I work as the Heritage and Black History officer sitting under the Library team with the determination to continue the great work I could already see be seen being done in Hammersmith and Fulham borough. Attending a meeting with leading councillors in the borough in November, indicated to me how much of a forward-looking borough Hammersmith & Fulham is, how seriously black history was being taken and making sure every resident feel seen was to them.
Working with groups within the borough that actually organised the great events I saw had happened, the education department (especially Jan Parnell, Keith Fernandes, Rosie Peters, Shanee Naidoo, and Sally Brooks to name a few), the Race Equality working group( LBHF Staff members Waheeda Soomro, Peter Parkin, Neema Lyimo, and Yvonne Okiyo), Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team(Yvonne and Charis), libraries (Steve, Val, Mandy, Ann, Claire, Cathy and Richard especially) , local schools, and community based organisations like Nubian Life only confirmed that impression.
My role is to make the heritage and history of the borough more easily accessible for borough residents and in general.
This means I deliver educational programs for schools and adults alike. I also do outreach work which involves working with various groups across the borough e.g. older people and young people.
I work closely with various stakeholders and organisations the borough to realise the objectives described above e.g. elected members, officers across the borough, equality leads, libraries, residents, community groups.
One of the core values of Hammersmith & Fulham council is to involve residents more, as well as make sure that all the great history and present work in the borough can be seen and understood easily. So I worked to create a special ‘Celebrating Hammersmith & Fulham: a borough like no other’ chart and online timeline as an ‘one stop shop’ infographic. In this way everyone can see all the great things happening across the borough.
During this time I completed the sterling work done by the Events Team and many others, especially Colin Salmon, Catherine Field, on the Black History trail. This was an initiative from the councillors to celebrate the world shaping Black History of the borough that has seen figures such as Bob Marley, Fela Akuti, Mahamta Ghandhi, Amy and Marcus Garvey, Labi Siffre as residents in Hammersmith & Fulham. Four trails were developed in all, the first of which, the first of which can be seen here: Heritage trail 1 | LBHF
I created a timeline detailing Hammersmith & Fulham’s history from 3000BCE where the earliest evidence of Neolithic peoples were starting to populate the Fulham riverside area was discovered until current day. Highlights include the opening of the Westfield shopping centre, Riverside studios and the Chelsea Football Club.
I managed to convince the British Library to loan books out to the borough so pupils can visit locations close by to see them. For example, the first edition of Mary Seacoles memoirs, an illustrious resident, who is buried in the borough and was featured as a Black History character for the month of February – Black historical figure spotlight | LBHF – (her burial place is also part of a trail). Similar opportunities are being explored with the British Museum.
I completed a Black Literature timeline for The British Library. The timeline explores the history of Black literature and writing in Britain in 50 texts. It includes works by writers living and working in Britain, as well as titles first published here and authored by people who were born in former British colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and Americas.
The aim is to feature more residents great work in the future and encourage residents to lead as this chart is updated at regular intervals. Celebrating H&F: A borough like no other | LBHF
I also collaborate with different teams across the council to deliver events across the borough that promote all dimensions of the boroughs rich heritage.
Race Equality Week
I worked with the Race Equality Working Group to produce a series of events for Race Equality week which ran from 7-11 January. Amongst an impressive array of speakers, the Heritage department managed to get Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Yemisi Iiesanmi, and Professor Kehinde Andrews (who runs the only Black history university department in the UK at Birmingham university) to speak.
Why race equality matters
by Professor Kehinde Andrews
Monday 7 February
Race equality within the Metropolitan Police
by Superintendent Paul Wilson
Tuesday 8 February
Hearing from an LGBTQ+ perspective
by Yemisi Ilesanmi
Wednesday 9 February
My life experience in the NHS
by Dame Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu (OBE)
Friday 11 February
Everyone who attended the sessions agreed they were inspiring and eye opening in turn.
Alex Wheatle Interview
I arranged an interview with award winning writer Alex Wheatle. Alex Wheatle has written 17 books to date including Brixton Rock, Liccle Bit, Cane Warriors and his most recent, Kemosha of the Caribbean. Alex’s life had been featured on Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series on BBC.
In the interview, Alex tells us about his career and how An Inspector Calls and Robin Hood were his favourite books in school and what he is reading these days.
International Women’s Day
International Women’s day happens in March and the theme for 2022 was Break the Bias. The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team organised lots of amazing events including an International Women’s SLT Panel Event and Equalities Lunch and Learn. I helped arrange a panel discussion, chaired by Cllr Fennimore(H&F Deputy Leader) with acclaimed speaker Angela Saini, author and TV presenter, along with Dame Elizabeth Aniuonwu.
The event took place on Tuesday 8 March at 7pm in an online session over Teams. Angela spoke on her books Inferior and Superior and her experience of being a woman in STEM. Dame Elizabeth discussed her life : growing up in her town, working in nursing, sickle-cell patients and her books Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union and Dreams From My Mother.
I produced content that can be sued in local school and by teachers, or for anyone who wishes to learn more about their local heritage. These include History lessons, and monthly Black History characters. I also worked closely with a number of schools and teachers to give talks and other events.
I participated in the borough’s presenting sessions “The power of representation” in January (organised by Jan Parnell and Keith Fernandes) which explored how diversity can equip our children for future challenges giving them pride in the place they live.
I invited Rosie Peters, Deputy Head, from Wendell Park school to speak at a British Museum event I had been invited to speak at titled, “Surfacing African and African Diaspora stories’. Rosie spoke so eloquently for her school, for the great work being done in the borough, that the Museum said it would happy to work more closely with schools on various projects bringing history to life for children in Hammersmith & Fulham.
I spoke at a Primary school event for History and Geography teachers where they made aware of all the resources that are available from the Heritage office (including lesson plans aimed at involving children in trails and so on). The idea of how the Queens Platinum Jubilee could be an opportunity to discuss life in Britain over the last 70 years was discussed and aligned this with the various celebrations across the borough.
I also gave a talk to Fulham Cross Academy at an outstanding event organised by Vishanee Naidoo and Sally Brooks. At the meeting made staff aware of all the great opportunities to make pupils proud of the rich heritage of the borough and in doing so increase their confidence.
I made contact with all the football clubs in the borough Chelsea, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers to tie in their activities with local residents, schools and support local initiatives more closely.
Honouring our Resident’s Achievements
The unveiling of a plaque to the memory of notable, Esther Bruce, took place on the 10 March with Nubian Life residents attending. Esther’s autobiography, The Sun Shone on Our Side of the Street: Aunt Esther’s Story – was the first biography to chronicle the life of a working-class Black, British woman.
One of the most outstanding examples of resident self organisation is typified by the work of the Nubian Life centre. Working with its Executive director, Jazz Browne, an interview was arranged with a passenger of the Empire Windrush, Jack Crosby. He spoke of his experience coming over to the UK and had many positive messages for the younger generations in Hammersmith & Fulham which will be available soon.
Looking Towards the Future
In addition, acclaimed writers Michael Rosen, Salena Godden have agreed to speak in the borough about their work at some point in the future. The film maker Steve McQueen also said he is open to the idea of speaking in Hammersmith & Fulham.
I also planning a series of online Black History Talks based on my infographic timelines for the The Guardian ,
The British Library and The British Museum .
On 28th April at 19:00 I will be talking about the work I have done to make Hammersmith & Fulham great history more accessible to all, as well as my work for The Guardian, British Library, British Museum, and National Gallery. You can get a ticket here.
Watch this space…
LBHF Heritage and Black History Officer