The Reality of Black Britishness by TJ Benson

In this panel moderated by Ade Bantu, featuring Diana Evans, David Olusoga and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, the Ijakadi hall is packed up with eager guests and visitors.

The first question Ade Bantu asks the panelists is if they ever feel the pressure to prove their Britishness from their peers. David Olusoga, who is of Nigerian and British descent, expresses the mixed feelings he had the last time Nigeria played England, to everyone’s laughter in the hall. “The ideal outcome for such a football match,” he says, “would be a draw, because he fully belongs to both sides.”

Diana Evans says she has come to own both sides of her lineage, especially in a post Brexit world where there has been 40% increase in racism. She says that living in London is a bit comfortable for her because it is more racially diverse (55% of the city is non-white), but it cannot compare to being in Lagos where there is an absence of questioning; she can be who she is. That is not the case in the UK.

How then does one navigate a post Brexit situation?

David says Brexit was based on a lie on what Britain’s place in the world was. “In a protest last March, a man in his 70’s proclaimed, ‘This is about being British again, this is about recreating the empire!’”

When Ade Bantu asks why it seems Black UK only coined slogans and started movements after Black America started them, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff observes that in the UK, blacks make up only 3% of the population while in America Blacks make up 17%.

The panel ends full circle with someone in the audience highlighting the absence of history in continental discussions and education. She mentions that as a country, Nigeria hasn’t brought up slave trade or asked what role our chiefs may have had in it.