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The not so well known heroes of UK black history

As October begins, so does Black History Month.

As this year has shown us, the conversation and fight for equality is still a fight still being fought and as we all take this time to reflect and seek what we need to do to in order to support the black community, MRM look at heroes who may not be well known for their contribution to the UK, people who have been inspirational figures and shaped who we have become and what the UK can be thankful for.
Every Monday and throughout the whole of October we will be updating this article with submissions from MRMers celebrating UK Black History

Week 1

Submitted by Adam Gregory, HR Coordinator

Dr. Harold Moody

Dr. Harold Moody (1882-1947) emigrated from Jamaica to London in 1904 to study medicine at King’s College and after passing at the top of his class, was denied work at a hospital because of his race. In 1913, Moody established his own medical practice in Peckham to serve the local community and made his home open to others who faced the same prejudice he had experienced.

If you’re near the area, I’d recommend passing by Moody’s former home and medical practice to read more about one of the most influential and inspiring men the area has seen.

Moody spent his life fighting for the rights of Black people as one of the founders of the League of Coloured Peoples and is credited as being central to the campaign for the landmark Race Relations Act in 1965.

On 1st September 2020, Google UK celebrated Moody in Doodle form, a Q&A with the artist and early concept sketches can be found here.

Submitted by Agatha O’Neill, Creative Designer and Chairperson of MRM’s Sounding Board

Chris Ofili

I remember the first time I heard about Chris Ofili. I was at art college at the time and he came up in conversation – I had no idea who he was, and my ignorance was met with a big mocking guffaw, which for those of you who know me, encouraged me to dive into an obsessive search of all things Ofili. He was mentioned initially because of his use of elephant dung in his art practice, which we found funny (of course), but also quite inspiring (let’s use ALL. THE. THINGS. TO. CREATE. Just like Ofili does!)

In my mad search, I found mesmerising beauty. I found that he was the first black artist to win the prestigious Turner Prize, that he was also the first painter to win in over 10 years at the time (a very impressive feat in itself). I also found that he was considered to be part of the YBAs, a group of super-influential and cool artists, and that his work was insanely varied, exciting and colourful – and I fell madly in love.

It is currently Black History Month. And whilst looking at the UK’s long and not always very kind history, I feel lucky. Lucky to have grown up in a country with such a diverse and exciting cultural identity, and lucky that this diversity has enabled me to be influenced by the incredible and exciting artwork of a British artist such as Ofili. Without him, I may never have found my way to becoming the creative I am today.

Week 2

Submitted by Kat Jennings, New Business and Marketing Manager

Mary Prince

Women of change have always been a great interest to myself and one woman who started the evolution of equality for anti slavery and women’s rights was Mary Prince.

Born in 1788 to an enslaved family in Bermuda, she was sold from person to person, all abusive and treating her terribly. After arriving in Antigua, Mary saw herself being owned by the Wood Family, a place where she continued her life of slavery but the place where she would meet her husband James, a man who had been able to buy his freedom and worked as a carpenter and cooper. Meeting James gave her the hope that one day she too could be a free woman.

Unfortunately once the Wood Family found out about her relationship with James, she was severely beaten and the family moved to England, where she was able to run away and find freedom, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to return to her husband James.

After running away and escaping the turmoil and abuse Mary received, she set to campaign against slavery and work alonside the Anti Slavery Society, taking employment with Thomas Pringle, an abolitionist writer and the Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society.

As Mary campaigned to end slavery, she became the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to Parliament and later on became the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography, ‘The history of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave’.

Her autobiography became a key piece of literature to support the anti slavery campaign. Her book rose awareness of the abuse and turmoil Mary and many others, had to endure during her time of slavery and that although the Slave Trade had been made illegal, it still existed in between the cracks and the abuse.

 

Tune in next week to read more of our contributions.

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