Music broadcasting platform Boiler Room gathered a panel of influential musicians, artists and other creatives at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, London to host a Black Lives Matter panel today. Viewers could then continue the conversation and offer questions using the hashtag #BRxBLM on social media.
Featured panelists included grime musicians Novelist and Big Narstie, BBC 1Xtra's Sian Anderson, artist Ayishat Akanbi, Zinzi of Black Lives Matter UK, and Darcus Howe. The panel took place in to mark the fifth anniversary of the UK riots in that happened in response to the police killing of Mark Duggan, as well as the ongoing unrest in the US regarding police brutality and racism.
The panelists focused on Black Britishness specifically by examining what that means, when they've felt patriotic about Britain, and how that differentiates from the culture of Black Americans.
"There is a very stark difference between what has been happening in the US and what is happening here," panel moderator Errol Anderson said. The panelists agreed that while racism in the US is more upfront and direct, racism in Britain is quieter. It often amounts to, "a seres of microagressions that lead to psychological trauma," said Zinzi.
The conversation also included a frank talk about understanding ones history. An audience member also pointed out how, despite appearances, many people have protested and organized throughout the last century to fight for the rights of the black population in Britain. It reiterated another point from Anderson about how the mistreatment of black people in Britain is nothing new. "What we want we've never seen," Zinzi said. "I've never seen a world where black people like me are free."
The issue was of importance to the team at Boiler Room, with panel moderator Anderson saying, "Boiler Room wouldn't be what it is without Black Britishness and Black music." Other panelists reiterated this sentiment. When moderator Anderson asked the panelists what made them feel patriotic as a Black person in Britain, most pointed to music itself.
And despite the proliferation of images against the black body from across the globe, many of the panelists felt like now was the best time to use their place in the public eye (much like Boiler Room) including social media to discuss the matter. "They're the next generation that's going to make a change for us," Anderson said about a young crop of musicians like Stormzy who actively speak about issues from their own lives. Akanbi agreed. "This is our own platform," she said. "This is our own stage."
A similar panel is scheduled to take place in New York later this year. Stream the entire panel below.