Black Power reveals a real story of resistance

Thursday: Black Power: A British Story of Resistance; (BBC Two, 9pm)

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 5:00 pm
Peter Edrich
Peter Edrich

Steve McQueen’s Small Axe is widely considered as one of the best pieces of TV in recent years.

The five-part drama anthology series told four true stories and one imagined on the subject of Britain’s Caribbean history between the 1960s and 1980s.

Now, two of those programmes have inspired two more documentaries, on which McQueen is acting as an executive producer.

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The first Small Axe film, Mangrove, told the story of the titular restaurant in west London and the landmark 1971 trial at the Old Bailey.

Tonight’s documentary, Black Power: A British Story of Resistance, reveals how the movement came into being in the late 1960s and casts fresh light on the story of the young black people who fought against police brutality and racism, challenged the British establishment and helped to shape the UK’s political and cultural landscape.

There are studies of black British leaders, including Altheia Jones-LeCointe and Darcus Howe, who were part of the seminal Mangrove Nine case, where – for the first time – a British judge said the police had been guilty of racist attitudes, as well as activist Roy Sawh.

In addition, it also charts how Black Power grew out of the civil rights struggle, which produced African American leaders and intellectuals such as Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X.

The film is directed by Bafta-nominated George Amponsah, the man behind 2015 documentary The Hard Stop, which chronicled the aftermath of the death of Mark Duggan, who lost his life at the hands of the Metropolitan Police in Tottenham, north London, in 2011.

The second film, which will be arriving on our screens soon, was inspired by the fifth Small Axe film, Education. Subnormal is directed by new talent Lyttanya Shannon and examines “one of the biggest scandals in the history of British education”.

Black children were four times as likely to be sent to ESNs, which had a “profound effect and prevented many from achieving their full potential”, says Shannon.

The documentary will examine the debates about race and intelligence that led to the disproportionate number of black children being sent to the school, and the impact that being in that environment had on the pupils once they left.

Both films feature first-hand interviews with key participants in the events, many of whom are telling their stories for the first time.

McQueen, who became the first black director of an Academy Award-winning Best Picture with 12 Years a Slave, is executive producer on both films and is excited about the two films being aired.

“Looking at the past is an indication of what we have achieved today,” he said. “These two documentaries show us how far we still have to travel for liberty and justice.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, said: “These are important stories from our recent history that still resonate today.

“Steve McQueen has assembled a talented team of creatives to make these two documentaries that shine a light on the experiences of young black people from the 1960s and 1970s.”

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