by Yaa Aba Acquaah
This year commemorated the 70th anniversary of Windrush — often the name given to the period of time from the late 1940s to early 1970s, during which it is estimated over half a million migrants traveled from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom, primarily from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands. This migration was in response to the British government’s invitation to fill labour shortages and rebuild the United Kingdom after World War II. In addition to their working hands and skills, migrants brought with them their creative minds, natural ambition and unbreakable spirits.
Perhaps no city better exemplifies the impact of the Windrush generation than London — an undeniable hub of diversity and multiculturalism. The Brixton area of south London in particular became home to many of these Windrush families. Thanks to its Afro-Caribbean heritage, Brixton has become known as one of the most vibrant, multicultural areas of London.
Since 1987, the United Kingdom has recognised the month of October as Black History Month. Coinciding with this month-long focus, Jen B., coordinator at Impact Hub Brixton, came up with the idea to host the first Black History Market, in Jen’s words, as an “inspiring showcase of black businesses . . . representing entrepreneurs from across the African and Caribbean diaspora.” From luxury handmade crafts, such as those showcased by Fabric of Africa Frames, and vegan eats to natural hair and skin care products, attendees experienced just a glimpse of what makes the African and Caribbean diaspora so rich.
I had the pleasure to speak with several of the vendors to learn more about their brands. For example, I met Patrick Adom, who launched his brand Very Puzzled, in part from the desire to be able to provide his daughter with toys and other items that were not only entertaining but “also reflective of her [Ghanaian] heritage [in order] to bring her up to be proud of who she is.” With jigsaw puzzles of Africa, its countries and regions as colorful as its people and with key resources, attractions, landmarks and monuments of each area vividly illustrated, I say mission accomplished!
Vendor Cherelle Brown is another example. In the summer of 2017, Cherelle noticed a lack of diversity within the greeting card industry. This prompted Cherelle to form Kitsch Noir, which “supports a movement that celebrates the love and enjoyment of the black British experience.” Cherelle explains that “diversity [is] at the heart” of Kitsch Noir’s vision, and this is demonstrated not only by the figures and messages on Cherelle’s quirky and beautifully illustrated stationary but also by images that specifically honor black British historical figures. Kitsch Noir’s growing recognition is evidenced by its presence on the shelves of top stationary retailers, such as Paperchase. To steal an expression from one of her designs, “Gwarn” girl!
I also met vendor Roxanne-Sasha, director of The Resilient Mum. In her own words, Roxanne-Sasha is an “Independent mother,” who in facing her own experiences raising her daughter developed “a strong desire to reach out to other Independent mothers.” Specifically, through The Resilient Mum, Roxanne-Sasha, “aim[s] to encourage, motivate and inspire other mothers everywhere whilst showing them that with determination and perseverance they can make their dreams a reality.” Roxanne-Sasha’s showcase included her self-authored book, The Resilient Mum, in addition to a Self-Reflection Workbook and various novelty items with uplifting affirmations, among other resources for Independent mums.
Patrick and Cherelle’s ability to build brands in order to address inadequate representation of blacks and black heritage in certain industries, and Roxanne-Sasha’s ability to transform the challenges of being a single mother into a brand that supports not only her mission but also mothers across the world, fully embody the spirit of the African and Caribbean diaspora. In essence, they perfectly exemplify how members of the African and Caribbean diaspora continue to productively face the circumstances in which they find themselves to create better futures for themselves and others, including through entrepreneurship. This sort of grit is at the heart of the brands showcased at the Black History Market.
As an old African proverb reminds us, “There is no beauty but the beauty of action.” Kudos to Jen for putting her vision into action, and to all the fantastic vendors and collaborators, including Impact Hub Brixton, whose action made the first Black History Market possible. Despite the rainy weather, the event was a huge success and very well received by the community.
The event was held Saturday, 6 October 2018 at Impact Hub Brixton.
Given the popularity of the event, Impact Hub Brixton will host Black History Christmas Market on Saturday, 24 November 2018 and Sunday, 25 November 2018, each day from 11AM – 5:30PM and with new traders each day. Admission is free, and all are welcome to attend! Use this link to register – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-history-christmas-pop-up-market-weekend-tickets-51109273212?aff=ebapi.
Written by Yaa Aba Acquaah