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Personal perspectives on BHM2020: Jim Green

Posted on October 2020

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1.Tell me a bit about yourself, and your background. 

I am of mixed heritage; my Mum was a nurse in Uganda where she met my Dad who was out there doing some work on the healthcare side. From there they were thinking ‘where do we want to start our life’ and the answer was the UK. They moved to England together and my brother and I were born in Bristol. I'm someone who loves their hometown. I think it's a really progressive place, it's very multicultural, you've got people from all walks of life, all ages and I couldn’t have asked to be brought up somewhere better really. 

2. Why is it important we celebrate BHM, and black history more widely?

 I think it's important because I believe it's a celebration and it gets people talking about history, importantly British history. So often black history is only known in the terms of American black history whereas there is a lot of Black British history out there to celebrate and it can easily be forgotten. I like that it introduces stories to people who wouldn't read about it or have had a real chance to understand it, they are learning something new. I remember learning bits of BH in school but like Justin said it was very restricted. You were told you can read about it but it wasn’t compulsory, you would have to go off on your own which at a young age you just don’t, do you.

It’s giving people a different perspective, as some people have sort of a built-up anger around issues because both sides aren’t explained. An example of this is the statues in Bristol. When Bristol residents tore down the one of Colston as a country we reexamined both sides of the story for all statues. I think Colston’s statue should be removed from the bottom of the harbour, but I think it should be put in a museum. Statues are there to celebrate history and I understand all the work he did for Bristol but in modern-day life I don't think it is correct to have a statue of a slave trader who got most of his money from slavery but then the history shouldn’t be forgotten. So, I think that they belong in museums.  

3. Who has been an inspiration for you? 

Reading this question was interesting because as a young mixed-race person I didn't grow up seeing black roles models in the public arena except for footballers and musicians, there weren’t MP or other figures of strength. So, I would revert to my Mum, she came over to the UK as a nurse and she's now a senior practitioner, a clinical lead in the mental health field. She worked incredibly hard to get there. She's come across many obstacles and resistance along the way but she's always there going to work, she absolutely loves her job and she’s worked so hard to get there. She doesn’t care what people think or say and has always powered on or on the other hand she has always shown me it doesn’t bother her and powered on. So, as far as role models go, my answer will always be my Mum. 

4. Is there an unknown/untold or underrated person or story that you think people should know about?

The Bristol bus boycott of 1963, essentially there was a refusal from the Bristol omnibus company to employ Black or Asian people which was in line with many other cities throughout England. The boycott is considered to be an influential part in the Race Relations Act 1965 and then the Race Relations Act 1968 which was extended to the provisions of employment and housing. The man himself was called Norman Samuels, and he was the first black bus driver in Bristol and in 1964. Maybe it’s because I'm from Bristol that I know this story and I always see his statue in the bus station and have asked the question. There are so many untold stories, people who are just unrecognised in wider history and unless you really dig for it, you don't really find out.

5. Which part of history needs a different perspective? 

Here I’ve thought about the learning I’ve gained recently from what I've been watching or reading. One which everyone knows is ‘Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. I've only just started it, but essentially it’s a modern take on black history, so far it’s definitely a must read for everyone as it just throws out so many thought provoking stats and facts. 

My other recommendation would be ‘Sitting in Limbo’ which is about the Windrush scandal. It’s a really interesting drama based on a true story about a man who got caught up in the Windrush scandal. His mum had come over originally and then lost her passport, but he'd subsequently been there for 51 years. Then because he didn't have a National Insurance number was forced to leave and ended up spending years in a detention centre in Dover. It's a really tough watch because he’s just this normal man, he's got all these friends, he has an East End accent and people just don't want to help him, treating him instead as an illegal immigrant. It's scary because it gives you a sense of if you can lose your citizenship you lose who you are. It’s like being Black British, is it the same as being British which I think will always be a question. For me I was born here and I’m as British as anyone, but on forms I have to put white black African as that is the category I normally fall in to. I think race and nationality are very different, I watched something a good ten years ago about being British that talked to different people in different areas, one was black, someone who wore a hijab, and they would go to these typically ‘British’ places like a British pub for example, and then they asked the question ‘do you think I'm British?’; there were mixed responses but really the question should have been “why aren’t I British and why do you feel you can assume identity?”.

6. Who would join you at a celebration for BHM? 

Raheem Sterling I think he is great role model for young black people in England. He's always got so much to say so I see him as a great person to have around a table at a party in celebration of BHM.  

Sir Lenny Henry He is really my earliest memory of, and still definitely is, the most famous black British comedian. He was all over the TV when I was younger and again, if you’ve got somebody at a dinner party, you need someone who can make you laugh.

Reggie YatesHe was another face who I grew up with on TV and I think that he'd be great to invite to the party. 

Mary SeacoleShe was a great lady. I’d want to invite her so I could speak to her and then feed back to my mum.