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What 10 Years of Black Ballad Looks Like In 10 Articles

In case you’re not subscribed to Black Ballad’s newsletters or paying attention to our social media, Black Ballad turns ten years old this weekend.

As many times as I’ve said it, I don’t think it’s fully sunk in, especially with things being so precarious across the media landscape for publications big and small.

Since 2014 we have published around 2,000 original articles from Black women and non-binary writers, and since we relaunched as a membership subscription we have put £900,000 and counting directly into the pockets (or bank accounts) of Black women and non-binary people.

So, given the task of finding just ten articles that defined Black Ballad was a crazy ask – crazier still because no one forced me, I asked it of myself! But here is my best effort at curating a list that shows what lies at the heart of Black Ballad: our articles, our journalism and all the amazing writers who have contributed over the years.

Writing for Black Ballad feels like coming home.

Not Just Serena: Why Black Mums In The UK Are Fighting For Their Lives

Before mainstream media was widely acknowledging the health disparities facing Black mothers in Britain, news broke about Serena Williams’ harrowing experience giving birth to her first child. In this article, Crystal Carter drew parallels between Serena’s experience and what Black mothers in Britain were facing.

Since then, exploring the gendered and racialised experience of parenthood in our communities has become one of Black Ballad’s editorial ‘touchstones’, and it has led to editorial and commercial partnerships, a podcast, amazing events and our groundbreaking survey and resulting editorial series in 2020.

Thinking back to writing the article, Crystal tells me, “At the time I had a toddler and I remember being petrified throughout my pregnancy because of what I had heard about Serena Williams, and the statistics that I had read about maternal health for Black women in the UK.

“When I see how different the conversation is now I am really pleased. When I wrote the piece I felt like no one was talking about it and it was so incredibly valuable to have the perfect place to share this story in Black Ballad. I think it really solidified to me the importance of community and I carry that everywhere.”

Jade LB credit_ Ayshe Zaifoglu (1).jpg

How 'Keisha The Sket' Accidentally Decolonised Literature

When Jade LB agreed to reveal her identity for the time and write about Keisha The Sket, the book she wrote as a teenager that went viral before ‘viral’ was a thing, I was beyond excited, but wondered if anyone else would be. Keisha held an iconic spot in my teenage memory, from chapters being sent phone to phone by infrared (yes, that was a thing!) to stories of people using up all the paper in the school printers to print copies that they’d staple together and sell on the playground.

I needn’t have been concerned because when the article dropped, it felt like we broke Black British Twitter. The joy and excitement felt contagious, from sceptics wondering if Jade really was the author, through to WhatsApp groups exploding with endless notifications as the conversation continued. Beyond anything, it was a reminder of our purpose at Black Ballad, from highlighting serious and important stories, to documenting the culture, to just being a part of Black British joy – and also solidified my personal Book Agenda.

"I Was A Thing Of Beauty!" – The Wedding, Weave & Wakeup Call

Trying to pick one article to highlight how important our regional (i.e. Black People Exist Outside Of London!) approach to editorial was hard. There were too many, so I just had to go by the most read!

Irish-Zimbabwean writer and singer Pearl Natasha’s witty and real account of turning up to a wedding with her natural hair encapsulated so much about what it can mean being a Black woman in the UK, and, personally, it was a closing chapter for the Black Women In Britain we began in 2020 hiring regional editors to commission stories from the communities they know so intimately.

Despite the regional editors being a short term project, everything they commissioned has gone on to shape our approach going forward. Since then, we’ve worked on multimedia projects across the UK, hosted events up and down the country, and it’s also been great to see the Editors go on to bigger and better things like editor roles at national magazines, writing cover features with some of our faves and so much more.

Image by Ayshe Zaifoglu

Editor’s Letter: Anyone Reading This Could Be Joy Morgan

Back when the Founder’s Letter was still called the Editor’s Letter, Tobi wrote about how the mainstream media treated the disappearance of Joy Morgan. It was a case that concerned many of us, but there was an obvious lack of care and concern on a wider scale, with most of us only becoming aware of her disappearance via posts and retweets on social media.

As Tobi wrote, “we can’t be a platform that puts Black British women first without talking about Joy Morgan”, as much as try to share joyful and insightful stories that highlight the multifaceted nature of our identities, experiences and interests, we also must be the media publication that will continually highlight and the name ways that we are marginalised, overlooked and harmed – especially when others won’t.

Rich Aunties: Moving Beyond Motherhood and Materialism

As much as motherhood is a topic we return to time and again at Black Ballad, we are always keen to expand the conversation and explore the different ways we choose to ‘do’ family and community, without simply settling for roles prescribed to us.

One of the articles that I think captures this perfectly is Jamila’s examination of what it really means to be a ‘rich auntie’ and ways that child-free women contribute to the lives of the little humans around them.

Black woman with dark brown locs in an up-do and a strapless cream dress, sits in a restaurant with a cocktail.
Jamila Pereira

Thinking about writing the piece, Jamila says it felt like “an intensive therapy session”.

“Seeing the article published was incredibly validating. It reaffirmed my purpose as a writer and as someone who uses her nurturing instincts to positively impact her community, without succumbing to the pressures of motherhood. The positive and joyful reception from readers was heartwarming and reinforced the idea that many of us are on this journey together. It emphasised that, by supporting each other, we truly can function as a village.”

Jamila also shared that Black Ballad was the first place that published her freelance writing.

“It's taken me time to truly appreciate the power of my words. Unique platforms like Black Ballad, the biggest platform for and by Black women in the UK, have made this journey easier, not just for me but for many talented Black women needing a space to voice their experiences and be recognised for their true potential. Moreover, the platform’s values align so closely with my own that writing for Black Ballad feels like coming home.”

It’s been a part of a lot of firsts for me. Black Ballad has mirrored my growth as a creative, journalist, and Black British woman navigating life.

Why These Black British Jews March For Palestine

As a small, independent ‘lifestyle’ publication that does not have the resources of a newsroom, we are always faced with the challenge of how best to respond to rapidly developing events – often spurred on by the question, ‘What unique perspective can we add to this?’

As Israel’s assault on Gaza escalated, mainstream media seemed to be pitting pro-Palestinian Black people and a monolithic idea of ‘the Jewish community’ against each other, without even batting an eyelid at the various nuances and intersections of identity. But who else was going to document the thoughts and experiences of Black British Jews at this time, but Black Ballad? That was my thinking anyway.

“Writing [the article] was challenging, not least because it reflects an active genocide that has left me in a state of disbelief and dismay at the international apparatus that allows it to continue,” Adama Munu, the journalist who wrote the article, says.

“I was honoured to be asked to speak to Black British Jews who have been vocal against Zionism and apartheid against Palestinians. As a Black woman who sits on the fringes of a religious community that, outside of the African world, is considered a minority too, I could relate to their frustrations of not always feeling seen, and their unique experiences as people who sit at the crossroads of different identities. One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for Black Ballad is the support in shaping an article to its fullest potential, making it a true team effort – something I look forward to with each commission.”

Black woman in a hijab sits on a wall overlooking a town.
Adama Munu

Adama first wrote for Black Ballad five years ago, but her first connection came four years before that.

“I was a producer for a current affairs program at a London-based channel that focused on African and diaspora affairs. I invited Tobi Oredein to speak about Black History Month as a Black woman, which introduced me to Black Ballad [back] when it was a blog.”

“Looking back, I see that each article [I’ve written since then] has marked an important milestone in my cultural, intellectual and literary journeys. It’s been a part of a lot of firsts for me. Black Ballad has mirrored my growth as a creative, journalist, and Black British woman navigating life.

“It has become a cornerstone of Black British womanhood and community, both humbling and inspiring to witness. I look forward to seeing what the next decade holds.”


The Pressure Of Being Black, Queer And Partially Out

“I found [writing the article] very cathartic, I think I was interrogating the isolation and loneliness that I was experiencing. Researching and interviewing for this article showed me that this was a shared experience for many black queer people,” says the writer of The Pressure Of Being Black, Queer And Partially Out.

When I commissioned the article, I knew it would also be really important for those of us who might not relate directly to the experience of the writer, but would be spending time with relatives and loved ones who do, speaking directly to our socially conscious and community-focused audience.

“My career as a writer and editor is far more established and I’m far more secure and open about my identity since writing this piece!” the author continues. “I think independent outlets like Black Ballad who believed in my ideas in those early days really helped to grow my portfolio and confidence as a writer. It’s a true achievement to still be operating at such a high standard after ten years, especially given the current landscape of independent media.”

This Isn't The Brand I Started: Why I'm Saying Goodbye To Afrocenchix After 15 Years

We were gearing up for the Christmas break, I’d scheduled the last of the articles that we were going to publish for 2023, and I was about to turn my Out Of Office autoresponder on when I got a message from Tobi saying to crack back open my laptop because we were about to get an exclusive.

Black Ballad’s relationship with Afrocenchix goes way back, back to when we had exclusive member discounts with Black businesses, and when we produced a three part documentary covering the history of the natural hair care scene in the UK. So as Rachael Twumasi-Corson approached a new chapter in her life and wanted to set the record straight, writing her story for Black Ballad felt like a no-brainer.

“It was quite raw and felt very vulnerable,” Rachael says about the writing process. “I didn’t know how it would be received but I’ve always operated from a place of radical transparency and felt the need to get the truth out.”

As a publication that has championed Black-owned business and entrepreneurship, we felt it was important to show all sides of the journey – not just the shiny headlines and triumphs.

“I love Black Ballad! I’m a massive fan of Tobi and Jendella’s writing styles and I feel the publication is so important,” Rachael says. “Black Ballad helps me to feel less alone when those around me don’t get why I'm affected by things in the news. It’s like a vaccine against microagressions and gaslighting. You read the articles and think, ‘I’m not crazy, Black women really are being treated the way I think we are’, and it’s hard to express just how much that matters.”

The Tension Between Being British and Nigerian

Black Ballad has played a pivotal role in my own personal  journey – it was from an article published on this very website that I was first approached by an editor about writing a book – but I think this article (suggested by the rest of the BB team, I might add!) really helped solidify what we meant when we were talking about the very specific Black British essence that we wanted to capture and reflect back into the world: “We survived the angst of belonging and forged our own space on this damp and overpopulated island. We defy labels and definition, yet our lives and our loves speak for themselves.”

As A Queer, Disabled Black Person, Caring For Pets Has Saved My Life

Many, many years ago, a video of Tobi went viral.

Talking about her experience as a journalist, she said, “White women are allowed to get love letters to their dogs commissioned. I have to write a piece about how my race affects the way I get up in the morning to get commissioned. It’s just not fair and it’s just so frustrating.”

That essentially is why Black Ballad exists, to be a place where Black women and non-binary people can be paid to write about anything and everything – whether race-related or otherwise. So when we published Dami’s article, which is, amongst other things, a love letter to their dog Arlo, it felt like a real full circle moment.

Dami remembers the first time they came across Black Ballad. They were studying media at A level and planning to study it at university when they came across a guest Editor’s Letter written by Jamelia.

Black person stands on a path with their dog reaching up on their hind legs.
Dami and Arlo

“Honestly I was obsessed, sitting around a table were Black women making a major difference and impact in the world of Media,” Dami says. “Especially seeing Tobi, a Black woman that looked like me doing what I wanted to do one day, that was a mind blowing moment! It showed me we had always been there and creating but seeing it for me gave me so much hope to know I could do it too.”

“Seeing [my article] published really supported my own self esteem but also my inner child’s, who assumed because the world said there was only one way to be Black and I didn't fit in that, that something was wrong with me,” they continue.

“Things that felt impossible became possible. Today I run a media and events company called Navii Media [and] I run accessible events for marginalised communities and a platform to share marginalised stories through videos and art. When I see it, I see so many of us just existing but most importantly having a space to share who we are and I love that.”

As I said, it was actually quite painful trying to choose just ten articles that represent the essence and growth of Black Ballad. So here are some more...

Header images: Dami Fawehinmi; Camilla Ru; Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona; Jade LB