Organisers of Leicester’s Black History Month events have announced details of this year’s programme.
There will be exhibitions, discussions, films, workshops and performances at venues across the city.
Black History Month (BHM) takes place each year in October, and in Leicester, the occasion is marked with a programme of events that promote the history and contributions of African and Caribbean communities.
Arts and heritage organisation Serendipity has overseen BHM in Leicester since 2012.
This year coincides with a number of anniversaries for the African and African Caribbean diaspora, including 230 years since the start of the Haitian Revolution, 95 years since the first Negro History Week in the USA and 50 years since the invention of the Blaxploitation genre.
Black History Month will launch on October 1 with the opening of a new exhibition AfroManifesto at The Chapel Gallery.
This will bring together new commissions from artists participating in Serendipity’s Launchpad platform – Kat Anderson, Charlie Evaristo-Boyce , Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Patricia Vester.
Working across disciplines from film and photography to illustration, screen-printing and collage, the artists explore themes from intergenerational trauma, environmental issues, heritage, presence and identity.
Other featured exhibitions include Community Curators Exhibition: Black Lives Matter Too! at The Y, presented by Opal22. Leicester Museum and Art Gallery will be showcasing their new acquisitions created in response to the events of 2020.
Opal22 and Leicester Museum and Art Gallery will be collaborating for a workshop Uncovering the Casta, reframing the narratives around Casta paintings the museum holds in their collections which have not been on public display since 1853.
Music fans can look forward to seeing Carroll Thompson playing a unique set, up close and personal with her ensemble at 2Funky Music Café. This year she celebrates the 40th anniversary reissue of her album Hopelessly in Love.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the invention of the Blaxploitation genre, 2021’s film series for Black History Month will showcase a ground-breaking film each Wednesday throughout October at Phoenix.
Featured films include Shaft (1971), Foxy Brown (1974), Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Blacula (1972). Influenced by the Black Power Movement, films of the Blaxploitation era were amongst the first where Black characters are centralised within narratives as heroes alongside memorable soundtracks set to funk and soul music.
The legacy of Menelik Shabazz, who passed earlier this year, is honoured through a special screening of Burning an Illusion (1981) followed by a conversation. As only the second British feature film made by a Black director in the UK, the film paved the way for nuanced representations of young Black womanhood.
Reckoning is a multimedia short film and performance piece created by choreographer and storyteller Akeim Toussaint Buck, filmmaker Ashley Karrell and animator Benedetta Fasson, and is presented by Artreach at Curve, connecting Black History Month and Journeys Festival International.
Curve will also be presenting a staged reading of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In the Sun followed by a discussion as part of Serendipity’s BlackChat series, sharing stories of Black experiences.
Exploring the vibrant heritage of Black arts in Leicester and hip-hop culture, from the 1980s onwards The LC Hip-Hop History Project will present a documentary screening at 2Funky Music Café.
Mellow Baku, Michael Brome, Leonie Dubarry-Gurr, Luke Broughton and Ana Paz will feature in the WORD! BHM special and there will be a Celebration of Black Female Voices, recognising the poetic talent of Leicester. There are several comedy events including Black History Month Comedy Night and panel discussions led by Big Difference Company, the COBO: Comedy Shutdown and SLIM: KING
Kainé’s contribution to Black History Month 2021 includes the Yes, You Can Showcase including performances by young people attending the Young Creatives summer arts workshops and be the culmination of the Better Together project exploring experiences of migration from the Windrush generation to today.
At the African Caribbean Centre Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE will be giving an inspirational talk to schoolchildren and the Leicester community on the positive impact of the Windrush generation alongside unveiling five interpretive panels documenting their legacy.
For those looking for further reading and learning, Serendipity will be publishing the second edition of BlackInk, a magazine for Black History Month and beyond packed with articles, reflections and interviews exploring topics from the history of Black British dance through to reflections of Black-led activism. There are opportunities to support Black visual artists with original prints on sale.
Pawlet Brookes, CEO and artistic director of Serendipity said:
“We are delighted that this October we will be able to share space again with a number of in-person events across the city, alongside multifaceted content for those wanted to engage in what the month has to offer at home and online.
“Black History Month is a catalyst for work to take place year round, amplifying voices from the African and African Caribbean Diaspora, recognising our history and heritage and celebrating high quality artist-led work.”
Sir Peter Soulsby, City Mayor said:
“Black History Month provides an opportunity for everyone to reflect, learn and celebrate what makes Leicester such a rich, diverse, and vibrant city.
“Events over the last two years have brought a sharp focus to how important Black History Month is to our communities, particularly as we all continue to root out inequality and to act against prejudice and discrimination in all forms.”
A full line-up of events is available on the website.