Focus | Celebrating local African-Caribbean culture and our stories - Museums Association

Focus | Celebrating local African-Caribbean culture and our stories

Aspire Black Suffolk aims to create a long-lasting legacy to the Power of Stories exhibition
Communities Museum X
Elma Glasgow
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A gallery shot from the Power of Stories exhibition Megan Wilson

Aspire Black Suffolk is a six-month initiative that launched in June. The programme is running in association with Ipswich Museum’s pioneering Power of Stories exhibition.  

We aim to create a long-lasting, positive legacy in Suffolk, predominantly among young Black people, and to send positive ripples across the broader community.  

Way more than “just” a cultural programme, Aspire Black Suffolk is a network of passionate individuals and grassroots organisations that have pooled their collective intelligence, skillset and lived experience. 

It is a platform used to elevate the profile of and to celebrate the county’s Black community, which has been historically under-represented across all areas of life, despite its contribution to the local economy and culture. It is an unmissable opportunity for us to reinvigorate the community’s sense of pride and belonging. 

Power of Stories is the catalyst for this activity, and it just so happens that planning was already in full swing when a succession of events occurred – events that added weight and poignancy.  

First, Covid-19 struck the UK, revealing the depth of social injustice long suffered by Black people. Then came the murder of George Floyd in the US, which triggered the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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In August, the actor Chadwick Boseman passed away at 43, leaving an astonishing legacy of performances including his role as the Black Panther in a five-picture deal with Marvel Entertainment.  

Each of these tragic events brought with it moments for reflection and re-evaluation – and opportunity for Britain to face its demons and engage in uncomfortable but necessary conversations. Aspire Black Suffolk and Power of Stories happened to be in the making, ready to support such activity. 

The practicalities of organising Aspire Black Suffolk were heavily impacted by the pandemic. Nonetheless, with the commitment of many people and the support of Colchester and Ipswich Museums, we secured about £25,000 from Arts Council England and local donors, including county councillors,  
a large corporate and DanceEast.  

We are now awaiting the outcome of an additional funding application for Windrush Day activities. Aspire Black Suffolk events span education, arts, culture, heritage and personal development. They are led by local community groups, such as the Suffolk Black Community Forum and Karibu, an organisation supporting African women.

Our network also includes artists, performers, musicians and businesses. Some are financed by the above-mentioned backers, while others are self-funded. 

Furthermore, our logo was created by students at West Suffolk College and Suffolk One, and we have had support and interest from key local cultural bodies such as Ipswich Film Theatre, Primadonna Festival, Suffolk Archives, Art Eat Events and Woodbridge Festival.

The programme is becoming increasingly varied and impactful. But this momentum wouldn’t have occurred without that original idea of contacting Marvel Studios. 

Elma Glasgow is Aspire Black Suffolk project coordinator and a PR consultant 

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