Earlier this week saw the airing of a documentary I have been producing called ‘The Talk’. It was commissioned during lockdown and had a tight turnaround. The programme explored just one of the realities for families of Afro-Caribbean origin – how they prepare their children for growing up in British society, where their skin colour marks them out. It is certain that these children will face challenges and although the nature of those challenges may change from generation to generation, they still remain. The programme also sought to explain these obstacles to a predominantly white audience who are likely to be unaware of them.
As an Asian growing up in the 80s I had and still have friends from a very broad range of backgrounds, from the Caribbean and Africa to East Asia and South Asia. I knew about the hurdles many of my friends had faced, the everyday occurrences; but whilst working on this documentary, I hadn’t quite realised the deep effect they had and the scars they had left.
Listening to Lennie James describe his first incident, as a boy of 11, with a policeman and the questions Lennie had for him, you could feel his distress. The clear discrimination of teachers against both Ade and Lennie was shocking. Watching Tiwa Adebayo talking to her mother, Gillian Joseph, discussing the bombardment of the “ideal” beauty image of the blonde and blue-eyed woman, was heart-breaking.
The testimonies were powerful. As soon as the one hour programme ended, ‘The Talk’ was trending on Twitter. I have heard back from numerous friends and family members. They have been recommending it to their friends to watch on the catch up service. I have heard of extremely vocal discussions on social media, of those watching so moved that they’ve been crying – and parents watching it again, this time with their children, hoping they can also be forewarned and forearmed.
It’s rare that one gets to work on an important documentary. For me this one feels particularly powerful.