Black History Month 2023 – #WeMatter
Every October we celebrate Black History Month. This year the theme is celebrating our sisters – applauding their invaluable contribution to British society and understanding how they empower future generations.
At Second Step, we’re sharing stories, news and events from Bristol, the South West and beyond to celebrate our sisters. Read on and visit us on social media for more – follow us on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram @wearesecondstep, and on LinkedIn here. Tag us when you share your thoughts and experiences on the theme of celebrating our sisters using the hashtag #WeMatter.
Visit the official Black History Month website here.
Personal perspective – Sam Scott shares her experiences of the 1980s St Pauls uprising
Over 40 years on from the conflict between members of the Black community in St Pauls and the police, Second Step colleague Sam Scott who grew up in the area shares how the events affected her and her family.
In 1980, community relations between Black individuals and Black-owned businesses in St Pauls and the police were low. The community felt that the police were using their powers to harass and discriminate. And on 2 April 1980, tensions reached boiling point when the police raided the Black and White Café on Grosvenor Road. Disturbances broke out, missiles were thrown, and vehicles were set on fire along with a Post Office and a branch of Lloyds Bank. The police initially withdrew before returning in force with riot gear.
Speaking to Bristol Post, Sam remembers the time vividly despite being just seven years old in 1980:
“You could see the conflict between black people and police in St Pauls and it was a very difficult time to be Black in the area…
“I had my godsister over to stay and she couldn’t go home because of the commotion that was going on in the streets…
“I was seven. We were in the house with my mother and my father and we just remember a lot of screaming, shouting and cars banging.
“Obviously, my mum wouldn’t have let us come out of the house.”
Sam’s father Samuel owned two businesses and was a prominent figure in the St Pauls community, and Sam recalls how difficult racism made life for him and other members of the Black community. St Pauls was unfairly portrayed in the media as a ‘bad area’, which Sam believes raised tensions between the community and the police.
A controversial law called the ‘sus’ law gave the police powers to stop, search and arrest people on suspicion of being in breach of ‘vagrancy’ laws. It was widely criticised for being used to discriminate against individuals of Black, African, Caribbean and Asian descent and played a part in the rising tensions which led to ‘race riots’ across the country in the 1980s, including St Pauls in Bristol (although some interpret the St Pauls conflict as an uprising rather than a riot).
Using these laws, the police would regularly stop people in the street or pull them over to ask questions and harass them. Raids on local businesses became a daily occurrence, eventually leading to the raid on the Black and White café which sparked the events of 2 April 1980.
But Sam also remembers how strong, vibrant and welcoming her community was growing up:
“I would come home from school and there would be Jamaican music playing and then you’d hear people you knew calling you because it was always a very close-knit community.
“There would be smells of the Jamaican food cooking, the sounds – especially in the summer when it would come to life in St Pauls…
“To be honest, growing up in St Pauls made me partly who I am today. It taught me about community and about what it meant to be a mixed race person, as well as both sides of my culture.”
Over 40 years on, Sam now works as a mental health care coordinator with Second Step, and believes that St Pauls has changed a lot over the years:
“Over the years, I believe it has completely changed culturally…
“It’s not the same as what it was before and a lot of the Jamaicans of St Pauls have moved on.”
Read the full article on the Bristol Live website.
The Seven Saints of St Pauls
Did you know that three of the Seven Saints of St Pauls are women? Delores Campbell, Barbara Dettering and Carmen Beckford are all depicted in murals in the area.
Delores Campbell fostered over 30 children. She co-founded St Paul’s Carnival and was a central figure in promoting racial equality in Bristol. She was also the first woman to become a member of the Commonwealth Coordinated Committee (CCC).
A figurehead for race relations in Bristol and a co-founder of St Paul’s Carnival, Carmen Beckford’s incredible community work led to her becoming the first Black recipient of an MBE in the South West.
Barbara Dettering helped hundreds of families as a social worker and was a co-founder of St Pauls Carnival. She also co-founded the West Indian Parents and Friends Association which lobbied for better educational provision for children of Caribbean origin.
Every year here at Second Step, we take a walk through St Pauls to visit each of the Seven Saints murals to celebrate their incredible contributions to our communities here in Bristol.
Read more about Black Bristol Women Who’ve Made a Difference here on the Bristol Museums Collections website.
7 Remarkable Black Women Who Shaped British History
This month, British Vogue are celebrating unsung Black women whose achievements have been ignored and unrecognised until now. Read about these unsung heroes on Vogue’s website, from Phillis Wheatley, the first African woman to be published in Britain and America, to Claudia Jones, the founder of Notting Hill Carnival.
Addressing racism is everyone’s business. Read about our ongoing work to make Second Step an anti-discrimination organisation here.