Reviving Scotland’s Black History: Day One Diary

24 August 2016


Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this year we have collaborated with the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) to develop a young programmers scheme entitled ‘Reviving Scotland’s Black History’. We brought together five young aspiring film programmers from different backgrounds to take part in lectures, walking tours, site visits and seminars exploring black heritage in Scotland and the UK. Through this project they discovered Scotland’s links to slavery, through for example Glasgow’s architecture, learnt about the various race riots that have taken place in Scotland from 1916 onwards as well as about Scottish activism against racism.  From the knowledge they acquire the young programmers will curate four events taking place during Africa in Motion Film Festival and Black History Month 2016.

Here is the first blog diary from one of the participants Jo Reid reflecting on the first day of the programme: 

''The first day of the Reviving Scotland’s Black History programme was perfect in setting the tone for the rest of the week. After arriving at the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER) offices we were given the task to set up the ‘It Wisnae Us’ exhibition to be displayed during Black History Month. After about ten minutes of struggling with stiff poles and low ceilings, we moved on to hear a talk by Scotland’s first (and only) Black Professor, Sir Professor Geoff Palmer.

While I was given a basic overview of the slave trade when studying history in high school, I am very much aware that the role Scotland played was conveniently left out. Geoff Palmer talked to us about Glasgow’s relationship with slavery by focusing on the tobacco and sugar merchants who turned Glasgow from a small, mostly rural town into the second city of the British Empire with money made from chattel slavery. He explained the tangled and twisted family trees of these merchants who gained their wealth of the backs of enslaved human beings. All the names mentioned – the Buchanans, the Glassfords, the Oswalds – were familiar to me as street names in Glasgow that I’ve walked past so many times.

The talk changed to focusing on Geoff Palmer’s own history and experiences with racism. Although racism is no longer based in the ownership and dehumanization of African people, it is clear that there are structures within society that act to silence and undermine Black people. As long as we remember the history of slavery and recognise racism today, we can work towards a more equal and tolerant society.

After lunch, we had a lecture about the history of African cinema. We learned about the diversity and creativity of the continent, along with some key directors and films. The talk gave us a great background to help us move forward with creating our own events.

The day finished with a lively session of brainstorming and discussing ideas for our own events at the Africa In Motion film festival. Everyone in the group had different backgrounds and interests so we came up with a wide variety of themes. It is clear that we have been influenced by what we had learnt and will aim to create a variety of exciting and diverse film screenings for both Black History Month and Africa In Motion''. (Written by Jo Reid)