When an industry is trying so hard to appear to care about committing to diversity, Daniel Kaluuya’s groundbreaking moment needs to be BREAKING NEWS…
A Brain Dump of Thoughts…
The reason I started The British Blacklist aside from databasing talent, was that I wanted to create headlines for British Black actors and creatives whose names were being ignored by the British press and popular magazines.
Six years in and it’s been a long tired slog dancing this industry dance. But what has made life a little easier are the few times British Black talent break through the barriers of racism, supremacy, industry prejudice, cronyism, bias, ignorance… For example, Tuesday 23rd January 2018 Daniel Kaluuya, a 28-year-old British Ugandan from North London was nominated in the BEST ACTOR category at the muh-fuggin OSCARS.
I recently wrote an article about the lack of power British Black award shows have . Which British Black award can a British Black actor name drop to negotiate a pay increase? (shout out Mo’Nique) We definitely need a conversation on how the industry values British Black awards, how British Black talent themselves value homegrown awards and how British Black awards scale up their influence. But whether you buy into the pomp and ceremony or not, an Oscar is the most powerful award to win. Globally, and everyone involved in the film industry in front of and behind the camera recognises its worth and benefits. (The discussion on how actors of colour fare after winning an Oscar we can have another day).
What makes Kaluuya’s nomination special is that he’s man dem. He’s bruv. He’s that guy who went to ‘my’ school. He’s the breddah who grew up near ‘my’ mum’s. He’s also the second British Black man after Chiwetel Ejiofor (nominated for his role in 12 Years a Slave) to ever be nominated for a ‘Best Actor’ Oscar. EVER. This is up there with Meghan and Harry people. But yet… there’s not been enough of a mainstream ado about it.
Olivier-award winning playwright and screenwriter Bola Agbaje – one of an extremely small pool of British Black women to have had their screenwritten thoughts brought to cinema – vented about the lack of attention the UK’s press has made about Kaluuya’s honour.
For the sake of journalism, Kaluuya’s nomination has been mentioned in the following publications – Telegraph, Evening Standard, The Independent, The Times and more but there’s nothing in them which has us feeling like there’s a true sense of British pride in his nomination. Especially in comparison to how a lot of American publications are shouting about it and of course to how excited and proud British Black people who support Kaluuya’s journey are.
All this diversity talk of we’re all one and the same and racism is a thing of the past, do the British press really care about Black people and other ethnicities outside of what they achieve on behalf of Britain? Think Olympic Champion Mo Farah being British when he wins, Muslim immigrant when he runs into controversy. As much as we’re forced to swallow the kumbaya pill, most British Black folks deep down feel there’s a lack of appreciation for who we are at work, in our constituencies, when it comes to policing, and government policy. The arts which is supposed to be an inclusive space is unfortunately just as bad. From British Black actors running to find and secure work in America, pissing off our African American cousins (shout out Samuel L. Jackson ). British Black writers STILL not allowed to tell Black focused stories on our mainstream channels.
Sidenote, Michaela Coel recently tweeted –
In the UK we still don’t have an Insecure, Atlanta, Greenleaf, Underground, Black-ish/Grown-ish, Queen Sugar… When our broadcasters do diversify, the main Black character is in Black isolation (Luther- BBC) or it’s crime based (Top Boy – Channel 4, which had a white writer anyway) or they get limited runs (Chewing Gum, Youngers – Channel 4, Undercover – BBC). The other issue is that it’s also rare that a British Black led show will allow for a Black on Black loving relationship… unless there’s trauma (Damilola our loved boy – BBC).
When we look to premieres, opening nights and A-list events, the bubbling discussion which threatens to erupt especially with the looming release of Black Panther and Wrinkle in Time is how ruthlessly PR companies and their publicists overseeing red carpet events, access to talent, press conferences and junkets block British Black media. “Sorry, you don’t have the numbers”… yet maybe if British Black media was allowed access to A-list events and talent, or maybe if broadcasters, production companies, and distributors were willing to pay advertising fees and not exploit the desperate excitement British Black media often has just knowing Black people are in something, maybe then our numbers could be comparable to the Murdoch’s of the media industry.
Then we have the glass ceiling, with it being almost impossible for British Black people to rise to ranks of power within TV, film, theatre organisations. Sure we have a few schemes here and there but we’re schemed and trained out.
Speaking to Agbaje, she said, “I’m an award-winning playwright, I’ve had a film in the cinema but I still can’t get a TV credit. I write all the time but…”
Though he’s being called a rising star, Kaluuya has had a very impressive career on stage, TV, and film spanning over a decade. Him being nominated for an Oscar is as huge as it is deserved. That the UK press have given his nomination almost a shrug shoulders level mention, is disrespectful.
Standing ovay Daniel Kaluuya, we’re so proud of you and your achievements. We agree with the speech you made when you picked up your recent Best Actor NAACP Image award, thanking Jordan Peele for taking a chance on you. We also thank Ryan Coogler and the casting team of Black Panther for taking you on their historical ride. Who knows where Kaluuya’s career would be languishing if not for these two African American men.
Trying to force someone to care about you, when they don’t is futile. Those of us who’ve loved and lost understand this. So, this is just a brain dump of emotions rather than a plea. I’m bored of trying to find new ways to make our feelings understood. Shout out to Afua Hirsch who so patiently tried to explain racism to a panel of testing people who did the ‘how dare you say racism still exists’ thing on her online discussion show The Pledge  …
You can find everything I’d like to say within Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race .
Because, to quote Kojo Funds, I’m dun talkin’.
 – Afua Hirsch: Closet racists get a mouthpiece (watch below)