October saw Black History Month celebrated at St Mary’s University, and in the week the Rolling Stones dropped their classic song Brown Sugar from their set list because of controversy over its lyrics about slavery, it was good to see debates surrounding representation and the arts taking centre stage in Twickenham.
(Incidentally the Rolling Stones began their career in our borough – at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond and at the Eel Pie Hotel on Eel Pie Island.)
St Mary’s Film Society screened Blacks Can’t Swim, including a Q&A with its writer, Ed Accura. There was also ‘Our Stories’ Poetry Night at The Exchange, Twickenham. ‘Black History is our History’, artwork produced by black St Mary’s students, was exhibited at the Riverside Gallery, Richmond.
Rob Lemkin’s film African Apocalypse and a conference Healing the Wounds of Modern Slavery were also part of the celebration.
Mick Jagger has had a long association with St Mary’s University. His father Joe Jagger taught here, and Mick attended Joe’s funeral at St Mary’s. Mick comments that the Stones will ‘Take that one [Brown Sugar] out for now and see how it goes.
We might put it back in’. This discussion around Brown Sugar is exactly the kind of issues Black History Month raises: the reappraisal of accepted canons in music and evolution of contemporary standards and taste.