Aaron Roach Bridgeman shares with TBB His Journey of Discovery Of Self And How It Led Him To Get Involved In Creating the Black History School UK.

The Black History School is a programme that encourages children to explore and celebrate differences while encouraging a supportive community. Each month the team of presenters which include Aaron, Kamari, Sunshine, Shem, Khadra, Grace and Mopani share interesting stories and facts about the diaspora the monthly programme is uploaded on the 27th of each month.

This fun but informative curriculum can be enjoyed all with activities designed to help re-calibrate social and intellectual skills affected during the pandemic while being safe and accessible through online interactive videos with animations, dialogue prompts, and printable worksheets to follow at home.

Parents can also enjoy extra care and guidance through THE VILLAGE a development programme under the Black History School, supporting Black parents in and around the UK.

We spoke to Aaron bout the project and his involvement …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Aaron Roach Bridgeman. I work as a host and presenter on TV, Live Events & Documentaries. I am also a poet and a qualified Behavior Specialist specialising in dealing with challenging behavior in young adults. I am a black man of Dominican (commonwealth) and Barbadian heritage. My journey has taken me to Sky One, Sky Arts, Channel 5, MTV, BBC, Amazon Prime, and even Turkish and Dutch TV.

Please give a word or sentence which best describes your life right now …

My life right now is in a transitional time. Adaptation and evolution have become my 2 new best friends.  

Can you tell us more about your initiative The Black History School programme and what encouraged its development? 

The Black History School is an important resource for all people to learn and enjoy Black history, culture & educative information, not just for a month but all year round.  Kamari Romeo envisioned a resource that allowed interactive and entertaining learning. His idea was brought to life through the collaboration of incredible minds & talented individuals. 

What is the importance of a programme like the Black History School programme?

We need the stories of the incredible Black history of optimism & ingenuity to provide a full education for us and others, to understand our history and culture is more than one that can be commemorated for a month, or centralised over a horrifying time period of slavery. Our children and the children of others can now learn in an enjoyable manner about Black royalty, black academic excellence, unique Black creativity, the multiplicity of Black food & cooking, the appreciation of difference, self-love & so much more. 

Black History School by John Godwin

How do you think a programme like this would have helped your journey of discovery as a young person?

This would’ve saved me over a decade of self-discovery through self-education. It would’ve lessened the pain that I went through, learning about so much of the individual traumatic details of our history, by being supplemented with the rest of our history both before and after slavery, consisting of inspirational stories of an innovating, enterprising, resourceful & resolute people.  In neither my academic or professional journey have I been able to openly or comprehensively explore the history of Black people, in a way that did not pertain to the one month we are encouraged to all partake in.

I have had to take my own journey and one that at many times made me quite ashamed of my lack of knowledge about African culture and history. As a boy, I quickly realised African History is Black history and thus my history. My deeper journey started late – I was in University when I realised how deep my knowledge gap was. Growing up in North West London I’m from, I was heavily surrounded by West Indian culture. At university, I set took African Popular Culture modules outside of my degree. I made sure I attended all ACS meetings and events. I started to read and research in-depth. I was very aware of my culture and history in the Caribbean, but now I was delving deeper.

From a young age, you have used poetry as a way to express your deepest most inner thought and feelings of self-discovery. Why poetry?

Words have had a mesmerising hold on me since very young. I would MC as a boy and write lyrics in a colloquial manner. However, when I came across a poet called Carol Ann Duffy when I was in school, something changed in me; I wanted to hide my deepest, truest feelings and emotions in a similar form. I have never been good at outwardly or openly expressing my innermost feelings conventionally, person to person. Poetry provided an escape and a means to do so. 
I took to expressing my new knowledge and created these 14 years ago – Slavery Story-The whole FACTual story & The African.

After University I performed a poem called Black History – this was also recorded as a poem that circulated all those years ago online, but it has disappeared from YouTube, unfortunately. The poem was as follows:

The Month Of Black History,
Why we only have a month to me is a mystery,
It could take years to learn everything from head to tail,
There is so much more to our history than Slaves on Ships that set sail,
And those that did well… 
Like the Journeying Determined Olaudah Equiano,
He is a man that bought his own freedom, not with bread- but Hard Dough,
Many don’t know his name,
And to be honest, if you don’t it is a shame,
However, when you only get mentioned once a year,
It isn’t a surprise why so many of us feel like we’re only from here,
But treated like were from somewhere else,
Make every day Black history and teach yourself,
People need to learn and embrace the migration patterns,
It wasn’t easy for us, but it’s what we do now and since that matters,
I personally learnt a lot from Professor Stuart Hall,
He taught me about society’s rise and fall,
So Many Great Black figures I could add to the list,
Bernie Grant died Justice fighting and Sir Bill Morris still fights for this,
But now is a time for us to look at ourselves for inspiration,
Create the next wave of history in this duration,
So let’s strive for greatness in every way,
& let them know we’re making Black history every day!!

How did you get from a poet who could only express his feelings through writing to performer?

Later in life, I took on the character Anansi the Spider and went around different schools to perform the old Caribbean and African inspired folktale before I started popping up at random Secondary schools to facilitate Black History education sessions. Schools such as Saint Gabriel College in Camberwell – Special Shout Out to Headteacher Ms. Bertrand.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience about this journey…

When I came across an opportunity to present as part of an ongoing Black History School Project. I was absolutely beside myself. I knew straight away, that whatever it took to be part of this, I would do. Even if this meant showing my minimal vocal ability in a Hamilton-Esque performance when needed, or sweating it out in the kitchen cooking cultural dishes of my heritage when called upon. Both being factual elements to my contribution to the Black History School by the way. I am extremely proud. Being part of this to me is more than being part of a creative project as a talent.

Kamari Romeo has allowed me to be part of a team that hopefully kicks off a legacy of continuing Black History education for all people of all backgrounds, not just for a month, but for the whole year, all year-round. A hub of creative ways to learn and understand so many facets to Black culture, Black people and Black history. This is monumental. Personally something I have been looking for and trying to contribute to, my whole life.

Added to the social and cultural impact, we really had fun creating this. We all zoned in and brought out the best possible performances. Grace is phenomenally bubbly, Mopani is intellectually impressive, Shem is a super talent with The Voice, Sunshine is true to her name, brightens up every scene she is in, Khadra is a beautiful soul with soul. The team is amazing. I have watched everything we have released so far and I am so proud of the quality, the fun, the storytelling, the costumes. It really is a spectacle to be celebrated.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like our audiences to know about?

 I am speaking at the Black Young Professionals (BYP) Creative Summit on June 25th.  I have a documentary about Black Business coming to BBC Three & BBC iplayer in June/July.  I also have a series coming to Sky Arts around the same time. Most importantly, we have more and more content dropping on the Black History School website. Keep an eye on there.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU…

  • · A book you have to have in your collection Street Boys by Tim Pritchard
  • A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date – Ghetts – Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament
  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance, or concert)? The Woman in Black at Fortune Theatre. It was everything. The drama, the suspense, the frightening use of lighting. I knew immediately entertaining on that level was something I wanted to contribute to.
  • A film/TV show that you will watch whenever it’s on repeatedly My Wife and Kids
  • What’s made you Sad, Mad, and Glad this week – This week’s news of more new stabbing incidents made me both sad and mad. I filmed the main parts of the show I co-host on Sky Arts. This made me glad. I feel like I am living in my purpose at these times.

Please make sure you check out and support The Black History School UK