Photo by Oladimeji Odunsi
Alongside the ever-popular Halloween that the month of October celebrates, it also commemorates Black History Month – remembering the lives of Black individuals and their cultures, through years of persecution, prejudice, and racism. 2020 is a unique and timely year to recognise this, largely owing to the murder of George Floyd in May. This contributed to the Black Lives Matter campaign, which soon became a widespread conversation lasting to this day, where white privilege and racist attitudes have become questioned more than ever. Now, when the arts and culture is also at threat, we can turn to this to educate ourselves as well as entertain, as Black identities are given the voice they deserve. To recognise and celebrate diversity on our TV screens, here are just a few recommendations to engage in now (and not just this month alone!):
Documentary: Alison Hammond’s Back to School (ITV hub)
Going back to the beginning, one of the biggest debates currently is how Black history has been overlooked – and forgotten- in our national curriculum. Chirpy presenter Alison Hammond goes back in time to uncover stories of Black figures left out of the history books. From the first Black Roman Emperor, to Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole, she seeks to educate and inform viewers of the true Black history buried deep within Great Britain – that only needs to be dug out for all to see as something that unites us all.
Documentary: Enslaved (BBC Two/iPlayer)
The legendary Samuel L. Jackson embarks on a journey that examines the most notorious and often uncomfortable source of Britain’s economic wealth – the business of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Over a series of four episodes he and journalists Afua Hirsch and Simcha Jacobovici go between the lines to find the missing individuals, from being sold, to transported as human cargo, and to see if they survived working on the land bound to their owners.
Drama: Anthony (BBC iPlayer)
For something that resonates with the current attitudes towards racism, try Jimmy McGovern’s recent film Anthony, reimagining the life of a black man murdered in a racist attack in 2005.
Drama: The Long Song (BBC)
If I were to choose a drama in recent years that profoundly impacted me, it would be this brilliant three-part miniseries from 2018, repeated recently on BBC Four. Adapted from the award-winning novel by the late Andrea Levy, we follow the fortunes and survival of a young female plantation slave named July in 1830s Jamaica. Its biting wit and comedic tone laced with gritty realism leads you on an incredible human journey of bravery and strength, forming a unique period drama that feels modern in style but also incredibly authentic.