Ask any average person in England, black or white, to name three Great African Americans (excluding sports personalities) and you will probably find that most can list at least two. Ask the same average English person to name three Great Black Britons (excluding sports personalities) and if you are lucky Sir Trevor McDonald may get a mention.
In 2002 the BBC conducted a survey of 100 Great Britons and not a single black person featured on that list.
It is not that this country does not have black people who are worthy of being considered as great as Shakespeare, Churchill or Florence Nightingale. There are many amazing black British people who have made positive contributions to Multicultural Britain but there is also a lack of recognition and awareness.
Most people in this country believe that prior to the Windrush’s arrival in 1948 there were no black people in Britain yet this is not the case. Before the people of Britain can consider who amongst them is great they need to be presented with a version of history that speaks for ALL its people.
There was a time when , if you wanted to watch a programme with an all black British cast, apart from Desmond’s, you had to wait until midnight, yet The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince had prime time slots. If you were black and British and wanted to get on TV when the rest of the country was awake you had to be scoring a goal or running the 100 metres in less than 10 seconds.
What is even sadder is that even if all the above were to change, this country still has to change the manner in which it shows its appreciation. It amazes me that the Queen can still hand out an Order of the British Empire award. She even gave one to Benjamin Zephaniah who not only turned it down but gave his reasons why.
As Black History Month UK (October) approaches I hope people in Britain shall begin to recognise the contribution of the black British people.