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Celebrating Black History Month in Chelmsford

Black History Month
Black History Month 2021. Image credit: Kaos Photography.

Chelmsford will be celebrating Black History Month this October with a range of free activities planned across the month. The activities celebrate cultural histories and support the international theme of Black History Month 2023 – ‘Resistance’.

Sangita Mittra of the New Generation Development Agency (NGDA) hopes that this Black History Month will empower those who have faced racial barriers and unfair treatment to freely express their cultural identity and creativity:

“Black History Month is a key part of a wider ambition across Chelmsford and Essex to encourage individuals, groups, and organisations to embrace different cultures and understand their responsibility to work with and educate different communities.

“I hope that the excellent events we have planned will give Chelmsford’s Black and ethnic communities some empowerment, and encourage them to celebrate and freely express their cultural identities and creativity.

“Though it may be colder as we go into the Autumn, we’re expecting a wonderful warm atmosphere at all our events, where everyone is welcome.”

Sangita Mittra, Managing Director, New Generation Development Agency (NGDA)

Exploring local, national, and international resistance figures at Unit 32 The Meadows

The New Generation Development Agency (NGDA) is celebrating Black History Month with free activities at Unit 32 The Meadows Shopping Centre from 2–31 October.

The NGDA is a not-for-profit organisation that supports ethnically diverse groups facing racial or identity-based barriers across Essex through community learning projects.

Black History Month 2023

Resistance Gallery – Walk Through Time exhibition

Throughout the month, an exhibition in Unit 32, ‘Resistance Gallery – Walk Through Time’, explores black resistance locally, nationally, and internationally. It looks at historic and modern-day icons – from Rosa Parks to Marcus Rashford – who have defied barriers and fought for equality.

The exhibition will celebrate Chelmsford and Essex’s black icons, including the author Sade Fadipe, and black businesses such as Kaos Photography and Jerk Station. The gallery will also feature 3D displays of Africa’s first mosque – the 7th century Mosque of the Companions in Eritrea – created by young people out of cardboard.

Drop-in tours of the exhibition are available throughout the month.

An interview with Papa D on Essex’s first Reggae Band

On 3 October, Papa D, member of Essex’s first Reggae Band, will share the story of how his brother, Roots, formed the band in the 1950s and ‘60s, in an interview with Sangita Mittra of the NGDA.

Papa D was born and raised in Chelmsford to Windrush generation parents. He’ll discuss what it was like growing up in Chelmsford and how older generations adapted and incorporated their cultural identities into life in the UK.

He’ll also talk about his family connections with Chelmsford businesses Hoffmann Bearings and Marconi Company, and how his brother’s band provided him with a much-needed support network.

The free talk takes place in Unit 32 on 3 October from 1–2.30pm.

Further events taking place at Unit 32

Other events at Unit 32 include Chatty ‘n’ Pattie social gatherings every Wednesday from 4 October, featuring music, dominoes, and cards. Anyone is welcome to drop in between 10am and 4pm to enjoy the informal sessions.

There will also be Bespoke Business Market Stalls on Friday 6, Saturday 14 and Saturday 28 October. This marketplace will showcase black entrepreneurs who have created unique products and built successful businesses without an academic background. Come along and browse products while hearing business owners’ inspiring stories.

Black History Month 2022
Black History Month 2022.

Black History Month at Unit 32 includes the chance enter a raffle to be in with a chance of winning various prizes donated by local businesses. Raffle winners will be announced at the Black History Month Family Fun Day in Tindal Square on 29 October.

Black History Month Family Fun Day in Tindal Square

The NGDA’s programme of events in Chelmsford culminates in a Black History Month Family Fun Day on Sunday 29 October from noon to 4pm.

The event, which is supported by Chelmsford For You, will see a big stage in Tindal Square host live performances from local talent, such as the Chelmsford Community Gospel Choir, as well as competitions. There’ll even be the chance to join in with interactive acts, such as Afrobeats, where the audience will be directed in the Ghanaian Azonto dance.

The day will also feature a range of market stalls reflecting the diversity of businesses across Chelmsford and Essex.

October Ignite Social: Black History Month

On Thursday 12 October, Ignite Chelmsford welcomes local and nationally renowned creatives to discuss their artistic journey, work, and inspirations.

Speakers include Sade Fadipe, a teacher and author of children’s books A Fun ABC, A Visit to Grandad, Snowy Joy, and A Bouncy 123. She is also the founder of the Children’s and Authors Literary Fanfare Event, an international virtual experience, attracting families locally and across the globe, to an evening of readings from culturally diverse authors. Sade’s works are shaped by her dual heritage as well as her 30 years in primary education, exploring themes of cultural identity and migration.

Evewright, a British artist with parentage from Jamaica, also joins the October Ignite Social. His multi-disciplinary visual installation art, created in his studio in Purfleet-on-Thames, challenges public environments to make spaces for Black British stories to exist and thrive. His first solo exhibition ‘Libation’ is on show at Firstsite in Colchester until 29 October, showcasing a collection of his works spanning 20 years.

Ignite Socials begin at 7pm with relaxed drinks and socialising. Speaker presentations commence from 7.30pm, with a Q&A session at the end.

The Children and Author’s Literary Fanfare Event at Chelmsford Museum

In collaboration with Chelmsford Museum, the Children and Author’s Literary Fanfare Event (CALFE) will be live in Chelmsford on 28 October to celebrate cultural heritage in children’s literature.

Previously run online during the pandemic, CALFE will now host an in-person event with children’s authors, storytellers, and artists for children aged 3 to 11.

The event in the Wells Suite at the museum will feature readings of culturally diverse children’s books by local author Sade Fadipe (A Fun ABC/A Visit to Grandad), and her guests SPK Mushambi (Tarirai’s Choice), Carrol May Nelson (Dolly May and the Magical Enchanted Garden) and Florence Olajide (publisher of Hope’s Braids).

Alongside this, creative workshops exploring African and Caribbean heritage will take place throughout the museum. Author and TV personality, Patti Sloley, will hold Heritage, Utensils and Spices sessions in the museum’s Victorian kitchen, while Margaret’s Music Ltd will entertain the Under 5s in the Our Chelmsford gallery. Maths motivational educators Sandra Smith and Datonye Adjei will also teach children the traditional African game Mancala.

Sade Fadipe says CALFE events bring families together and remind us of our shared humanity:

“Each year, Black History Month serves as a checklist ensuring the stories our ancestors held dear to heart, are kept vibrantly alive.

“Blackness as an artefact speaks of cultures imported, the preservation of its art, science, music, food, rhythm, nature and literature. This we celebrate in reflection, education, enlightenment, and entertainment.

“The CALFE 2023 brings families of all races together, in sharing and enjoying our ethnically diverse stories, games and lifestyles. Live sessions with CALFE authors, are enticing moments to embrace the similarities, the differences and the harmonies that entwine our shared humanity.“

Sade Fadipe, teacher, children’s author and founder of CALFE

The Children and Authors’ Literary Fanfare Event takes place at Chelmsford Museum on Saturday 28 October from 10.30am to 3.30pm. The event is free to attend, but some of the individual workshops charge a small fee.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.