By BWV reporter Hannah Hier
Gathering in Waterstones bookshop on a sunny Thursday evening, a room full of people sat down, to listen to stories from the Windrush children, found in the recently released collection of 22 essays Mother Country. Editor of the book Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff and key contributor to the book Kemi Alemoru joined the room in exploring and making visible some of the stories of the Windrush children, as well as exploring black UK history.
Both Charlie and Kemi work at gal-dem: an online and print publication that strives to share the opinions and perspectives of women and non-binary people of colour. Kemi has previously worked for Dazed and interviewed people such as Cary Fukunaga and Spike Lee, mainly writing about pop culture and youth. Charlie is the award-winning writer, editor and columnist of Jamaican-Cuban heritage and in her writing she focuses on race, feminism and the media.
Some of the contributors to the book include Corinne Bailey Rae, Lenny Henry and David Lammy. Charlie touched upon how important it was for her that the collection included stories from a range of ages and generations of Windrush, in addition to also trying to reach out to people from a diverse range of countries and areas. Due to the convenience of Charlie’s travels she also had the oppurtunity to speak to Mark Brantley- Minister for Foriegn affairs for St Kitts and Nevis, which was great to gauge the perspective on Windrush from a different continent as Windrush affected a wide range of people from across the world.
Audience members had the chance to listen to a few extracts from the book, including Kemi’s piece about the lack of discussion around black history, especially in the North of England in places where she grew up such as Manchester. Kemi reads “So, in the absence of a decent black history curriculum in UK schools, it’s up to oral history to commemorate these experiences.”
During the discussion it was emphasised how vital and important it is to diversify the media that we consume daily and make sure that there is a range of voices that are being heard and published. For so long stories such as the Windrush have been hidden and forgotten, as Charlie told the audience that during her research she found that deportations from the UK dated back to the late 90s, showing the lack of media coverage this horrific mistreatment of British people has gotten. Charlie and Kemi talked about how important books like Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge are for people to learn about their own history as most schools are only providing white western history. Black history not being taught or even talked about in society has such a damaging impact for so many that don’t feel represented in their own country.
However with Mother Country now published and magazines like Gal-dem reaching increasing numbers of people; black history is being talked about more and more like it should have been in the first place. You can purchase Mother Country in all major bookstores as well as Amazon. Also you can read more of Kemi and Charlie’s work in gal-dem magazine by visiting www.gal-dem.com/ as well as looking out for more events organised by Bristol Festival of Ideas by visiting www.ideasfestival.co.uk/