We feel that we really must start with honorary Brit and TBB Legend Clarke Peters, who has generously divided his time between his native USA and Britain since the 1970s. In 2017, he showed how much he cherishes the cultural heritage of the African Diaspora, doing us all a great transatlantic service!

In January 2016, we spoke to Peters about owning the African narrative as we anticipated his role in the ITV series, Jericho. Described as the UK’s first western, Jericho is set in 1870s Yorkshire and focuses on the lives of a community living in a shantytown under the shadow of a viaduct they’ve been brought together to build. Peters played Ralph Coates, the ‘self-styled African American railway agent’… An African American, who is not a slave, who is in a pretty important position, existing in an all-white town in Yorkshire, in the 1800s. After working on such culturally rich shows as Treme and The Wire, Clarke worked closely with writer Steve Thompson to authenticate his character [1]

In April this year, it was announced that Peters was reviving his Olivier award-winning and Tony-nominated musical, Five Guys Named Moe, with Underbelly Productions, to be staged in the new pop-up Marble Arch Theatre [2]. First seen at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1990, it transferred to the West End for four years, subsequently playing on Broadway from 1992, and was Peters’ career-defining achievement. In late June, the cast was announced [3The pride-inspiring line up is an all-British male cast of Edward Baruwa as Nomax, and the ‘Moes’ – Ian Carlyle (Four-Eyed Moe), Dex Lee (Know Moe), Idriss Kargbo (Little Moe), Timothy Martin (Big Moe) and Emile Ruddock (Eat Moe). Even more awesome was the additional news that the pop-up theatre would be specifically designed for the production to be reminiscent of 1940s New Orleans Jazz clubs.

A few days later, it was announced that Peters would co-star in psychological sci-fi thriller The Mandela Effect [4]. Based on the 2005 theory of the same name put forth by writer and “paranormal consultant” Fiona Broome, it describes shared false memories, which are theorised to, in fact, be glimpses into parallel worlds with different timeliness!  This was inspired by people swearing that Mandela had died in prison before February 1990, and not on 5th December 2013, and other alternative historical facts. At long last, the 18th September gave us the opening night of Five Guys Named Moe which we awarded 95% #OutOf100 for a glorious tribute to Jump Blues pioneer Jordan [5]

With such a well-received hit on his hands again, we suppose Peters was sitting around wondering what more he could give us. Starting on the 19th December, we were treated to Peters’ molasses-rich voice on BBC Radio Four. In a 3 part programme, Black Music in Europe: A Hidden History, Peters draws on a rare collection of archive recordings to explore aspects of forgotten African musical history in Europe, 1900 – 1930. Readings are provided by the great Paterson Joseph. [6] Then! Christmas day, Peters gave us another Christmas present by hosting Pick Of The Year 2017, also on Radio Four, in which he told of the fantastical and thrilling, and celebrated the life of soul of late great, jazz Godfather, Al Jarreau. [7]

Clarke Peters, we salute you and all your endeavours.

Other TBB Heroes of 2017 are:

Letitia Wright, who has notched up 19 roles since becoming active in 2011, including in Netflix’s current Black Mirror series, and in the awesome forthcoming Marvel’s Black Panther as Princess Shuri.

Alexandra Burke – for her breathtaking week-to-week performances in BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, despite losing her beloved mother just weeks prior to the start of the competition, and for weathering misogynoir at the fingertips of the British public. She was robbed of the glitterball trophy.

Joanna Jarjue – of The Apprentice, who won all the projects she managed, and who also suffered the misogynoir stereotype of being difficult to work with, when she all the did was stand her ground against her co-contestants who were just as ‘difficult’ if not more so to compete with. Jarjue was robbed of the win at the last hurdle.

Michaela Coel – for a second series of the BAFTA and RTS award-winning Chewing Gum, for a brilliant Uhura tribute in the current Black Mirror series, for landing a cameo role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the lead role in forthcoming Black British romantic musical Been So Long and for landing an in depth Vanity Fair interview.

Chizzy Akudolu – for services to BBC1’s Holby City and having the courage to move on, leaving a hole so big, it had to be filled by US actress Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey); for opening up about her depression and for weathering the misogynoir of Strictly and being voted off when lesser dancers were allowed to stay.

Daniel Kaluuya – for an award-nominated performance in his debut starring feature Get Out and playing T’Challa’s loyal best friend W’Kabi in the forthcoming Marvel’s Black Panther.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith – for his continued work with Act For Change,; for landing roles in Doctor Strange, Justice League, Paddington 2 and the forthcoming Mary Poppins Returns; for landing forthcoming roles in Paradise Garage as lead character legendary disco DJ Larry Levan, and as Ike Turner in Tina Turner: The Musical; and his continued amazing vocal performance in the fantasy audio books in the Rivers Of London series about the magical awakening of Nigerian-Brit PC Peter Grant.

Jimmy Akingbola – for his role as Kwame Nkrumah in Hero and for the continuing service to filmmakers and actors as co-founder of the Triforce Creative network and their annual short film festival, plus MonologueSlamUK and WritersSlam

Iyare Ighion – for services to film makers and actors as the founder of the quarterly SOUL: Create Connect short film festival, which goes from strength to strength and extending its reach and influence.

Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe – for services to filmmakers and actors as founder of the BUFF, British Urban Film Festival and awards.

Clare Anyiam-Osigwe – for her work with BUFF, her PR work, as the creator of Premae vegan beauty products, and for receiving her MBE.

Edward Enninful – Confirmed As New British Vogue Editor

Richie Campbell – for returning as Nightingale in series 2 of ITV 2’s The Frankenstein Chronicles, his role in ITV’s Liar and for being the face of Old Jamaica’s new ginger beer adverts and, literally, the face on the cans! We expect great things from Mr. Campbell!

Paapa Essiedu – after his brilliant RSC stint (including Hamlet), for landing roles in Murder On The Orient Express on the big screen, and in BBC 1’s The Miniaturisation. 

Arinzé Kene – for a great musical turn in the Bob Dylan musical melodrama Girl From the North Country at the Old Vic Theatre and for landing the lead opposite Michaela Coel in the forthcoming romantic musical Been So Long. 

OT Fagbenle – after making people sit up and take notice of his roles in BBC’S NW and in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for this year’s role as Luke Bankole in The Handmaids Tale.

Chicken Connoisseur – Elijah Quashie revolutionised the reputation of Chicken Shops across the UK.

It was also a good year in the theatre, what with Five Guys, Hamilton,  Motown: The Musical, Lady Day at Emerson Bar & Grill, #Hashtag Lightie, The Lion King (still)…

Honorary mention to the black family in the “Hooray! To the Wonderful Everyday” IKEA advert – we don’t know the actors, but yay!

In Memoriam: Our sympathies to all those who lost a loved one in 2017. RIP to the departed, peace to those left bereaved. Celebrity RIPs to singing legend Al Jarreau, Charlie Murphy, comedian Dick Gregory, eock’n’roll legends Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, legendary actress Della Reese.

If we had TBB Awards, we would have awarded them to these fantastic examples of Black Excellence. And we are cautiously optimistic for 2018, as should you!

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