Will.i.am learns more about our ‘Black Brits’
Thursday: Will.i.am: The Blackprint; (ITV, 9pm)
October is Black History Month, at least in the UK, where it was launched in 1987.
In the US, it’s marked in February, and began as a way to celebrate the achievements of important people and events in the African diaspora’s history.
It’s arguably taken on an even deeper meaning in the past couple of years in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has prompted people in the UK and America to think more closely about the prejudice that still exists.
But Black History Month is also a chance for everyone, regardless of their colour, creed or religion, to learn some of the deeper stories about where they live, to examine the contributions of people whose names are almost lost in the mists of time, and reflect on the impact their lives have had both on their communities and, in some cases, the wider world.
It’s an opportunity to both educate and be educated, to gain a greater understanding and empathy, as well as uplift and celebrate.
This documentary, presented by musician will.i.am is an ideal example. It’s a personal and timely exploration of what it means to be Black and British in the country he calls his second home.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, will.i.am (known as William James Adams Jr to his mum) found fame as one of the Black Eyed Peas, whose hits included Shut Up, Where Is the Love and I Gotta Feeling. He first came to the UK more than 20 years ago, and has carved out a successful second career on TV – he’s been a coach on The Voice UK since 2012 and the only person to have appeared on all 10 series. (Even Tom Jones missed the fifth run).
Yet despite all the time he has spent in this country that he loves, will.i.am has never had the opportunity to explore Black Britain and find out what it’s really like to live here. That’s set to change as the star embarks on a fascinating nationwide quest to learn about the lives of Black Brits, comparing and contrasting the lived experience on both sides of the Atlantic.
From civil rights heroes and trailblazers in technology, to inspiring schoolchildren and even the odd celebrity pal, will.i.am’s encounters members of the Black community from across the country, and learns about the milestone events that have helped shape the modern Black British landscape.
With surprising, shocking and revealing moments throughout, will.i.am’s thought-provoking journey also draws upon his own experiences growing up, and spans the heartbreak of the past, the struggles of the present day and our hopes for our future. He’s not the only person marking Black History Month for ITV. Forthcoming documentaries include Ashley Banjo: Britain in Black and White, which finds the presenter exploring the country’s history as well as the reaction to the pro-equality routine performed by his dance group Diversity in the summer of 2020.
There’s also Charlene White: Empire’s Child, in which the presenter explores her family’s connection to Britain’s imperial history.
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