With educational movements like The Black Curriculum gaining traction during the Black Lives Matter resurgence earlier this year, there’s a hunger to understand the wholeness of Black history – not just as one of slavery, but as moments of joy that elicit a sense of personal connection.
Submission-based Instagram account Black In The Day was founded by Jojo Sonbui and Tania Nwachukwu after a discussion about throwback pictures of their Nigerian relatives, and captures the experiences of Black Brits back then in a way that words simply cannot. Archival pages like this and institutions like the Black Cultural Archives breathe new life into how we view and understand Black history – they help to define what it means to be “Black British” and chart how we have inspired and shaped popular culture in the UK.
Another social media platform plugging the holes of history and inducing a sense of warm nostalgia is @blackndbritishh, a Twitter account run by Ghanaian Adejei Sika Bonsu.
Bonsu’s page went viral after he published a picture of a young Dame Dash and Jay-Z at Notting Hill Carnival shot by Dillon Moulder, surprising delighted younger Twitter users unaware of the transatlantic connections between the UK and the US. Since its inception in July, Black and British has featured photos of a young school-age Stormzy, NWA posing in Brixton and a young Edward Enninful. As a Black Brit, it’s impossible not to feel proud and inspired looking at these familiar images of joy and congregation.
I spoke to Bonsu over the phone about his page and his inspirations.
VICE UK: Adejei, you have an incredible following on IG. What is it that you do?
I’m from Ghana and I moved here recently, like a year or two ago. I’m really into fashion and I love fashion streetwear. Most of my (70,000+) followers are also interested in streetwear. There wasn’t a lot of streetwear blogging happening when I was in Ghana, so my friend and I decided to start something. It began picking up and people started following. I also just have a huge interest in and admiration for 90s style and music, which is why I was drawn to the images on my Twitter account.
What is it about that Black British 90s style you like?
I really love the baggy trousers, the flare pants and the baby hairs. I love it. In fact, I recently bought myself a pair of Timberlands because I loved the way they looked in the photos. I would say a lot of my current fashion is inspired by Black Brits in the 80s and 90s.
What’s it like for you being Black in the UK, coming from Ghana?
When I was coming here, I was excited because I thought I’d be well-liked and I’d have it easy due to the large Black community. However, it has been a huge shock. I’m experiencing racism here – the type where when you sit on a bus, people don’t want to sit beside you. It’s upsetting.
What were your reasons for starting the page?
I don’t know if people here are completely proud of their Blackness because of the racism in this country, so I wanted to post these pictures as a celebration of it. I was also researching these images as they inspired me creatively and I loved the stories they told. I noticed that there weren’t many pages that posted Black British images from the 80s and 90s, so I decided to start the page.
Did you have any inspirations?
I saw this page from an American guy called Sola Olosunde (@drinksolapop). He was doing a page but with American people. I really liked the vibe so started to do my research and found a lot of great images on Pinterest.
What are the reactions like to your page?
People reach out to me all the time they tell me that it’s them in the photos or their parents, and I love it. I feel happy that I’m a part of something that is bringing these memories back for people. Photographers always message me to say thanks for sharing their work and it makes me really happy.
I remember the day I created the page, I posted a picture from Notting Hill Carnival that went viral and then shortly after a picture from Dalston went viral as well. This was within days. I was so shocked, I didn’t expect the page to blow up like that!
Do you have a lot of images?
I have about 500 pictures on my phone that I haven’t posted yet. I’m just taking my time with it all and hope to start an Instagram account very soon to start posting. I’m also always taking submissions.
What next for you?
A lot of people have said that they would love to come to a physical gallery space to view these images so I hope that it’s something I can put together in the future.