Black, British + Proud
A Black History Month celebration
Black, British + Proud is an artistic photo-series that champions the Black British identity. The series features portraits of members within Uber’s Black community, including Partner Drivers and Uber staff.
With everything going on in the world, the photo-series publicly reaffirms the statement: I’m Black and I’m proud, in a uniquely British way.
Journeying through four curated studio sets, encompassing the affirmations, I Arrive, I Am Grounded, I Shine, and I Dream, Black, British + Proud is a celebration of Black Britain and the spaces in which the Black British identity is able to thrive.
The project is presented by the Black@Uber employee group.
2020 has been a year of global awakenings
Across society, there is a newly heightened awareness of the kinds of inequality and injustices that continue to detrimentally affect Black communities around the world. In a year that has seen statues topple, Black Lives Matter protests on every single continent, and sincere conversations about race on the tip of many tongues, Black History Month now carries more significance than ever.
Despite the heaviness and trials Black people face, there is so much joy in the identity, and so much to celebrate in one’s Blackness. Therefore, to mark this critical moment in history, Uber has partnered with Partner Drivers and a team of talented, young Black British creatives from across the UK, to create an artistic photo-series that champions the Black British identity.
“In my opinion, it’s always a privilege to be Black, I love being Black. I don’t feel like I’m deprived of anything in the UK. Being Black is just a bonus.”
Vienna, Partner Driver
“ I am who I am, I don’t pretend to be someone else. I am Black, I am not ashamed… I am proud of it. I have so many Black communities to relate to so that I don’t feel alone.”
Olu, Partner Driver
The series is an exploration of Black Britain navigating through time and space, referencing the past, present and future, posing the critical question: how did we get to where we are, and where are we going? Black, British + Proud reimagines and celebrates spaces where Black British identities are developed, nurtured, and freely expressed. Each set is titled with an affirmation, capturing the feeling and essence of the journey.
“To be Black is also incredibly beautiful, to be Black is also incredibly joyful - we bring colour, flavour, humour, creativity. We bring a strand of “human” that only we can bring and it is important, it is necessary to this world.”
The journey begins with "I Arrive", taking inspiration from 70s and 80s West Indian front rooms, drawing on Michael McMillan’s 2005 exhibition, 'The West Indian Front Room: Memories and Impressions of Black British Homes'. The living room holds vast significance as it was a space carved out by post-war West Indian migrants, including the Windrush generation, as they set up their new lives in Britain. The front room became a place of pride, adorned with memoirs, trinkets, and collectibles of a past life in the Caribbean, and a new life in Britain. Over decades, this space has been adopted by more Black British communities and is a very recognisable setting for many.
Biaba, on her view of being Black in Britain:
“You just have to be positive and accept who you are, and that we are all the same. We are all human beings, it’s not about colour, it’s about mindset - a positive mindset.”
Biaba, Partner Driver
I Am Grounded
The second set is an extension of this notion of the domestic, and ventures into the council estate, a common setting to large portions of Black Britain. While depictions and realities often contain both positive and negative elements, estates can be urban centres where identity is developed, community is generated, and creativity is born. Black, British + Proud exalts the space, spotlighting the beauty of the setting, and instilling pride in this significant, homely environment.
George on his favourite thing about being Black:
“The attention that we get. The attention that I’ve been getting for 25 years, I feel special. The trouble we’ve been through, every time we stand up for ourselves, it moves the ground, the dust lifts.”
George, Partner Driver
'I Shine' ventures into a reimagination of Black hair salons and Barber shops, creating a gender neutral space. Whilst hair salons and barbershops in Black culture are typically depicted as places for community, and even gossip, in this series, the emphasis is shifted to exploring the Black British aesthetic identity. Considering how Black people’s hair is so frequently scrutinised, both the hair salon and barbershop are places where the Black community is able to glow and refresh, before engaging with the wider world. Black people’s aesthetic identity has been the basis for years of racial trauma, therefore 'I Shine', is a reassertion of the right for Black people to take ownership of and have pride in their visual appearance.
Funke on her favourite thing about being Black:
“I love being a Black woman, I love myself and my culture. There are so many things about being Black British, the freedom, the equality, the diversity - you get to meet so many different people. I love the way we dress, cook, there’s many things to love. You see Black people inspiring each other, the determination we have to do something. The sky really is the limit.”
Funke, Partner Driver
The final set, 'I Dream,' is a meditation on hybridity, drawing on the many voices, cultures, and perspectives that will make up tomorrow’s Black Britain. Black Britain boasts a rich cultural heritage, made up of predominantly Caribbean and African diasporas, thus I Dream considers what this visual language may look like. The set plays with pastel colours to invoke a dream-like state, adorned with subtle references within the Black British experience. A Ghana-Must-Go bag features in some of the images, whilst feathers, perhaps from a Carnival past, float down from the sky. Masculinity is softened, and a matriarch oversees a hopeful future.
Amos on his thoughts for the future:
“Our time has come. Keep grafting, working, collaborating, keep focusing on community. At times we are all we have, so we need to make sure we prioritise who we are, what we are, what we represent and keep lifting each other up.”
Whilst the series focuses on Black Partner Drivers and the Black@Uber team, Black, British + Proud is a timely reminder of the pride that Black Britons take in identity, and their ability to thrive despite the odds that are stacked against them.
“There are so many talented Black British people in every area of society. From business to fashion, computer science to medicine, we have leaders in every space. If we’ve the ability to be the top of anything we put our minds to.”
About the project
Black, British + Proud pays homage to the post-colonial African photo studio tradition as a point of departure, subtly referencing the practices of pioneer photographers such as Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibe, Samuel Fosso, Sory Sanle, amongst others. In the wake of independence from colonial rule, these photographers aimed to capture everyday citizens, with an air of celebration and joy through portrait photography. In this practice, these pioneers dignified the subjects, bringing to life their personalities and championing their characters through fun styling, backdrops and animated poses.
In light of the marginalisation of Black people globally, Black, British + Proud is a localised and contemporary continuation of this tradition, adopting a visual language, through portrait photography, set design, styling, motifs and symbols, depicting the pride of being a Black Briton. The series holds particular relevance for Partner Drivers, who are at the heart of everything Uber does. Black, British + Proud, aims to shine and celebrate these personalities, who are central to Uber.
Shot at Take More Photos Studio, in Bow, London, which is a Black owned studio.
Team Creative Director: Tobi Onabolu (@tobionabolu)
Photographer: Karis Beaumont (@karisbeau)
Editor(s): Dylan Aroloye & Tobee Oyeleye (@oye2.0)
Production Manager: Gabriella Lafor (@producer.gabs)
Runner: Maudisa King (@maudisa_k)
Gaffer: Joseph Nkadi (@lightingbyjoe)
Set Designer: Tejumola Adenuga (@butlerarchive)
Assistant Set Designer: Gabrielle Oke (@gabeepaints)
Stylist: Ramario Chevoy (@Ramariochevoy)
Stylist Assistant: Joshua Arimoro (@jt._stylez)
HMU Artist: Olamide Feuga (@olamidefetuga) & Onome (@merakibyonome)
HMU Assistant: Esther Ekolie (@designedbyeko)
Production Assistant: Neneh Kumar (@nenehkumar)