Black Suffolk

Cornhill, Ipswich

31 July - 27 August

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Free

The outdoor ‘Black Suffolk’ photographic exhibition by award-winning local photographer John Ferguson, is on display in Cornhill, Ipswich, throughout August.

Based on the theme of ‘home’, John – an esteemed national press and documentary photographer – has produced a remarkable new collection of portraits. The images creatively explore the concept of home for a diversity of people from the African-Caribbean community who have made Suffolk their home, or who were born here.

John says: “This theme will creatively express and explore people’s experience and interpretation of what exactly is ‘home’. Home can be a feeling, a physical space or a geographical place. Home can be a memory, metaphor or experience. The idea is to connect with the notion that we are home, both metaphorically and physically, our lives are inextricably attached to where we live, our homes, and Suffolk. I asked the people I was shooting, what does home mean to them? How do you express themselves and their spirit from their home?”

Mounted on outdoor ‘cubes’ throughout August, 16 images also aim to instill a greater sense of pride among the Black community, and to help to break down racial barriers in the broader community.

Thanks to our generous funders:

DanceEast, Kim Clements, Mandy Gaylard, and SZC Neighbourhood Fund.

Also, big thanks to:

The Black community of Suffolk, John Ferguson Photography, Elma Glasgow Consulting, Cornhill Fund, Colchester and Ipswich Museums and Ipswich Borough Council.

Photography by John Ferguson.

Man playing West African drum
Man playing West African drum

H. E. Ross, 76

I was a sailor who writes and now I am a writer who sails.

Born in San Francisco, I’ve had many homes. I started out as a driver, then I was a Marine from 1963-67. I was in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and got my head beat.

In 1967, I started sailing and a year later I was sailing professionally. For a long time, I lived in Mexico writing for magazines and newspapers. In 1973, I started writing for Pulitzer Prize-winning small press, Pt Reyes Light.

I kickstarted the Bay Area Marine Institute a year before leaving for the Cayman Islands to continue working as a journalist, and published the first maritime heritage books for the Caymans. I also lived in Haiti and the Turks and Caicos Islands, where I started three maritime preservation organisations and an inter-island lifestyle magazine which developed into the Islands Chronicle.

I met my wife while shipwrecked and together we created the Turks and Caicos Maritime Federation. After two hurricanes destroyed our boat, we moved to London where I ran maritime heritage presentations for London Bloods.

Now, home is our 1890s barge. Life here in Suffolk is simple with supportive people, where I can finish writing my second novel.

Woman in pink coat leaning against a green hedge
Black cartoon drawing of a person holding a large pencil on a yellow background

Michelle, 55

“You should be famous!”

That’s what people tell me, which probably has something to do with my confidence and presence.

I’m known for my style of vintage dresses, glamourous DM boots, statement jewellery and Harry Potter tattoos, as well as my hair. Inspired by BLM, I’ve decided to embrace my natural hair but have dyed it red as it’s in keeping with who I am.

I worked as a Suffolk police officer, but I’m not The Funky Celebrant, conducting ceremonies across the East of England including weddings, naming, milestone and memorial ceremonies, and even corporate ceremonies.

I’m a proud Black woman and the Mayor of Manningtree. I’m also a champion for anti-racism and diversity movements, training other celebrants in diversity and inclusion.

Home is where I prepare to celebrate the people I work with and, if I find myself with spare time, indulging in my love for Harry Potter. If you’re planning a Harry Potter themed wedding, I have a wand and cloak ready to go!

Woman in pink coat leaning against a green hedge
Woman in pink coat leaning against a green hedge

A’naiha Marie, 9

 

My home is a great place where my mum encourages me, my dad and brother to be creative. As a family we like doing things like watching Marvel films and doing arty stuff.

My mum teaches me to be proud of my skin colour, because I was bullied before. And mum tells me a lot about my beautiful culture. I love my Caribbean, Latin and English heritage – I love reading books on Black history and Windrush. I have passion to do my own black history club at school just like my mummy*. As all children should learn about amazing cultures.

I love art and clothes that look African. And I really love Okoye because she’s a female warrior. I prefer warriors to princesses. Dressing up as warrior helps inspire me. I’m wearing her costume in the photo.

Black Panther is amazing! I watch it a lot with my family and we talk about the film and history.

*A’naih Marie’s mummy is the Diversity and Inclusion lead at West Suffolk College.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Ruel, 53

I’m proud to have been born and bred in Suffolk, it reminds me where it all started. Football has always been important. I spent almost two decades as a premier league football player and now I’m a personal fitness trainer, sports conditioning trainer and an Ambassador for Whitton United Football Club.

Football brings people together and gives joy, whether you play or not. It gives you an opportunity to fulfil dreams and change people’s lives, and it provides a platform for discussion and education.

As a Black man, I want to be a positive role model and to educate, to follow in the footsteps of generations that led the way. And prove that you can aspire to be whatever you want, with the right drive and positive people around you.

 

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Tamika, 22

To me, home is spending time with my family. With my mum, her partner, my brother and sister, my boyfriend, and my miniature Dachshund, Teddy.

I’ve lived in Suffolk all my life. When I was younger, I used to think it was boring but as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that I am lucky to live in the countryside. My town is beautiful, with a lot of history, although I wish it was more diverse.

As a Suffolk Community Reporter for Archant, which covers East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star, I want to succeed in my role and make a difference to young people in the community.

I want to strive for equality for local people of colour, working with fellow board members and contributors in our group, Bury St Edmunds for Black Lives.

I rarely far from my laptop, which is incredibly important to me. It contains all of my university work which is still dear to me, as well as the YouTube videos I’ve saved on how to tie headscarves. There are all kinds of things on there that I’d be devastated to lose.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Affy, 31

As a session musician and composer, home to me is my drumkit. It makes me feel like I’m progressing, like I’m making the most of the life I’ve been given.

It was there during the darker times of my life, and I don’t know where I would be without it. This drumkit helped me overcome abuse and gave me a sense of purpose. Now I feel like I’m living honestly, doing what I believe I was put on this Earth to do.

All of my dreams are out there in the wider world but while I’m living in Suffolk, I want to inspire the next generation to be strong and accepting of everyone. I want to help more people follow their actual dreams instead of what society wants them to do and be.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Carnell, 38

I think ‘home’ is portrayed by my sneaker collection. They’re a passion of mine and allow me to express my personality and something that allows me to feel comfortable as me. I’m incredibly proud of my collection. That is how home should feel.

Somewhere you can be yourself, be comfortable and be proud of yourself.
I’m a musician, teacher and mentor but my aspirations lie mostly in my personal life. I want to be a good father to my son as this is something I didn’t experience myself growing up.

As a Black man in Suffolk, I want to show that I am more than the colour of my skin. But to also celebrate everything that comes with that, my culture, my history, my heroes and heroines, and to spread this message further, especially the stories of those unsung Black heroes.

As a mentor, I want to pass my experience and knowledge on to young Black people in order to better my community and the image of Black men everywhere.

 

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Shona, 26

I’ve been hated for my skin colour, sexuality, and mental health. Things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am.

I’m a burlesque dancer, fire performer and jewellery designer. I grew up around my uncle’s circus, soaking up the colours, costumes and music.

As an activities, I take organise and part in LGBTQ+ and BLM protests and events. As soon as you start treating Black and LGBTQ+ people equally, others start to feel threatened that we’re taking power away from them. In a way, we are, because we’re taking their superiority and privilege away. This is what happens when you’re conditioned to look down on people.

I in a place by the sea, yet it’s filled with pain from the racism I’ve encountered, as well as from memories of my dad’s wake on the beach.

I want to carry on protesting, to continue the fight for equality, to let our children know that we are good enough, we have a right to live and not just survive. That we are beautiful, and we are loved.

We need to stand up against inequality and hate in this world. Whatever your skin colour, background, sexuality or mental health status, we are all worthy.
Every one of us matters.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Barrington, 68

For me, home means stability, family and security, wherever you are.
I grew up in Willesden, London, and living in Ipswich is no different. I feel safe here.

I worked on the London Underground and as a professional dancer.

Now that I’m retired, I spend my time dancing with my daughter, Rosy, who’s also a professional dancer. Recently, I choreographed and performed a routine for her dance film, ‘The Islands’.

I play tennis and particularly enjoy watching Nigerian films as the scenery reminds me of Jamaica, my home island. I love listening to reggae, soca, and ‘60s music – the music of my younger years. When having this photo taken, we were listening to ‘London Is The Place For Me’ by Lord Kitchener.

I also play Zelda on the Nintendo Switch. I enjoy having the power to fly and fight, to help people in distress, to save people from danger.

I’m proud to live in Suffolk as a Black man, surrounded by my family, my wife, my daughter and her partner. I want people to be able to live together in harmony and peace, and hope that others see me as I see them – as a person.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Derrick, 83

I moved to England from Guyana as part of the Windrush generation. I’d just finished my motor engineering apprenticeship when my mother decided I should go to England. I cried. I didn’t want to go.

In 1957, I arrived in London and was called up for National Service. I joined the RAF where I served for 12 years. I enjoyed working with the pilots and engineers; I’d never had had the opportunity to work with them otherwise. On leaving the RAF, I became a flight simulator specialist.

One of the scariest moments of racism I experienced was during the Notting Hill riots in 1958. A letter bomb or smoke bomb was pushed through my letterbox. I was determined to rise above these situations. I put that down to my positive attitude, education and background.

Windrush is part of English history and people need to be taught how those before them have suffered. It should be part of the school curriculum: where we came from, why we came here, what we did.

We came to England because we were invited to make this country our home. You can’t invite someone and then, when their job is done, send them back.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Angelle, 28

Music has been a massive part of my life for the longest of time. It soundtracks my ups, downs and in-betweens. It takes me on a journey of memories and makes me excited for the future.

Being in a studio is where I find solace. No distractions, no negativity, just good vibes. Whether it’s making music or being on the radio, it’s a healthy escapism that feeds my soul.

There are many incredible Black women in Suffolk that I look up to and I value any time that they have given to talk to me, give me advice or support my work.

I hope to keep providing opportunities to encourage positive representation for people that look like me. I want to see more of our stories being told with equity. When I walk in a room, the first adjectives people would use to describe me are ‘Black’ and ‘woman’.

This is how the world sees me and they attach their own stereotypes to those labels. For me, my lived experience is part of sharing the story of the different layers Black women have, and how our differences and similarities strengthen our sisterhood.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Kanika, 30

As soon as I learned to walk, I would dance. I would copy the movement I saw in the ballet videos my mum recorded from the television and I’d watch them on repeat.

I would dream of dancing on pointe and in a tutu. Classical music, and the expression and artistry of classical ballet, has always inspired and moved me.

Home is Suffolk, although I’ve very recently relocated to elsewhere. Wherever I am in the world, I’m proud that Suffolk always feels like home. I feel blessed to have grown up here and to have had the freedom to enjoy my childhood while being surrounded by a community who have supported my dreams and continue to support me.

As a professional dancer and ballet teacher, I want to bring the joy that ballet has to offer to many, especially those who may not normally have been introduced to it.

Through teaching ballet, I hope to celebrate the uniqueness and beauty in each and every person.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Gary, 55

I’m a rural postman, having worked for Royal Mail for 33 years. When I’m not working, I enjoy painting landscapes and abstract, as well as cycling, reading, going to the gym and astronomy. I’m planning on getting a new telescope soon, actually.

I was born in Suffolk and consider England to be home, although my parents are from Monserrat and Nevis so I have a great sense of connection to my Caribbean heritage. My family is important to me. My daughter is studying at the moment and hopes to start her own business. Suffolk is a great place to do this. I’ve never had any issues with racism here.

When I stopped working in my previous village as their postman, they had a collection for me and made a large banner which I saw as I drove out of the village. That is my fondest memory from my career.

For the future, I would like society to become more inclusive, and to retire to a more rural location with a clear view of the night sky.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Eldridge, 76

I’ve been very lucky – I was brought up by my grandparents and auntie and uncle who all lived in the same house.

I worked as a painter and decorator for donkey’s years, but my real passion is family. My family have lived on the same plot of land since 1919, and I’m a proud father to three and grandfather to two.

I was born after my mother and father, a Black American serviceman, met at a dance locally during World War II. My father was deployed to France just a few weeks after I was born in 1944. We never heard from him again. A familiar story for several children in the area.

I never had a photograph taken with both my parents, and for my 70th birthday, my children gave me a photo created by stitching together two images together – one of me and my mother, and another of his father.

Thanks to my son’s tireless research tracing our family history, I’m now in contact with my half-sister.

After the war, my father lived in Los Angeles, California, and my half-sister still lives there. We’ve had a chat via Zoom and have plans to stay in touch.

I do feel proud to be a Black man in Suffolk – I’ve got no reason not to. I’ve always found Suffolk to be a very tolerant county and always got on with people.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Taquan, 24

Home for me is running along the Orwell River, under the bridge. It’s great there.

I work in property management at the moment, and my ambition is work as a dance therapist.

I’m a graduate from BathSpa University with a 2:1 Honours in BSc Psychology and Dance. By aligning both disciplines, I think I can help make people stronger mentally and physically.

There’s also a cultural stigma among young Black men about expressing their feelings and talking about their doubts. As an artform, dance can help people express themselves in a different way. It’s helpful, especially if a person is struggling to articulate themselves.

My mum is Bajan (Barbadian) and my dad is Jamaican. I experience indirect racism a lot. Many people who aren’t Black believe the stereotypes of young Black men. I’m positive and determined, so I use it to my gain.

I flip the problem on its head by using ‘underdog’ status to impress people. I always strive to articulate myself properly, to help counter those stereotypes.

A man playing a West African drum
A man playing a West African drum

Mervin Henry aka Daddy Turbo, 61

As long as there’s music, I’m happy!

I’ve been a DJ specialising in reggae, soca and dancehall music for over 35 years.

I ran Flex FM – a pirate radio station – for eight years, because Ipswich never had a station representing our community. For seven years, I worked with Suffolk Radio on the Caribbean magazine show, Ebony Eye, covering anything from cooking to racism.

As a Black person you need to create your own space in Suffolk, and make the most of any opportunities.

I’m do some journalism – I’ve made documentaries and interview with artists from around the world, such as 50 Cent. You can find some of them on my YouTube channel (daddyturbo1).

I was part of the original Sony Music Street Team – one of a few DJs from around the country – promoting artists such as The Fugees and Maxwell.

Home is what you make it – there’s never a dull moment. I’ve got three children and a two-year-old granddaughter but I’m not slowing down.

This year, I’m a guest DJ at the Sunrise Coast Weekender, and I have a show on Ipswich Community Radio every Sunday, 8pm-10pm.

Life is for living – do what you can before you depart from this planet.

Ipswich Community Radio, 105.7fm or www.icrfm.com.

Visiting the exhibition

Address

Christchurch Mansion, Soane Street, Ipswich, IP4 2BE

Exhibition dates

26 June – 24 October 2021

Christchurch Mansion

Soane St, Ipswich IP4 2BE, UK

Visiting the exhibition

Christchurch Mansion

Soane St, Ipswich IP4 2BE, UK

Address

Christchurch Mansion, Soane Street, Ipswich, IP4 2BE

Exhibition dates

26 June – 24 October 2021