In light of the recent Black Lives Matter and anti-racist protests in the UK, we have created a conversation focusing on systemic racism and how the education department plays a large role. Despite Black and Minority Ethnic authors (BAME) being at the forefront of unraveling the economic and psychological relationships at the heart of the British Empire, their literature and qualitative sources are still not used as evidence for history lessons or any part of the structured curriculum. If people do not feel represented when taught the history of their country, then how can they support the system that ignores them.
A key problem I had when researching the facts and statistics for this article was the lack of figures. Many focused on the lack of funding the publishing Industry and distribution aspect of the problem. None of the websites commented on why many of the British book wholesalers, such as Waterstones, does not have a sub section to focus on Black Literature. To find books relating to Black Literature in either the fiction or non-fiction sections you have to know what you’re looking for. This is why bookstores that focus on Black Literature are favoured by many in the community, knowing that they’ll get the representation that they deserve. If only less than 2 per cent of children’s authors and illustrators were British people of colour (1.98%), how can we expect BAME children to even want to read about something they do not see themselves in. Statistics from The Bookseller (a British magazine that reports news on the publishing industry) also show that out of thousands of books published in 2016 in the UK, fewer than 100 were by British authors of a non-white background. Continuing to dig further, The Bookseller spoke to many popular publishing houses and yet none claimed to hold data on the ethnic backgrounds of its authors. Some said that it was due to data protection rules being the reason that the information was not available.
When focusing on BAME literature, we also have to realise its knock-on effect to those in all communities. Many people will only challenge the discriminatory system after they have done their own research and seen the system itself which can be seen through books written by BAME authors. Despite the ongoing conversation about black literature, there is still a lack of funding, in regard to both publishers and distribution.
A collective few have made their own solution, one of them being New Beacon Books. New Beacon Books was one of the first Black British Bookshops focusing only on Black Literature. Opened in 1966, the store sold books by BAME authors, which was unusual at the time. By doing so, they received world-wide attraction as lots of tourists visited from places such as the USA and the Caribbean. It’s located is Stroud Green Road, Finsbury Park, if you want to check it out for yourselves.
It’s understandable if you can’t make it to Finsbury Park. There are many others across London such as; Pepukayi Books in North London, or for children’s books there’s Round Table Books located in Brixton, South London. However, due to lockdown these stores have had to adhere to government guidelines. Luckily the No Ordinary Book Shop is allowing you to browse their online shop in the meantime which contrasts their usual hosting in various pop-up libraries and stalls all over London.