by Finn White, Engagement Officer – Communities
For the past few months, we’ve been gathering people’s thoughts on Bristol’s Black History stories: what people want to read and who they think should be represented. We still want lots more responses, but the results are already really interesting.
It must first be said that so far, fewer than half of respondents have identified themselves as Black. This is definitely less than ideal. We welcome responses from everyone, but would love to hear more from communities that aren’t well represented in our own staff (which, let’s be honest, is conspicuously White). If you can share the survey more effectively than we can, please do it now!
Part of the survey tries to get to grips with what people would classify as ‘Black’ history. Most said that they thought it concerned the people of, or with heritage in, the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 60% also included North Africa. 30% included the Indian Subcontinent and only a handful included the rest of Asia. Anecdotally, it seems there is a generational difference, with older generations often holding a sense of political Blackness that includes all ‘non-white’ peoples, while younger people see Blackness in more specific terms. What do you think?
All the story and topic suggestions we made are popular. There is clearly a serious appetite for diverse stories of Bristol’s Black History. At the top of the chart though, is ‘Early Black Presence in Bristol’. This seems to reflect a number of commenters who wanted to highlight pre-colonial times and ‘not just the history of oppression’. There is also a clear appetite for positive, modern narratives and not exclusively those that explore the ravages of empire.
We also wanted to know how well people felt the museums currently represent Black history. Responses were pretty evenly spread between ‘fairly well’ and ‘fairly badly’. “Too much focus on slave trade” said one commenter. “Woeful and easily missed” said another. Clearly we have plenty of work to do.
So what do we do with this information? Well, we still need more responses. We can then use them to inform what stories we’ll publish in future. It will help us prioritise what those interested in Black history really want. As we draw in more voices and continue this process as openly as possible, we hope we can respond much more effectively to the needs of the city and those within it who identify as Black.
See the Bristol’s Black History stories we’ve published so far.
Find out more or ask us a question at [email protected].