In my third year of uni, despite studying a degree in Graphic Design and Photography, I decided to write my dissertation on the representation of black women in British TV and film. Looking back now, I’d say that the inspiration was divine, because the choice didn’t make sense. I wasn’t studying drama, film or TV, and I wasn’t studying media or sociology. I was studying an art degree where we’d spend hours dissecting typefaces and venerating European designers. It was a very white course (in content, cohort and teachers) but I decided my dissertation would focus on black women.
I studied at Kingston University, London, where students in the faculty of the arts were sequestered on a separate, smaller campus from the main building. As I began my dissertation research, I soon discovered that I needed to be reading someone called bell hooks, and there were none of her books in the cosy Knights Hill campus library. I decamped to Penrhyn Road and began what I didn’t know would be my re-education. Until then, the idea of feminism had sounded like something I chimed with on paper, but I never saw myself or the women I knew reflected in the boujie concerns of disgruntled white women. Feminism, as I knew it then, was a need for women to escape the home for the workplace, but my mother had always worked, and being one of a handful of black families in my area meant that the home was not somewhere to escape from, it was the only place I felt safe as a child.