To mark the UK’s 32nd black history month, we’ve put the spotlight on black Britons that have left their own unique imprint in 2019.
In a variety of ways, they’ve all broken through glass ceilings to contribute to the celebration of the black British experience on the world’s stage. Here are 5 black Brits sharing a common interest in elevating the black British identity.
Currently holding ‘the potential to be one of the greatest sprinters Great Britain has ever produced’ – according to former British sprinter Darren Campbell, there is nothing less to be said of 23-year old Dina Asher-Smith. She won the 2019 world championships for the 200-meter sprint, adding to her wins in the 2018 and 2016 competitions to be named the fastest British women in history, just in time for black history month. She does admit a fear of failure in her 2018 Ted Talk, an achievement that is tucked tightly under the same belt as a history degree and an abundance of medals.
Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Dianne Abbott, finds herself praised on this occasion not just for her historical imprint as the longest-serving black MP, but for making history this year as the first black MP to represent their party in the Houses of Parliament. ‘Aunty Dianne’ (to us younger black Brits) has given over 30 years of public service and in those decades, has endured a level of public abuse no other MP has endured, but she stands uncrushed by the weight of it. In 2019, she is more poised than ever.
You might have heard. Glastonbury had its first black solo headliner this year, and it was none other than grime’s most recent ambassador Stormzy. Those of us who vigorously celebrated the mere announcement couldn’t have predicted just how much we were going to get in our lives. Stormzy used his set to bash a notoriously racist political figure, and put a spotlight on overlooked segments of UK black culture – BAME dance company ‘Ballet Black’ twirled behind as he performed some of his greatest hits. Glastonbury celebrated grime as the emblem of British black culture that it is, and Stormzy’s presence at the festival bestowed a degree of hope on Britain’s black creatives.
Perhaps best known for his invigorating monologues, David Lammy, the parliamentary powerhouse and Labour MP for Tottenham, claims a position in 2019 for continuing to fight for good for victims of the Windrush scandal. The scandal saw the UK government sign off on over 80 wrongful deportations of Caribbean citizens who were invited to help build Britain in the mid 20th century. As the only political figure to lend a voice to the Windrush generation, Lammy saw to it that individuals and departments responsible for such an immense error were held to account, like the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd. In 2019, Lammy continues to mop up the mess that still trails from Westminster.
Though it’s been two years since Edward Enniful became the first black Editor in Chief of British Vogue, he makes the list this year for continuing to use his role to intensify the presence of minorities in the fashion world. Meghan Markle has just guest-edited the September issue, but since Enniful’s appointment, black people have joined the magazine’s senior team, written for it, and graced its covers. Naomi Campbell is now a contributing editor, and Adwoa Aboah was the cover star of Edward’s first issue. British Vogue has increased its circulation when compared to what it was under the previous editor. Enniful’s direction of the magazine in 2019 continues to highlight two things; diversity sells, as do the wide range of perspectives that come with it.
Words: Abigail Scantlebury
Photo: Bugzy Talor on Flickr