Proud To Be Black and British: Trailblazers shaping modern Britain
With a focus on the unpleasant side of Black history, many great stories of amazing Black pioneers go untold. Historically, success stories within the Black community are rarely covered in history books, despite the fact Black people played a central role in British history.
In honour of this year’s theme, Proud To Be, we’re recognising and celebrating the stories of Black people shaping modern Britain. These Black British trailblazers are leading the way and inspiring generations to be proud of their heritage.
From civil rights campaigners to elite athletes to writers and artists, here are just a six of the incredible Black people who call the UK home.
Kym Oliver and Jumoke Abdullahi, The Triple Cripples
Kym Oliver and Jumoke Abdullahi were tired of never seeing Black women with disabilities in the media. So, they created a platform to share stories and discuss the discrimination they face. Called The Triple Cripples, their platform is all about increasing visibility for Black (and non-Black) women, femmes and non-binary people of colour living with disabilities. Kym ad Jumoke’s YouTube channel, blog, podcast and public speaking, all focused on intersectional activism, have helped minimise the cultural taboos surrounding illness and disabilities within the Black community.
Nicola Adams OBE
Nicola Adams OBE fought discrimination to earn her place in the Olympic ring, where women weren’t allowed to compete. Then, she made history in 2012 as the first Black woman ever to win a gold medal for boxing in the Olympics. Nicola also made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ boxer to make it to the Olympic podium. Away from the ring, she’s an influential figure in the LGBTQ+ community, tackling stereotypes and increasing visibility, and was in the first same-sex couple on Strictly Come Dancing.
Candice Carty-Williams is a hugely successful Black female British writer, known for her debut novel, Queenie. That debut won her Book of the Year at the British Book Awards, making her the first Black woman to ever earn that accolade. Early on in her career, she noticed the lack of representation for Black women in writing and book publishing. So, Candice took action and created the Guardian and 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize to improve diversity in publishing.
Paul Stephenson OBE
Paul Stephenson OBE is a civil rights pioneer who has helped pave the way for Britain’s first race laws. Paul was the only Black child in his school, and he grew up in a time when being Black and being English were seen as separate things. That inspired him to dedicate his life to fighting racial discrimination, and uniting Black and non-Black communities. Paul became Bristol’s first Black social worker, and his campaigning created a foundation for the first Race Relations Act in 1965, an important law that helped give equal rights to Black people in Britain.
Franklin Bowling OBE
Franklin Bowling OBE is a Guyana-born British artist who has been influential in contributing to intellectual debates on Black art. Franklin specialises in abstract expressionism, and he was the first Black artist to be elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts. His paintings have been housed in prestigious galleries around the world, including The Tate in London and The Met in New York, and he has also received the coveted Guggenheim fellowship twice.
Michael Omari, aka. Stormzy
Michael Omari, otherwise known as Stormzy, is a leader for championing British Black culture. Famously known as a successful grime artist, he was the first Black solo artist to headline Glastonbury Festival. Outside of music, he launched Merky books, a platform for aspiring British Black writers, and he launched The Stormzy Scholarship at Cambridge University that provides financial support for two Black students every year.