Story and Photos by Ashton Broden Data News Weekly Contributor
London, U.K. – – The struggles and triumphs of Black people transcend national boundaries, echoing shared experiences that resonate far beyond geographical lines. Black British Scholars and public professionals revealed their fight against ongoing issues that their Black community continues to face.
“For Black Studies, we need a space defined by our scholarship and knowledge,” said Kehinde Andrews, a Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University. Andrews discussed systemic racism in the U.K. with Xavier University of Louisiana students and faculty who visited there from Sept. 7th through Sept. 13th, developing exchanges with Black British organizations and academic programs.
Andrews explained that most schools do not teach the full history of the U.K.’s exploitation of Africa and involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. “Most universities have African studies and Caribbean studies but the history of both of those are colonialism, the White gaze,” Andrews added. His latest book published in September 2023, titled “The Psychosis of Whiteness,” explores how deeply rooted racism is in many parts of British culture and society.
“Seeing the resistance Black Brits make every day to colonial forces is inspiring, especially considering the inspiration they take from African American institutions and culture,” said Katherine Jones, a senior, Neuroscience major at Xavier, who participated in the visit to the U.K. that was coordinated by Xavier’s Exponential Honors Program. “Going to the United Kingdom was a transformative experience; as students we’re able to see global Blackness in the context of a colonial power,” said Jones, a native of Brandon, Miss.
Most Black children who grow up in the U.K. often first gain an appreciation of their Black History, culture, and identity at home. Community projects like London’s Boukman Academy were designed to provide children and young people with a deeper knowledge about their racial past. “I’m interested in race consciousness and understanding history,” said Tyrone Smith, who founded the Boukman Academy. “I always had this foundation from an artistic point of view of why things were happening the way they were,” Smith said.
Racial awareness is important to address disparities in public services, particularly in the U.K.’s National Health Service, shared Elsie Gayle, a midwife for over 30 years, who has worked to address Black Maternal Health Disparities in the U.K. and with the United Nations. “We get no help,” Gayle said, as she shared how pregnant Black women are often ignored or ostracized during pregnancy, through the birthing experience, and in post-partum care.
“[We see] from the research, from the people working in the field, that it completely neglects the institutional racism that’s evident within our NHS and that’s really what drives people’s outcomes,” said Dharmi Kapadia, a Lecturer and Researcher at The University of Manchester.
Advocates and scholars hope that in empowering communities they can address the disparities Black British people face. “I realized that minoritized groups find community even in a place like England, where only 3-percent of the population is Black,” said Anthony Thompson, a senior, Chemistry, Pre-Medicine major at Xavier who participated in the exchange to the U.K. “Being Black in Britain is even more an isolated experience than in the United States. Even so, amongst the 32 boroughs of London, I found that community was formed not because of oppression but because of the collective need and desire for community amongst minoritized peoples,” Thompson said.