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Portrait of Black Britain: Representing the Black Community

An exhibit that showcases the faces of black Britain is being held throughout Manchester’s Arndale Centre.

The exhibit was commissioned as part of Manchester’s International Festival, the Portrait of Black Britain is an ongoing project by activist and photographer Cephas Williams.

Williams hopes that the Portrait of Black Britain will amplify the contributions made by blacks living in the UK. He also hopes that it will give the next generation and wider society an in-depth view of the achievements of 21st century black Britain.

The Portrait of Black Britain asks, ‘What does it actually mean to be Black?’ Williams sees the piece as a way to take control of his narrative. This will reintroduce the black community's presence and stories in the 21st century.

Most of the people photographed in the Arndale exhibition hail from London, creating a collection of social workers, entrepreneurs, poets, and professors. Williams is also featured in the exhibit.

The project launched just days after Williams posted a video of himself being stopped by security guards in Bluewater shopping centre. In the video, the activist was falsely accused of stealing two suitcases from the House of Fraser, with a security guard tightly gripping William’s wrist.

Williams recounts the incident: “This happens because black people are not seen as other members of society or as human beings first. So this piece wants to reintroduce us as human beings first.”

Bluewater has since apologised to Williams and they have turned off their comments on Instagram, due to the backlash.

However, Williams says the Bluewater has only fuelled his desire to create racial equality and show black people represented outside the confines of criminality, entertainment, and sports stars.

Williams hopes that the Portrait of Black Britain will eventually be a collection of 1,000 portraits of black Britons to provide representation of the community, one year after the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement.


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