When I landed, all I could see was this white stuff and I thought, ‘What’s that down there?’. Then come my dad and he said, ‘It’s snow’, and I’m thinking, ‘This is cold, man, this is cold, I don’t know if I can stay here; it is cold!’ When I look at the houses and see smoke coming out a chimney it looks like the house was caught on fire.
It was just change, because I’m leaving a hot country and coming to somewhere cold and it looked different, and I’m thinking, ‘Will I be all right, I may have to end up going back’.
Told in their own words, ‘Black Country Roots’ is a book published by Multistory that tells the story of the African-Caribbean community in Sandwell and the Black Country, through oral history interviews and photography.
Many people from the Caribbean came to England to help with re-building after the second world war to support the NHS and to work in industry and transport. Though they were much needed, they also experienced terrible racism.
The book tells stories and personal, real life accounts in people’s own words accompanied by a series of historic and contemporary images that come from a range of sources, including local archives and the personal collections of participants. Other photographs come from acclaimed photographers: Martin Parr, John Bulmer, Paul Hill, Peter Donnelly, Nick Hedges and Vanley Burke.
Multistory commissioned documentary designer Graham Peet to select the photographs and edit and design the book; and Emma Purshouse (a local writer and performance poet) and Kurly McGeachie (a Birmingham Poet Laureate finalist) conducted the interviews.
We worked with Sandwell councillor, Jackie Taylor, who provided contacts and context and gave great support for the project.
The book was launched to celebrate Black History Month in October 2016, and is now available to buy from our shop.
It is also being sold at local venues including Sandwell Libraries and the Black Country Living Museum.