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  • Eddie Hewitt

Cultural Connectivity Awards

The Inaugural Connected Cultures Special Award for Cultural Connectivity 2018

With this award we are celebrating excellence in Cultural Connectivity, demonstrated in an extensive capacity during the preceding 12 months. And here we join Montgomery C Burns from The Simpsons in defining excellence as:

“the quality or condition of being excellent”.

The intention is to show appreciation for outstanding attributes and achievements that have led to advancement in both society, at home and globally, through creative, intellectual, thought-provoking expression and engagement.

The award winner is therefore likely to be someone working in the Creative Arts or in the Media, and/or actively committed to social justice and equality. Also someone who is likely to have engaged with Connected Cultures in person, via social media, through informative and inspirational writing, in their performances or other actions, with shared values, or by some other contribution.

The award for 2018 goes to Afua Hirsch

Afua is a British writer, journalist, television and radio presenter and former barrister. Born in Stavanger, Norway to a Ghanaian mother and British father, raised in Wimbledon.

Afua has been chosen:

- for her tireless insistence on discussing the importance of race and tackling racism, and for being a leading, authoritative voice on the subject, including:

  • recognising and naming the issues

  • pointing out privilege and inequality

  • proposing solutions (actual, physical, intellectual and otherwise)

One of Afua's many highlights in 2018 has been her book BRIT(ish), On Race, Identity and Belonging.

The blurb inside the jacket opens with the question that must be oh-so-annoying to millions of people in Britain:

“Where are you really from?”

And moves on to assert:

“Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history.”

The book is a “personal and provocative investigation”.

Exactly my kind of book, then, and I would say essential reading for all.

- for her opinion pieces, features, and reviews in The Guardian

Comprising powerful / informative / persuasive / uplifting journalism. The following is a brief selection from an extensive list of topics she has covered this year:

  • Thoughts on the Commonwealth, starting out by describing it as the British Empire 2.0. Citing its racist history and how she finds its continuing existence hard to explain (April)

  • Exposure of the plight of the Windrush generation - the victims of government hounding. Supporting deportees and addressing the causes of bad government decision making (May and throughout 2018)

  • The role of Universities in the slave trade and their obligation to ‘own up’ (September)

  • The proof demonstrating why Science doesn’t belong to men. A rebuttal of misogynist physicists (October)

  • Support for immigration as a positive action and development. Here Afua refers to the life and contribution to society of former Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. In a related aside, Afua tells us that her first piece of journalism (aged 13) was about the Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football campaign) (October)

  • How ‘Free education is disappearing before our eyes’ (November)

- for her regular presence on The Pledge (Sky News), and for tolerating and not being bullied or allowing herself to be talked over by Nick Ferrari, Carole Malone and co. Including her bravery and sense of fun in appearing dressed as an angel on the pre-Christmas episode, and for presenting Ferrari with a T-shirt embossed with the words:

“This is what a feminist looks like”

A reformed Nick Ferrari (just for one day) with Angelic Afua on The Pledge

- for her LBC Radio talk show, allowing callers to have their say but making sure they are put straight when they spout objectionable views. The callers seem to have been particularly nasty and racist this year, and it requires great strength and peace of mind to knock them back in a forthright and respectful manner, often where no respect is deserved.

In December, Afua responded on air to one “Disgustingly toxic tweet” that said it was in the DNA of black people to "do anything for money and notoriety".

Click on the image above for a must-listen-to clip (photo via LBC)

On an earlier LBC occasion, in October, a caller accused Afua of being naïve and racist when Afua pointed out that there are white grooming gangs, not just Asian ones. Again, Afua responded with this statement...(even more essential listening):

Click on the image above for another must-listen-to clip (photo via LBC)

- for For her good humour and laughing when someone tweeted that her name sounded German and that she should go and live in Tunisia because “She is an Arab after all.”

- for choosing Meghan Markle as her own ‘Person of the Year’

Despite being reluctant to reward royal privilege, Afua has recognised Meghan’s contribution to opening up a debate about race and identity, and praised her for being a "self-made woman".

- for her BBC Radio 3 programme: Harlem on Fire in November

Afua said: “Loved making this on Harlem Renaissance & literary legacy of some of my favourite African American writers. But main thing I realised how resonant past struggles in black art & respectability politics are today.”

- and finally, for her appearance at Africa Writes in June 2018, especially at the Mostly Lit Live podcase event, for answering my question from the floor thoroughly and insightfully, and for signing my book afterwards.

At The British Library in June

Even more finally, Afua has recently been appointed as a member of the judging panel for the Man Booker prize in 2019. I have no doubt she will read every word of every book that comes her way.

The actions and roles referred to above are just a selection of the many contributions Afua Hirsch has made to society and to the way we understand and interact with the people around us. Connected Cultures looks up in admiration to Afua, and is delighted to proclaim her as this year’s winner of the award for Cultural Connectivity. We can’t wait to read and hear what she has to say in 2019.

© Eddie Hewitt 2018


Guardian opinion pieces


BBC Radio 3

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