Recently I got to spend the day with Akua Gyamfi, the founder of The British Blacklist. Many laughs were had and she even managed to wangle me into a private screening of The Florida Project. The film is fantastic and stars Willem Dafoe, who even turned up for the post-screening Q&A. MIND BLOWN.
Is this how working mums with older kids get to spend their days?!?
The British Blacklist – Our award winning ‘The British Blacklist’ is the online global home for African Caribbean British creative professionals on the Screen and Stage, in Sound and Literature – both up front and behind the scenes.
Showcasing talent from across Great Britain and the world, we pride ourselves on supporting up and coming talent alongside the industry’s elite giving everyone a platform to have an equal voice.
Featuring an extensive database of African Caribbean British creative talent with a strong features-driven core, The British Blacklist offers reviews, news and social analysis striving to bring a voice to burgeoning talent, which rarely receive any visibility.
Our service allows users to search for individuals by name or works, post casting opportunities, it acts as an online portfolio and is a source for the latest topical news from the British African and Caribbean entertainment industry from the UK and Global Diaspora.
Firstly I have to thank Akua, not only did she agree to this interview in between running her business, being interviewed by Channel 4 News and winning awards and such… but she’s also the reason that I scored major brownie points with the kids. I told Zachary that I was in the same room as Gill from Finding Nemo – well, kinda sorta. Now he really thinks I’m a super cool mum.
AKUA: I’m Akua Gyamfi and I run The British Blacklist which is a database of British Black talent and an editorial platform which celebrates British Black Talent in the Arts.
SARETA: So what does The British Blacklist stand for?
AKUA: It’s a celebration of us… I think we as (Black Brits) have been underrepresented and under celebrated, so I created a space where we do that; we celebrate.
SARETA: What does Black History Month mean to you, and I mean REALLY. No media trained response please.
AKUA: Black History Month means eff all…
AKUA: I recognise the importance of it and I don’t totally dismiss it, but I’m also like, oh please! We’re Black 360 days of the year… there’s 360 days, right?
SARETA: Um, no… there’s 365 *laughs*
AKUA: Oh yeah, that’s the word…
SARETA: *Laughs* You mean number! *Laughs*
AKUA: Other years I’ve been more engaged. It’s been spirit and community lifting. It’s been inspiring and it definitely forces the mainstream to take notice of us. But this year, for some reason I’ve felt a bit blasé about it.
I revamped an article written by Tafadzwa Shakara Mbandaka (ShakaRa for short) about the origins of Black History Month which reinforces its importance and why it was started. But, other than that I’ve rebelled a bit. I haven’t wanted to share any new articles that specifically say ‘Black History Month’ unless it’s totally unavoidable. I’m annoyed, because it’s frustrating that there are so many great events in the calendar this month that to get to everything is nuts, it’s all clashing, every weekend- it’s jam packed.
This is what’s also frustrating because in the Arts world, they continuously say we don’t know where to find Black talent, we don’t know the Black stories, we don’t know who’s doing what. Yet somehow, miraculously, come October they manage to find an abundance of Black History Month things to put on. All the mainstream places are putting on events, plays and films; all this support! Then the rest of the year they act like, oh my god, it’s so difficult finding diverse people and their stories. Which is why this year I’m in piss off mode.
That’s why this year I’m going to continue as normal because we’re Black anyway. The British Blacklist celebrates British Black Arts and that’s it. Maybe next year I’ll be back on it, but this year I’m annoyed.
SARETA: With that, what do you think about this sudden diversity trend?
AKUA: Diversity initiatives are great if they’re long term and ongoing.
With projects that are diversity lead, or inspired, then let it be longstanding. Don’t let it be a thing where it’s put on for one week only, then it’s back to business where nothing changes. The problem now is that there are not enough Black people in the industry behind the scenes. There aren’t enough Black people in the position of power to put on things that tell our story for the longevity. Everything is just a short-lived pilot, or a short-lived series.
I still find with Black narratives with diversity, we get put in positions of singularity. My longstanding comment is Luther being alone in his world with no Black friends, no girlfriend, no nothing.
Then in the name of diversity and inclusion you’ll get a few actors dotted about in shows or films, but again they’re rarely in Black relationships – from friends, love interests and family, especially on the mainstream platforms, singularity. The other issue is when Black creators do get given a chance, they’re made to feel that they have to diversify and not make the story ‘too Black’, so again, we don’t get to tell our stories in our truth.
So whilst diversity initiatives are great at getting the industry to take action we still have a problem with long term resolution and getting diverse creatives in positions of power where we can get to control our narratives. It’s a catch-22 and we shouldn’t still be talking about diversity and inclusion in 2017.
SARETA: Thank you for your honest answers Akua, it was a pleasure to have you.
Since I like to give our readers a balance of serious and informative information, along with a bit of fun and entertainment- here’s a short quick fire interview with Akua. Boy, we covered a lot that day…