Black & British: Tonight

Black History Month; the truth is it’s probably passed many people by over the last 30 years, but this year has been very different. The Black Lives Matter protests brought everything into sharp focus - in the US of course, and here in Britain.

I was born in Bristol forty years ago, raised by a white mum and a black dad. I was very lucky to grow up in a multicultural family where I was surrounded by strong role models like my great auntie Barbara, who was one of the key figures in the fight for civil rights here. 

Tonight, I get to meet the pioneers and trailblazers to find out what it means to be Black & British.

Alex Beresford reports in 'Black & British: Tonight'

Dame Elizabeth Anionwu recalls a nun who used distraction therapy who she tells us she associated with “not experiencing pain” she later learned she was a nurse and decided that's what she wanted to be. Dame Elizabeth would go on to be a pioneer in nursing becoming the UK’s first sickle cell specialist nurse. 

Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, the UK's first sickle cell specialist nurse.

We meet the pioneers of today, Malone Mukwende who says “growing up in Birmingham I noticed a lot of people in my community often had a lack of trust with the healthcare service, as I grew up I started to realise that a lot of this distrust was due to people getting misdiagnosis.” Malone realised that many textbooks only showed signs and symptoms of illnesses on white skin and that they would present differently on darker skin tones. With the help of St George's University, Malone co-authored ‘Mind The Gap’ - a textbook which would show how different conditions would look on skin that isn’t white.

Malone Mukwende, co-author of 'Mind The Gap'

Mandisa Greene who broke down barriers to become the first black president of the Royal Veterinary College in its 175 year history tells us “it is my hope to inspire a generation of people to join the profession, representation matters, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.

Mandisa Greene, President of the Royal Veterinary College

I talk to Marvin Rees, the first directly appointed mayor of African descent for any European city, who faced his biggest challenge in lockdown, when the Edward Coulston statue was torn down by protestors in the wake of Black Lives Matter. The statue had long been protested against in Bristol due to Coulston’s links to the slave trade. He told us “I can’t condone criminal damage, I cannot, but am I sad it was pulled down? No I am not.”

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

From Mayor to activist, we talk to Phyll Opuko-Gyimah, the founder of Black Pride UK who says “I wouldn’t want people to think that black communities are more homophobic, than the next”.

Lady Phyll, founder of Black Pride UK

Sometimes it’s only clear to see our most visible black heroes, those in the forefront of sport.

I met my childhood hero, Colin Jackson who says “I hope that we were truly colourless, because we wanted to be celebrated and have fans from right across the spectrum.”

Colin Jackson, former Olympic athlete

In literature we meet Margaret Busby, the first black British publisher in the UK who set up Allison & Busby in 1967.

Black history is being made everyday and in this film we celebrate the diversity that makes Britain.

Alex Beresford presents ITV Tonight’s Black & British, on ITV at 7:30pm (Thursday 29th October) and on the ITV Hub.