“Estrangement from our natural environment is the cultural contest wherein violence against the earth is accepted and normalized. If we do not see earth as a guide to divine spirit, then we cannot see that the human spirit is violated, diminshed when humans violate and destroy the natural environment.”― Bell Hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place
No, I dont get warm fuzzy feelings when I try to walk into a traditional English country pub or down a country road or even through the woods in the countryside, its quite the opposite. I’m too intersectional to feel comfy, I navigate the world as a Black woman and a big one at that. The looks, the ignorance, the fear, even the microaggressive over-politeness but have you ever thought to yourself ‘Why is this? and why are there almost no Black people living or visiting the British Countryside? pause that thought for a moment. The team behind @HockleyHustle and @YoungHustlers brought their brand new, free *Green Hustle Festival* to Sneinton Market Avenues and the surrounding area. The Green Hustle Festival aims to bring diversity, positivity and accessibility to environmental issues; making it fun and engaging for everybody’. It consisted of Activities/Workshops/Presentations/Talks/ Stalls/Independent sellers and performance centring the environment. It was fantastic to be asked to create a creative interactive experience and have my own stall at the fest.
#blackflowersblossom artmaking workshop was born, named after a line from the song ‘Teardrops‘ by British Trip Hop band Massive Attack, the song conveys ‘the fragility and the power of such an ethereal concept as love’.
Rural & Structural Racism in Britain:
To explain the relevance of the workshop I’ll have to go back to explain why Black people are not in the British countryside and do not perceive it as being somewhere to escape to. After WW2, when many African Caribbean people (that term never sits right with me but I get what its trying to say ‘Black Caribbean’ basically) were invited by the British government to come to Britain to help repair it. Due to racist anti-black policies, such as cancelling everyone’s education down to aged 11. The British government did this despite…
- The British owning the British speaking Caribbean countries
- The British controlling their education systems
- Brainwashing Caribbeans to have an unquestionable reverence for the Queen, the Motherland (England), British Colonial Christian values and British History
- Black Caribbeans were classified as British citizens by law
This law instantly disenfranchised the new Black Caribbean arrivals, instantly making them a poverty-stricken population. Due to racism and not having recognised qualifications, most Black people in Britain couldn’t fulfil their career aspirations. Black people were forced to live in the ‘ghettos’ of Britain, due to governmental white fears surrounding racism, miscegenation and Black male sexuality. The British government neatly used their erasure of Black Caribbean qualifications and Caribbean class structures to segregate the white elite from the rest of the population by using classism, racism and urban planning. No need for any in your face American style or South African style segregation tactics.
Even pre-European colonisation, Black people were often depicted negatively. The concept of being ‘urban’, poverty-stricken, criminal and being an underclass became a racist stereotype and associated with blackness in Britain. Further compounded by the constant depiction of the criminalisation of Black people in the media ever since the Ronald Reagan/ Margaret Thatcher era and the planned influx of drugs and guns into American inner cities during the late 70s and early 80s, thus criminalisation of blackness.
The Green Hustle Festival: Black Flowers Blossom Art-making Workshop
The workshop I created acts towards reconnecting Black people with nature🌴🌳🥑🌊🌻🍃, making it ‘ok’ for Black people to appreciate British countryside too (instead of being greeted with racial hostility, microaggressive behaviour (such as impromptu hair and skin touching or people singing the South African National anthem at you and your 2 Black girlfriends whilst you’re walking around Corby (that actually happened).
“For the first time this year, a lot of people realised the countryside and nature are really important for our health and mental wellbeing,” said Black history writer Louisa Adjoa Parker, 48, who lives in rural southwest England.
– As COVID-hit Brits escape to the country, minorities face rural racism by @linnytayls | Thomson Reuters Foundation
“I think that has also raised questions around who has access to the countryside, who belongs there, who’s accepted there,” said Parker, who is also a British-Ghanaian diversity consultant.
The workshop acts to intellectually disassociate the ridiculously antiquated early 2000’s term ‘urban’ from blackness, via collage, collaboration and mixed media. All of the participants were asked to use this as a theme for their work ‘nature and black people’, humanising the representation of Blackness at ‘grass level’. The workshop sparked conversations about being Black or Mixed Race in the countryside or being a white person in the countryside being exposed to anti-black racist rhetoric as normalcy.
Collage is one of those art forms that people often feel able to set themselves free of any overcritical voice and just literally get stuck in, cutting, glueing, you’re actively encouraged to make a beautiful mess whilst discussing the topic at hand. Needless to say they got in the zone, our group was diverse in age, race, gender, physical ability. We discussed the topic at hand on many different levels of which resulted in the creation of some stunning pieces as you can see🔥
I want to thank everyone who came to the event and all who made this event possible.
- As COVID-hit Brits escape to the country, minorities face rural racism, By Lin Taylor, Thomson Reuters Foundation, November 2020
- ‘Race’ and Space – UCL, By The Bartlett, UCL Faculty of the Built Environment
- Why black lives matter in the British countryside, By Louisa Adjoa Parker, June 2020
- Visits to the natural environment – www.gov.uk, October 2017