We’re celebrating Black History Month here in the UK. To mark the occasion we asked each Platformer to take a moment and choose an inspirational British Black person who inspired them and explain what led to their decision. We’ve gathered together our selections here to celebrate their achievements.
- Joan Armatrading CBE: Musician, charity supporter and equal rights campaigner. Joan stepped outside the mold of the traditional Black singer during her heyday in the ‘70s and ‘80s to break down limitations. She was recently named a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
- John Boyega: Boyega has become a greatly celebrated actor for a string of roles in blockbuster films such as Star Wars, Imperial, Detroit and Pacific Rim: Uprising. Growing up in London, he experienced police profiling first-hand, which fed into a spontaneous and impassioned speech at a Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park that had a resounding effect on celebrities and BLM activists. One Twitter clip of the rally has over 3.6 million views!
- Michaela Coel: She is one of the most essential and relevant actors/screenwriters/poets/producers of our generation – and an incredibly talented all-in-one force in the world of British TV. If you haven’t already watched I May Destroy You (written, produced, directed and starred by Coel) we would strongly recommend you do! It straight up addresses some of the most prominent and pressing themes of our generation that many TV shows and movies shy away from – including sexual assault, LGBT representation, feminism, employment and so much more. All while still being a comedy!
- Bernardine Evaristo: Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other – the first British Black person to win the coveted literary prize (awarded jointly to her and Margaret Atwood for The Testaments) – in addition to other major book awards. An advocate for the inclusion of writers and artists of colour, she founded the Brunel University African Poetry Prize and Britain’s first black women’s theatre company, Theatre of Black Women.
- Michael Kiwanuka: Born and bred in Muswell Hill to parents who fled the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, Kiwanuka is a talented songwriter who has embraced his multicultural roots across three albums. His latest, Kiwanuka, which recently won the much-coveted Mercury Prize, addresses racism, civil rights and police brutality in an effortless mix of soul and psychedelia.
- Marcus Rashford MBE: A professional footballer for Manchester United and England. Successfully campaigned for free school meals to be extended to cover the summer holidays, forcing the government into a major policy U-turn. Marcus continues to use his profile, and his own life story, to fight against child poverty in the UK.
- Letitia Wright: As well as being a fantastic actress, Letitia has been leading a campaign to remove barriers for young women entering careers in science and tech to shift the stigma around STEM majors. She is a strong advocate of women in the sector and has established a series of women’s mentorship programmes.
- Stormzy: A hugely successful rapper, singer and songwriter and champion of up and coming UK talent. Provides massive financial support to charities that fight racial injustice, set up a scholarship for Black students with Cambridge University and established his own Publishing House, ‘Merky Books,’ under the Penguin umbrella to help give Black authors a better route to getting published.
As you can tell, there are so many amazing British Black people who have accomplished so much, but who do you think should be added to our list?