Editor’s Letter | October 2023 | Black History Month
6 minutes read
October is Black History Month – a chance to highlight our heroes, celebrate the campaigners, and showcase the incredible talent, influential figures and voices that need to be heard.
As a mother: It makes me think it starts with our children. We need to question our teachers, our schools and the education system on the national curriculum that has changed little over the decades, acknowledging Britain’s historical relationship with Black people, understanding the impact of slavery, and including more diverse authors from Black literature.
Also, I’m looking into resources for home – the BBC has a good selection for younger children here.
As an editor: I follow Chinasa Chukwu, creative director of lifestyle brand Weruzo and cultural anthology POSTSCRIPT; she wrote a powerful piece on Black Lives Matter and Making Your Rage Productive in Culture Whisper – check it out here. Her POSTSCRIPT Instagram page is a revelation for women (and men) everywhere – where she highlights and supports the work of women of colour, both artists and thinkers.
As a beauty expert: Fellow journalist Funmi Fetto pens brilliant words and bestows beauty wisdom for all. Her book, Palette: The Beauty Bible for Women of Colour by Funmi Fetto (Hodder & Stoughton, £25), lifts the lid on inclusivity – something we’ve discussed when attending beauty events and launches. We’ve had an open discussion on ‘shade ranges’ and ‘decent colour matching’ for Black skin. She told The Guardian, “Despite the current talk of diversity and inclusivity, I am constantly reminded we are not there yet. While it’s wonderful that I can now find a base that won’t turn me deathly grey or cantaloupe orange, in order to really move forward, the beauty industry needs to start having conversations that go deeper than the shades of foundation.” We couldn’t agree more.
Did you miss this last year? The V&A Museum with ‘Africa Fashion‘ – explored the vitality and global impact of a fashion scene as dynamic and varied as the continent itself. information is still available online – click here.
Listening to the friends of Beauty Daily…
Aisha Singleton, Account Director at Beauty Daily by Clarins
“I have followed Kelechi Okafor on Twitter for years, and then I started following her on Instagram. She is extremely inspirational because she doesn’t shy away from speaking her truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for others to hear. To me, that is the only way things will change. Unfortunately, because of the subject matter, her posts are far from uplifting, but they highlight critical issues that the mainstream ignores.”
Books to read:
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, £7.69 – click here
Artists to discover:
Caroline Chinakwe – check the work here
Kerwin Blackburn – check out the work here
The Runnymede Trust has, for more than 50 years, worked tirelessly to build a Britain in which we all belong. The ‘Race Matters’ blog is a great resource for all, and there’s also a page for donations, so your money can go where it will make a powerful difference.
An Ode To Inspirational Black Women in History: Claudia Jones – founder of the West Indian Gazette and Notting Hill Carnival, London
by Yvonne Singh, journalist
Born in 1915, Trinidad, emigrated to the US in 1922 as a small child, deported from the US in 1955. Growing up in Harlem, NY, Jones was active in the community and many Harlem organisations.
She joined the Communist Party USA because the fight for workers’ rights and Black people’s rights held much common ground then. (The CPUSA had been instrumental in getting a fair trial for the Scottsboro boys, nine African-American teenagers accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931.)
Between 1948 and 51, as McCarthyite hysteria took hold in the US, Jones was arrested three times and interred on Ellis Island.
In 1953 she was convicted under the Smith Act, which targeted Communist Party sympathisers. She was eventually deported to the UK in 1955 (Trinidad British Colony).
In March 1958, Jones launched The West Indian Gazette and Afro-Asian Caribbean News, proclaiming in its first editorial: “There are at least 80,000 good reasons why we believe a West Indian newspaper is necessary. They are the 80,000 West Indians now resident here. Together we form a community with its own wants and problems, which our own paper alone would allow us to meet.” [i]
Jones could not have foreseen that this humble “one-leaf flyer” [ii], as she described it, would become a monthly paper with a substantial newsstand presence. Nor could she have foreseen that the likes of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, WEB Du Bois and Jamaican Prime Minister Norman Manley would grace The Gazette’s cramped offices above Theo’s Record Store at 250 Brixton Road, London.
Four months after the Gazette’s launch, the Notting Hill Riots took place over an August Bank Holiday weekend. It was here the Gazette came to the fore not just as a newspaper but as a community organisation for its people. Jones would deal with racial discrimination in areas such as housing, education, and employment.
The most memorable institution The Gazette and Jones established was the carnival in the UK. In November 1958, the paper set up a Caribbean Carnival committee with the idea of holding a showcase of West Indian talent and culture in the UK post-riots. The idea was to stage a joyous event to bring West Indians and their non-Caribbean friends together as an act of defiance against the strife and division that had marked the summer’s riots.
The first ever Caribbean Carnival was held indoors at St Pancras Town Hall in January 1959 – the event was a great success and was filmed by the BBC.
In other news…
The mantra of the Month:
Did You Miss?
Here are the tips, tricks and products to help you stay healthy – click here
What I’m looking forward to in October?
Halloween and the spooky season. It’s my birthday, and I spotted this on The Mixer – Japanese cocktails – the perfect combo for our sushi supper. And getting made-up with inspiration from our Beauty Daily team who have advice on how to achieve a look that ‘screams’ Halloween, but is sultry and cool, not scary. Check it out here. Or how try black or dark lipsticks to instantly spookily your look. I promise – no special effects or too much make-up mastery needed.
[i] Why a Paper for West Indians, 80,000 Good Reasons, Claudia Jones, p1, West Indian Gazette, March 1958 [ii] Claudia Jones, A Life in Exile, by Marika Sherwood, p126, Lawrence & Wishart 1999
For any editorial enquiries please do reach out to me, Sarah Joan Ross,