Sharing History Through Storytelling
What does it mean to be British? For Diane Louise Jordan, the first Black presenter of the British TV program Blue Peter and the founder of The Making of Black Britain, this question became an important touchstone as she reflected on her parents’ lives, her Jamaican heritage, and her own life experiences, in which individuals have asked whether she was “really British.”
“I regretted taking so long to start the conversation,” explained Ms. Jordan in an interview about documenting the lives of her parents. “And after they passed, it felt like a part of my story was missing.” Ms. Jordan was not alone in this feeling, realizing that her friends — some of whom are first-generation Black British — also shared “feelings of incompleteness regarding their heritage.” To close this gap and to explore the idea of “Britishness,” The Making of Black Britain was born.
The Making of Black Britain is a living oral history project dedicated to telling stories that “capture the everyday of everyone; every color, class, and creed, from generation to generation.” Led by Ms. Jordan, the project seeks to document the transformation of Britain from the start of mass migration from Commonwealth nations in the postwar period to today — gathering oral histories relating to the Black British community from people around the United Kingdom. “At its heart,” said Ms. Jordan, “this project has been created to preserve our life experiences. It is a living archive, and it is particularly poignant for communities like mine, whose history has been truncated or lost.”
A cross-practice, London-based team has advised The Making of Black Britain from its very beginning. As the nonprofit began laying the foundation for capturing stories, we drafted and negotiated the contracts and privacy policies that enable the project to collect and collate stories, and maintain a digital archive with Google. We are also helping The Making of Black Britain to bring its project to wider audiences, including entering into an agreement to provide its oral history services to a large UK retailer, and entering into an agreement to partner with a world-leading museum. We have also helped The Making of Black Britain develop an agreement to be used with featured guests on the organization’s podcasts.
“At its heart, this project has been created to preserve our life experiences. It is a living archive, and it is particularly poignant for communities like mine, whose history has been truncated or lost.”Diane Louise Jordan, Founder, The Making of Black Britain
Since the project's soft launch in April 2022, over 55 stories have been collected — including a story shared by Chidi Onyeche, an associate from our London office who co-leads the team helping to advise the project. The Making of Black Britain also plans to roll out a Young Ambassador Initiative, through which young leaders will be given the opportunity to receive oral history training and will interview their peers throughout the Commonwealth.
Along with advising The Making of Black Britain, we offer a range of pro bono support to organizations that encourage and assist communities of color in the UK, including Colorintech, which promotes diversity in the tech industry throughout Europe, and BIGKID Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of young people at risk of social exclusion, most recently advising on data protection safeguards for the charity. We have also provided pro bono support to PSALT, a UK community-interest company focused on supporting Black-owned consumer goods brands to succeed in the UK food and drinks industry.
“I continue to be grateful for the pro bono ethos at this firm, which encourages and enables its lawyers to take on pro bono work of interest and meaning to them. I’m honored to be part of the team helping The Making of Black Britain to ensure that stories from our community are heard and preserved,” said partner David Ziyambi.
Article updated on January 23, 2024