Black Lives Matter, What Next?

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Black Lives Matter, What Next?

Black Lives Matter shone a light on institutional racism, how can we now sustain meaningful change in the creative sector? Brought to you by YouTube.

Streamed online as part of the Creative Coalition Festival 2022, Black Lives Matter: What’s Next? examined how we can sustain meaningful change in the creative sector in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020.

June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity at the BBC, chaired the event which included speakers: Ammo Talwar MBE – CEO, UK Music Diversity Taskforce; Dr Joanna Abeyie MBE – CEO, Blue Moon; Yaw Owusu – Creative Consultant and Co-Founder, The Playmaker Group; Carolyn M L Forsyth – Executive Director and joint CEO, Talawa Theatre Company.

Speaking on the impact of Black Lives Matter protests on the creative industries, Ammo Talwar highlighted how to break away from echo chambers in the workplace: “Black Lives Matter in particular… it’s amplified new voices into these conversations and also set a term to talk about life experience and lived experience.” Joanna Abeyie expanded on Ammo’s point, saying that businesses “are actually focusing on [race and diversity] from a different perspective, which is ‘how are we anti-racist?’ and ‘how are we an ally?’, and they are becoming a lot more pro-active in that behaviour.”

For Carolyn Forsyth, the historical context of systemic imbalances is being addressed at an economic level: “the big funders, trusts and foundations are really starting to consider where they put their money and resources and starting to talk about money and power.” Sustainable change, she believes, must come from decisions around who is in power, which means uplifting young leaders into those higher C-suite positions.

Yaw Owusu added that “youth will be a big part of change and I think this is what’s right about this movement; I think that’s why the ripple effect seems like it has lasted longer than others in the past.”

Moving on to talk about the key barriers people of colour face in the creative sector, Carolyn highlighted the need for safe spaces which offer “the right to fail and to still have a career” as imperative for change. Looking at how to remove those barriers, she added “the people who are in power need to consider the people that they are working with. They need to consider how they are changing who is in the room and making those decisions.”

Ammo described four key components to systemic racism: institutional, structural, interpersonal, and unconscious bias. “We can’t look at just one particular area,” he said. “We have got to look at all of the system.”

For Yaw, a lack of investment in black-led organisations is a key failure of the creative industries, particularly impacting people of colour. He described pigeon-holing, a lack of trust, and stereotyping people of colour into certain roles as the issues needing to be addressed.

Joanna suggested that auditing businesses carefully might lead to real change: “Audit your attraction process, your recruitment process, audit your culture and the things you let slip, the seeds you let plant.”

Moving on to talk about what the panel see as having worked well in creating meaningful change, Joanna celebrated the changes she is seeing in the broadcasting sector: “We are starting to give individuals the space to just be a myriad of identities and not in a single story that the industry has been really I think wedded to for some time.”

Supporting this, Carolyn highlighted the curriculum changes happening across the country in drama schools: “[They are] looking at their curriculums; looking at the types of roles they are giving to artists, considering the work that they are doing and the types of stories that we are telling.”

Ammo was hesitant in his praises, suggesting that actions will speak louder than words: “If you are an arts organisation in the next round of the Arts Council’s investment, let’s see where they put their money, because that’s the action.”

To wrap up the discussion, June asked the panel what message they had for the people in power, and also, for the young creatives wanting to get ahead in the industry.

Yaw believes that organisations that have benefited from black talent need to give back: “I believe they have got a duty to give back and invest in that talent and that culture; that is the batteries behind their machine and I think that’s critical.”

For Carolyn, it’s about making good on promises: “To follow through on the promises that were made – not stepping back on the anti-racism pledges.” With a message to the young creatives, Joanna ended the panel on this poignant quote: “Ideas are your currency… they are so important for you to be able to walk into a room with confidence and belief.”


Author: Alex Stubbs


Black Lives Matter: What’s Next? was sponsored by Youtube.