“I expect most actors would admit to a touch of jealousy, or healthy envy, if they see fellow actors in an excellent piece of work on TV or in the theatre. But the green-eyed monster is further fed when you are a black actor and see all the costume dramas this country is so masterful at producing, and realise that neither you nor any of your black contemporaries have been on such an exalted cast list. Why can I not get seen for parts in Emma, Great Expectations, or Downton Abbey? Is it because I’m not “the right kind of actor”? Or just the wrong colour of actor?
The black presence in our British history has sometimes wilfully, sometimes neglectfully, been whitewashed out of our national tale. This is not only deeply hurtful and enraging, but also foolish in the extreme. Who wants to only know half the story of their nation; who would be content to know only half the truth of their country’s journey from pre-Christian warriors to sophisticated world leaders in diplomacy, commerce, fashion, music and the arts? And the black presence has been a part of all of those achievements; sometimes negatively if we think of slavery, and sometimes positively when we consider figures like Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho.
Not only is it essential that we as British people tell our story, it is vital that we tell the whole story. If not, we risk increasing those feelings of alienation and temporariness that effect our youth so violently.”