Blackness in Britain: Beyond the Black Atlantic

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ELSS Sch of Social Sciences

Abstract

There is a crisis in British higher education, in terms of the lack of representation of Black (African and African Caribbean) scholars and knowledges. Only 1.1% of British born academics are Black and the academy has largely marginalised the experiences and contributions of Black communities. This gap in academic knowledge is important because it means that society has not fully accounted for the impacts of its diversity. The marginalisation of Black experiences has consequences not just for the equality agenda but, more importantly, for knowledge production. If a significant section on the population is locked out of academia then the knowledge produced is itself exclusionary. It is no surprise, then, that the policy agenda and discourse is so discriminatory when the knowledge upon which it is based is so exclusionary.

The Blackness in Britain: Beyond the Black Atlantic research network will seek to redress this marginalisation by bringing together an interdisciplinary range of academics, activists and artists who will engage in conferences, workshops and symposiums exploring Black life in Britain, and making links across the African Diaspora. A specific aim for of the network will be to explore aspects of the history of Black populations in the UK and also the contribution of the Black Arts movement to both activism and knowledge. We also intend to explore beyond the concept of the Black Atlantic, which has focused discussion on English speaking African Diasporas. The aim of the network is to produce fully establish a Black Studies professional association and peer reviewed journal, which can continue to develop work in the area of Black Studies after the completion of the project. The topics covered during the two year project will include:

October 2016: Symposium: Black Studies and British Higher Education. This first symposium will begin framing the interdisciplinary area of discipline of Black Studies and developments moving forward.

March 2017: Symposium: The Black Mediterranean and the Migrant Crisis. In this session will try to connect Black Studies in Britain to the migrant crisis, by using the concept of the Black Mediterranean in conversation with scholars and activists.

June 2017: Conference: Connecting Blackness in Britain to Latin America. A key focus of the research network is to connect Black experiences in Britain with parts of the African Diaspora with weaker connections to British scholarship. Latin America is a particular area of focus for this reason, especially because it has the largest African Diaspora.

November 2017: Symposium: Black Arts Movement. Black artists and writers have played a key role in Black communities in Britain, connecting to activism and filling the gap created by academic marginalisation. Making connections to Black artists and academic are essential for Black Studies.

March 2018: Reconnecting to the Francophone Caribbean. The work of scholars such as Franz Fanon and Aime Cesaire has been influential on Black Studies in Britain. We therefore aim to rebuild connections to the Francophone Caribbean.

June 2018: Book writing workshop: The Challenge for Black Studies. This workshop will produce the framework for a book that explores the themes of the series by bringing together key participants from the network.

The aim is for the journal that will be established during the project to publish special issues on the first 3 events. The journal will be academically rigorous but also written in non-technical language and fully open access to gain the widest possible readership. The final event will be a workshop that brings together contributors for a book 'The Challenge for Black Studies', which will be published as part of the 'Blackness in Britain' book series edited by the principal investigator. We also intend that by bringing scholars together through the series a number of research collaborations will be fostered through the network.

Planned Impact

The Black Studies that we are developing in the UK is rooted in the idea of embedding academic research within wider publics and therefore the research network will have a number of tangible impacts beyond academia. Some of those who will directly benefit from the research include:

Collectives of Black artists. The project will directly engage with collectives of Black artists throughout. This will involve providing platforms for the dissemination of their work during the series. The aim for the specific event on the Black Arts Movement is to develop collaborations between artists and academics, which will also positively impact on the work of the artists.

The founding of the journal will also offer space for artists to publish and publicise their work, which will be ongoing. This dedicated space will also positively impact the artists by broadening out the reach of their work.

Community Organisations. Activists from community organisations will be invited to participate in all of the events of the series, with the aim for the knowledge gained from the project being directly impactful in the work of organisations. A key aim of the interactions will also be to create collaborations between academics and community organisations that directly benefit the activism. This can be through knowledge exchange, resource support or from putting in bids for research projects that engage with the organisations. One of the outcomes we plan for the series is to produce concrete mechanisms for connecting these collaborations to emerge.

Publics outside academia. One of the premises upon which this application is built is the marginalisation of Black experiences and contributions in British academia. This absence has an impact on knowledge, which the project is attempting to address and will have impact on wider publics.

One of the major impacts will be on Black communities who will have spaces to engage with their history and experiences. This will be true of the events within the series and also through engaging with the open access journal that will be created in the course of the project. This recognition from academia cannot be understated as it is an opportunity for Black communities to engage in critical discussions that are few venues for elsewhere. The potential for creating work and projects that can have a direct impact on Black communities is a key feature of why we are building Black Studies.

As critical as we may be of the elitist nature of knowledge production that places academic knowledge at the pinnacle; this remains the reality in society. Therefore the marginalisation of Black life has a negative impact on understandings, discourse and ultimately policy towards Black communities. We intend to begin to redress this deficit by locating Black Studies within academia, supported by a professional organisation and peer reviewed journal that offers a rigorous and respected recognition of Black experiences. We intend for the impact of this to be felt across the academic disciplines and eventually on policy agendas as we build the basis for Black Studies going forward. This specific project is a key building block in establishing Black Studies, which will allow the discipline to have these more far reaching impacts going forward.

International publics. By engaging with work from Latin America, continental Europe and the Francophone Caribbean we also hope to have influence on international publics by creating collaborations with scholars and artists in these regions. The Black Mediterranean event is a good example of potential influences as one of the aims is to use a cultural studies concept to bring together activists who have previously not engaged with the migrant crisis. The aim is to build connections and collaborations that can lead to work that supports migrants and migrant issues in a broader context. By building these kinds of alliances the research network can have an international influence.

Publications

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Description We have developed an international network of Black Studies scholars and activists, which includes people working in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. This network has enabled knowledge transfer and collaborative to be developed including the outputs attached to the grant and future projects. We are also still in the stages of launching the Black Studies journal, which will be a platform previously under researched projects.

A central finding from the network has been how build an association of scholars, activists and policy makers that can produce further research in the future. By bringing in such a diverse range of participants we have built an association that have bought about different ways of working. One of these has been the format of events and conferences in order to maximise the engagement during the process. We have moved away from written papers, and mixed up academic papers with non-academic presentations. We also used a format for events where we started after lunch and ran the programme into the evening and using the weekend. This meant that we were able to invite those who had to work could attend the majority of the sessions. we also provided an evening meal which became a key way to build community.

A major impact of our work has been to provide a basis for those from Africa or the African Diaspora to organise in European academia. In the UK Blackness has typically been designated as based on all those who are not White. In continental Europe Blackness is not recognised by policy makers, nor largely in academia. The network has contributed to the wider movement to build the capacity for research and collaborations rooted in the perspectives, contributions and experiences of those of African Descent. As a result of the network we have built lasting collaborations for future research.
Exploitation Route The network is a resource to develop collaborative projects. For example we are now organising a summer school in Germany and have plans for a conference in Ghana. By connecting people across the diaspora together researchers will be able to use these links to explore a range of topics in an interdisciplinary nature. The legacy of the project is a sustainable association that will produce research for years to come.

We envisage the academic partners pursuing research collaborations in conjunction with the activists and policy makers that we have connected together in the network. The outputs from the journal will also beneficial to future research and also to a wider range of participants. The journal will be open access and published in an engaging and accessible style so that it can be used by activists and policy makers as well as academics. The research network has allowed us to develop the first special issues for the journal.

We are now planning to use the network to create a global Black Studies curriculum that can be accessible to all. Without the network we would not have had the international; networks necessary to do this work. Out of this project a number of initiatives will emerge in the future.

We have also won the Evens Education Prize for Research 2020 based off work that we did in the research programme. The result is that we received recognition and also funding for a podcast that will explore the findings of the research network. We will be drawing on the networks created in the process of the project and aim for the project to widen the dissemination of the research findings.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.blackstuies.org.uk
 
Description The events that have been the foundation of the project have brought in over 1000 people who have been members of the public, third sector leaders, policy makers and practitioners. The knowledge transfer has been key in shaping the practice of those who have attended. This knowledge exchange is a key route to impact given the breadth of audience we have brought into the project. For instance at our Re-engaging Pan-Africanism project we had a presentation from a school teacher on how she worked with Black young women in her class. The conference was a space where she tested ideas and got new ones from the participants. At the same conference we had a presentation by a community organisation who does counselling. They were also able to develop their ideas in discussion with participants. Both also developed their knowledge in relation to the other papers presented. We have countless example of such kinds of impact. The events were a tool of disseminating knowledge to wider publics and connecting academia to the world of practice and policy. We engaged with the following community organisations: Black Archives Amsterdam Black Cultural Archives London Each One Teach One Berlin Black Liberation Front Pan African Congress Movement Pan Afrikan Reparations Coalition Europe Alkebulan Revivalist Movement Black Lives Matter Pattigift Therapy Boukman Academy Black Child Agenda As well as the impact on third sector organisations practitioners the project also had an impact on the policy level. As a direct result of the project I was invited to consult on the Fundamental Rights Agency report for the EU on Black Europe, which is being used as a key resource for policy makers when deliberating future race relations policy. The report has bee circulated to all leaders of EU countries and will be influential in policy making. Migration has become one of the most policy areas in Europe and this report will be influential in the directions of policy going forward. The report and work around it also contributed to the European Parliament resolution of 26 March 2019 on the fundamental rights of people of African descent in Europe (2018/2899 (RSP). A similar resolution was also submitted to the US Congress H.Res.256 - Recognizing people of African descent and Black Europeans
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description EU Resolution on Fundamental Rights of People of African Descent on 26 March 2019
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact The UK is one one of the only countries in Europe to recognise race as a formal category, collecting data in order to understand racial inequality. The result is that in continental Europe there Blackness (those of African descent) are not formally recognised. The only government measures for collecting data on ethnicity are if a grandparent was an immigrant, but this makes the millions of those in the third generation invisible in the data. I was invited to consult on the Being Black in Europe report by the European Fundamental Rights Agency in March 2018 and one of the major outcomes was to explain this problem with the data and narrative. The problem is that when Black Europeans are missing they are treated as immigrants in policy agendas and societal attitudes. Following on from the consultancy I was also incited to take part in the People of African Descent Week at the EU Parliament in May 2018, which was organised to further stress these themes. One of the outcome from that event was the successful passing of the Resolution on Fundamental Rights of People of African Descent on 26 March 2019 by the EU Parliament. The initial outcome of this resolution is to raise awareness about Black people in Europe and then to encourage nation state governments to pass legislation that recognises the experiences and challenges that are faced. This is not only a problem in countries that do not recognise Blackness. The UK collects statistics that consistently show that those African descent are at the bottom of most social indicators. The EU Resolution raises awareness of the problem and also puts the onus on European governments to address racial inequality and specifically anti-Blackness.
URL https://ec.europa.eu/migrant-integration/news/european-parliament-adopts-resolution-on-fundamental-r...
 
Description University of Ponta Grossa Brazil 
Organisation Ponta Grossa State University
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Professor Aparecida De Jesus Ferreira spoke at the Black Education for Liberation Conference 2017. Since then we have partnered up with university in Brazil and will be sending a delegation of staff and students to convene a three week summer school in Brazil in summer 2019. We will be leading sessions on the summer school as well as participating in the activities. The summer school is based a three different institutions in Brazil
Collaborator Contribution Our partners in Brazil will be leading sessions for the summer school and supporting us with accommodation whilst there. They are also helping us with our research endeavours whilst we are in Brazil.
Impact Summer School in Brazil, summer 2019 Potentially research collaborations in the future.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Black Education for Liberation: In Dialogue with Latin America 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact From 2-4 November we held the Black Education for Liberation: In Dialogue with Latin America conference at Birmingham City University. We brought together a range of scholars and activists from the UK, continental Europe, United States and Latin America. The conference consisted of keynotes, panel discussions, papers, performances and discussions. We also provided scholarships for early career researchers. Over the three days we attracted over 150 people from the general public, scholars, practitioners and the third sector. Selected papers from the conference will be used to form a special issue for the new journal to be launched from the project. Many connections were built between attendees, with collaborations in developing both within the project and outside of it. One of the most concrete outcomes was the setting up of an exchange programme between Birmingham City University and UEPG Pointa Grosse in Brazil. We also used the opportunity to have a meeting of the Black Studies Association
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.blackstudies.org.uk/research-network/black-education-for-liberation/
 
Description Black Studies Association meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In April 2017 we brought together a meeting of 12 scholars, activists and practitioners who wanted to be part of the Black Studies Association. The meeting was framed around organising the Black Education for Liberation conference, which ran later in the year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Black Studies Journal meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In May 2018 we will be holding a meeting of the editorial board of the Black Studies journal we are launching from the project. This will include international representation and be iin launching the journal later in the year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Blackness at the Intersection 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact From June 9-10 we will be holding a book writing retreat 'Blackness at the Intersection'. In terms of going beyond the Black Atlantic, exploring how Blackness intersects with other oppression is vital. We have invited contributions form a range of academics and early career researchers, as well as activists to contribute to an edited collection, 'Blackness at the Intersection. The co-editors of the book are Dr Kehinde Andrews, Prof Kimberle Crenshaw, Prof Devon Carbado and early career research Annabel Wilson. This is a key meeting to produce one of the key outputs from the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Blackness, Music and Religion 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In May 2018 we are organising a one day symposium on Blackness Music and Religion. In going beyond the Black Atlantic, building on the work on music and combining with a exploration of religion is vital. One of the limiting factors of the Black Atlantic was its lack of engagement with spiritual forms of Blackness that have been so important on the continent of Africa and in the Diaspora. Over 100 people from the general public, academia, activists and practitioners are expected to attend the event. This will boost the research network and Black Studies Association, making connections for future research. We may also use some of the papers form the day for the journal that comes out of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Fundamental Rights Agency (EU) consultancy on Black Europe 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact In March 2018 Dr Kehinde Andrews was invited to consult on the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report into Black Europe for the EU. The FRA conducted MIDIS-II the most significant piece of research into racism across Europe. They are writing a report on Black Europe for the EU council and because of this project Dr Kehinde Andrews was invited to consult. His expertise was used to help shape the nature of the report and is an ongoing relationship with the agency. Focusing on Black Europe massively expand from the limitations of the Black Atlantic and also has the potentially to influence the policy framework of the EU and how it engages with its Black citizens.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://fra.europa.eu/en/project/2015/eu-midis-ii-european-union-minorities-and-discrimination-survey
 
Description Re-engaging Pan-Africanism 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over 200 people attended the Re-engaging Pan-Africanism conference that took place December 6-8 at Birmingham City University, funded by the AHRC project. The three day conference included speakers from Britain, Europe, South Africa, Ghana and the United States. We sparked interest and debate in the idea of Pan-Africanism and agreed to plan to arrange a follow on conference in Ghana in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.blackstudies.org.uk/research-network/re-engaging-pan-africanism/
 
Description Rethinking Pan-Africanism for the 21 Century 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In September 2018 the final event of the project will be a major international conference on 'Rethinking Pan-Africanism'. In terms of developing on form the limitations of the Black Atlantic engaging with the African continent is vitally important. We will bring together participants from the African continent, continental Europe, the UK and Francophone Caribbean, as well as supporting early career researchers. The conference will significantly build the global research of the network and will also be a launch pad for the Black Studies Association in terms of getting members and support. Selected papers from the conference will also be used for the newly founded Black Studies journal. We expect over 150 delegates from across the globe.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The Black Mediterranean in Action 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Black Mediterranean in Action was the first public meeting of the project where we brought together a number of scholars, activists, doctoral students for a one day symposium. the participants included representatives from continental Europe, America, Eritrea and the UK. On the first day Friday 9th June, we held a private session for the participants in order to work on the papers and also prepare for the special issue of the journal that will emerge form the project. On the second day we opened up to the public and over 75 people from the general public, activists groups and practitioners attended the session. The sessions generated excellent debate and discussion and we had direct impact on a local practitioner group who work with migrants and used the lesson from the day to frame their practice. The papers form the symposium are being complied for a special issue o the journal, which will be freely available and we will target policy makers and third sector groups, as well as academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.blackstudies.org.uk/research-network/black-mediterranean/
 
Description The Pan-African Black Panther 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On 16th March Kathleen Cleaver, formerly of the Black Panther Party will be presenting on her work across the African Diaspora at, Birmingham City University. The talk has drawn over 250 people in the general public, activists, scholars and practitioners. We are also hosting an invite only dinner before the event to solidify and make connections for the Black Studies Association and build networks.The impact of the event will be to change the audience perceptions of Blackness and also to build future networks. We are also planning to interview Kathleen Cleaver for the journal that will arise from the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.blackstudies.org.uk/research-network/the-pan-african-black-panther/
 
Description What Realy Happened in Grenada? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On March 20th Bernard Coard, once part of the Revolution in Grenada will present at Birmingham City University. The aim is to add depth to our understanding of Blackness by shedding light on neglected aspects of the Diaspora. The talk is estimated to attract 75 members of the general pubic, activists and practitioners in order to continue to build the research network. The main impact will be changing the view of the audience of Grenada and the importance of the island in understanding Blackness. It will also add to the growing Black Studies Association.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018