgotten History – David Olusoga
  • Black Poppies-Britain’s Black Community and the Great War – Stephen Bourne
  • The Oxford Companion to Black British History – David Dabydeen
  • Under Fire – Black Britain In Wartime – Stephen Bourne
  • Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation – Colin Grant
  • 100 Great Black Britons – Patrick Vernon
  • Black British History: New Perspectives from Roman Times to Present Day (Blackness in Britain) – Hakim Adi