This event is part of our Past Programme
4 May - 4 Jun 1977
Colin Jones first visited Black House in 1973. It was a time when British Press had seized 'mugging' as an issue, creating moral and racial tension. Colin was at that time asked by Times Magazine editor Magnus Linklater to present the experience of the alienated young black man in collaboration with writer Peter Gillman.
The Black House
From The Sunday Times Magazine, May 1, 1977
A remarkable exhibition of photographs, entitled The Black House*, opens in London this week. The photographs were taken by Colin Jones over a three-year period at a hostel (right) for young black people in North London. The hostel’s official name is Harambee, a Swahili word for harmony. But almost all who go there call it the Black House.
The hostel was opened in a disused butcher’s shop in Islington in 1971. It is intended as a shelter and a refuge for a rootless, alienated group who form part of the rising generation of black people in Britain. Many came here after waiting years for their parents to establish themselves, having been brought up meanwhile by their extended families in the West Indies. Some now reject jobs their parents have chosen, but find their own way barred to more worthwhile professions. Above all, there is the shock of encountering racial prejudice and hatred from the inhabitants of the country for long held out to them as home.
A few of this group, feeling no allegiance to a hostile society, have turned to crime. The Black House – and a small number of similar hostels – receives some young men from court or prison. Others arrive at the Black House after being thrown out of home by their parents, who grow weary of their offspring’s rejection of their own values. The philosophy of the Black House and its warden, Brother Herman, who came to Britain from Antigua in 1955, is to help those who stay there to accept and be proud of their blackness. Today’s younger blacks no longer seek to merge with white society, but to emphasise their racial differences through language, speech and dress. Only by recognising their true identity, argues Brother Herman, can young blacks make a sound decision about how to cope with life in Britain.
* The Black House, an exhibition of photographs by Colin Jones, is at the Photographers’ Gallery, Gt. Newport Street, London WC2, from May 5 – June 4; then on tour in Britain.
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