Bristol Is Still Waiting For Its ‘Reckoning’ With Race
My latest piece for The Bristol Cable asks Black artists and organisers what’s next for the city.
I was at Bristol’s Black Lives Matter protest on June 7 last year. The deep desire for change within the crowd was tangible and the protest culminated in the toppling and sinking of the Colston statue, one of the most internationally renowned events amongst all of the protests last summer. The city is known as perhaps the UK’s most stereotypical liberal hub, and the structures which drive that picture have their benefits, and their limitations.
Shortly after the June protests, the former Colston Hall went ahead with its long-planned name change, becoming the ‘Bristol Beacon’. Many praised their city for its progress while others grumbled about ‘erasing history’. Others still, while appreciating the gesture, had further reservations.
Former Lord Mayor, now Green Party councillor, Cleo Lake told the press that after June’s events, real change for Black Bristolians was at risk of being lost under “changing names and toppling statues”. With all the talk of 2020’s numerous, overdue, global ‘reckonings’ and the inevitability of structural change that must be coming, the lull after the summer’s protests seemed to crystallise the long-held frustrations of citizens all over the world.
This led me to a conversation with Lake and other Black creatives in the city, which became this piece for my local paper. Their approaches are as nuanced as they are crucial; the interviewees refuse to play into the idea that they should be at war with the council, and there is plenty of optimism on the horizon. But things have been moving at a snail’s pace for so long, and while the march of progress may seem unstoppable, it remains to be seen at what pace.