'Overlooked' history of Black lives must be recognised, say authors

Academic Dr Francesca Sobande worked alongside Scots writer layla-roxanne hill to create the book Black Oot Here: Black Lives in Scotland.

‘Overlooked’ history of Black lives in Scotland must be recognised, say authors Cardiff University

More must be done to recognise the “overlooked” history of Black people in Scotland, a Scots academic has said.

The work, lives and culture of Black people since the 1980s has been documented in a new book: Black Oot Here: Black Lives in Scotland.

Author Dr Francesca Sobande worked alongside Scots writer layla-roxanne hill to document the experiences of Black people spanning multiple generations over 30 years.

Dr Sobande, who grew up in Edinburgh and lived in Dundee, said she hopes her research is a “celebration” of people’s lives and demonstrate how “Black people have been and are intrinsic to modern Scottish life”.

The book includes the co-authors’ own stories as well as those from people across the country from Dundee to Dunoon and Glasgow to Edinburgh.

She gathered first-hand interviews, studied archive material and creative work, and charted the activism of Black people from the eighties onwards to offer extensive insights into an area of history which is often overlooked.

Dr Sobande said: “With this research, we aim to celebrate the lives of Black people in Scotland; it is clear they are part of Scotland’s past, present, and future. But the material on Scottish history that we came across painted an incomplete picture of Black Scottish life which left us thinking about how Black Scottish history has been treated.

“Even though Black people’s presence in Scotland spans centuries, when I was growing up there, recognition of this was lacking. Although a lot has changed since then, acknowledgement of Black Scottish history needs to extend much further beyond Black history month, traumatising media depictions, and tired tropes such as the archetypal ‘strong’ and ‘respectable’ Black person.

“You might not realise it from some public spheres, but from the interviews we carried out, it is clear that Black Scottish history is alive and kicking. More needs to be done to ensure it is incorporated into national conversations about Scotland’s future.”

Black Oot Here includes accounts by Black people in Scotland from all walks of life.

Co-author layla-roxanne hill said: “Our time spent scouring archives in Scotland and online also saw us poring over papers and press clippings. All too often, history is assumed to be old and the presence of Black people in Scotland is assumed to be new or temporary.”

Dr Sobande, who is based at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture, said: “Black Scottish history is not hidden in plain sight. Instead, the making, impact, and archiving of such history occurs in many spaces, and is happening right now.

“However, many questions remain: Will Scotland’s future involve more institutions converting their Black Lives Matter (BLM) statements of support into sustainable action? Will we see the day that Black Scottish history is consistently taught across all stages of education in Scotland? That remains to be determined, but what is undeniable is that Black people have been and are intrinsic to modern Scottish life.”