John Blanke: Exposes the simplistic 'black' presence narrative in British history as an Afriphobic fabrication
I am a scholar-activist.
My journey to recognise that identity has been a long one. Realising my compulsion to change our world for the better by synthesising the world of my imagination with that shaped by ‘knowledge’ has been challenging. But the seed of my passion starts with my childhood. Back then I loved watching science fiction. However there was a huge gap in the genre, African people did not exist, at least in central characters. At the most we were depicted as ‘blacked’ Europeans in peripheral roles. It was a void not truly filled in me until as an adult I started on a journey reading authors like Octavia Butler , Walter Mosley , Nalo Hopkinson and later Courttia Newland and Nnedi Okorafor . Suddenly this anomaly was repaired as I realised, to paraphrase Einstein - the power a holistic fusion of imagination and intellect can bring to rigorous scholar-activism.
But I suspect that the young Toyin explored the future because here in the UK he was taught a version of British history where there were no Africans, at least not unless they were enslaved. The evidenced revelation of John Blanke’s existence as a trumpeter in the early 16th century helps destroy this myth.
Far from being an early example of the misused term ‘political correctness’, his visual presence in the Art of the 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll and his references in the Treasury Archives is the result of scholarly research. It exposes the fact that the simplistic rendition of the African presence in colonial British history to a myopic ‘slavery to Empire Windrush’ narrative is an Afriphobic fabrication, a revisionist attempt to deny the presence of self-determining Africans in the UK predating Maafa .
It would be good to have details of Blanke’s personal story, but thankfully this confirmation of his existence and political agency corrects and projects a more complete history of African people in the UK’s past, into the future. It is now for us to continue imagining and intellectually excavating details of other Africans whitewashed from British history.
Community Educator, The Ligali Organisation
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