Michael

Michael Watson MBE

Michael Watson MBE was born in 1965, is a former British professional boxer who competed from 1984 to 1991. Notably, he held the Commonwealth middleweight title from 1989 to 1991 and challenged three times for a world title between 1990 and 1991, however, his career was abruptly cut short due to a near-fatal injury sustained during a 1991 bout against Chris Eubank for the WBO super-middleweight title.

Michael began boxing at age fourteen at the Crown and Manor boxing club, demonstrating rapid progress and winning a London Schools title in 1980. He boasted an impressive 20–2 record at the Crown and Manor Club before transferring to the Colvestone Boxing Club. Despite being initially seen as an underdog, Michael secured a victory against John Beckles during the 1984 London ABAs.

The turning point in Michael’s life occurred during the 1991 rematch with Chris Eubank for the vacant WBO super middleweight title. Despite being ahead on points, Michael suffered a devastating injury in the 11th round, leading to a coma lasting 40 days and six brain operations. Michael subsequently sued the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) for negligence, winning damages of around £1 million. The court ruled that the BBBoC was responsible for medical provision at the fight, and the decision was upheld at the Court of Appeal. Michael , after a remarkable recovery, completed the London Marathon in 2003, raising funds for the Brain and Spine Foundation.

In 2004, he was awarded the MBE by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to disability sport, and he also served as a torchbearer in the 2012 Paralympic relay. In 2017, Michael became a victim of a carjacking, experiencing flashbacks and seizures after the incident, while the perpetrators were later sentenced to 16 years for their involvement in the attack and other crimes.

Angie

Angie Le Mar

Angie Le Mar was  born in Lewisham, London, to Jamaican parents, faced educational challenges, later diagnosed with dyslexia. Her early exposure to drama at the Albany Empire and the Lewisham Drama Club fueled her passion. Joining the Second Wave Women’s Drama group, she performed in productions like “Net Full of Holes.”

In her career, Angie co-founded the Bemarrow Sisters theatre company, achieving success with plays like “A Slice of Life” and “Gloria.” Renowned as the first Black British performer at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, she earned the title “The Queen of Black Comedy.” Angie’s stand-up journey from the black comedy circuit to mainstream acclaim included a sell-out show at London’s West End and international performances at the Apollo Theatre, New York, and the Comedy Act Theatre in Los Angeles.

Celebrating 25 years in comedy, Angie showcased her versatility in “An Audience with Angie Le Mar.” Transitioning to theatre, she launched her professional career with the comedy sketch show “Funny Black Women on the Edge” in 1994. Notable productions include “The Brothers” and “Do You Know Where Your Daughter Is?,” addressing social issues. Angie’s commitment to mentoring young talents is evident through her production company, Straight To Audience Productions, and ‘Straight To Audience Youth’ (STAY) workshops, emphasizing writing, directing, and stand-up comedy masterclasses.

Toney

Toney Owens

Toney Owens was born in Kingston, Jamaica, emerged from the same musical community as Jamaica’s reggae pioneers. Initiating his music career at 15, Toney worked with his siblings promoting dance events in Kingston. In 1965, he moved to the UK, co-founding Massive Force International Promotion Company and later establishing the band ‘The Cariboes,’ achieving a national hit with “Let It Be Me.”

influence extended to co-founding the globally successful band Musical Youth, altering the lyrics of “Pass the Kutchie” to “Pass the Dutchy,” resulting in Multi-Platinum and Gold album sales worldwide. He toured extensively with Musical Youth, performing at prestigious venues and events, including the Grammy-nominated 1983 and the establishment of the Reggae category at the Grammy Awards in 1984.

Toney has an extensive accolade in relation to artists he’s worked with including LaToya Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Buju Banton, Queen Latifah, Jodeci, Destiny’s Child, R Kelly…in fact, his list of artists he’s worked with is extremely extensive and pans a number of genre’s.

As a founding director of Birmingham’s Hummingbird Entertainment Complex, Toney played a pivotal role in promoting Jamaican acts worldwide. He co-promoted significant events, including welcoming Nelson Mandela to Birmingham and organizing musical festivals in Trinidad and London. Recognized for his contributions, Toney has received numerous awards for his multifaceted roles as a singer, songwriter, producer, sound engineer, record label publisher, concert promoter, and artist manager. Currently, he is working on a historic charity project, “Africa Rise Up Music4charity,” uniting Jamaican and international artists on a unique riddim sampler to support non-profit organisations in Africa.

Jamal

Jamal Edwards

Jamal Edwards was born on August 24, 1990, in Luton, England, later relocating to Acton, West London, where he resided with his mother Brenda Edwards, stepfather Patrick, and younger sister Tanisha.  Hailing from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamal was initially introduced to stage school by his mother, who gained recognition in The X Factor’s second series in 2005. 

Despite his mother’s aspirations for him in acting, Jamal harboured dreams of success in the music industry.

His educational journey faced challenges as he attended Acton High School, struggling to achieve the necessary grades for college. Nevertheless, he persevered, eventually earning a BTEC diploma in Media Moving Image from Ealing Green College. During his school years, Jamal discovered his passion for music, initiating his journey by rapping and filming videos with friends, laying the foundation for what would become SBTV.

In 2006, Jamal founded SBTV, an online platform that played a pivotal role in catapulting the careers of numerous artists, including Ed Sheeran, Jessie J, Stormzy, and Emeli Sandé. His journey began at 15 when he received a video camera, posting rap performances on YouTube. SBTV evolved from these humble beginnings, transitioning from grime dance music to explore various musical genres.

Over the years, Jamal collaborated with prominent figures, conducting groundbreaking interviews with Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Wiz Khalifa. His work extended beyond music, addressing mental health issues through documentaries and collaborations with organizations like CALM.

Tragically, Jamal passed away on February 20, 2022, at the age of 31, succumbing to a cardiac arrhythmia linked to recreational drug use. His untimely death sent shockwaves through the music industry, with tributes pouring in from celebrities and friends. Jamal’s legacy lives on through SBTV, a testament to his impact on emerging artists and his advocacy for mental health awareness.

Millie

Millie Small

Millicent Dolly May Small, professionally known as Millie Small, hailed from Clarendon, Jamaica, born into a large family with meager means. At 12, she won second prize at the Vere Johns talent show, showcasing her singing and dancing skills. This marked the beginning of her journey to stardom.

Discovered by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd of Studio One label, Millie collaborated with Owen Gray and later with Roy Panton, scoring hits like “Sugar Plum” and “We’ll Meet.”

Her big break came in 1964 with the release of “My Boy Lollipop,” a ska-influenced track which was originally recorded by the American singer Barbie Gay in 1956.

A massive success in the UK and the US, the song reached No. 2 on the charts. Millie’s rise to international stardom was orchestrated by Chris Blackwell, who recognized her potential. Despite being a veteran in the Jamaican music scene, Millie embraced her sudden superstardom with grace.

“My Boy Lollipop” not only became a hit but also played a role in broadening British listeners’ musical horizons, introducing them to the infectious ska rhythm. Millie’s influence transcended borders, leaving an indelible mark on the history of Jamaican music. Millie passed away on May 5, 2020.

Benjamin

Benjamin Zephaniah

Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah, born Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Springer on 15 April 1958, was a multi-talented British writer, dub poet, actor, musician, and professor of poetry and creative writing. Renowned for his impactful contributions, he earned a place among Britain’s top 50 post-war writers in 2008, earning the moniker “the people’s laureate” from the Birmingham Mail.

Benjamin’s creative works drew inspiration from his personal experiences of incarceration, racism, and his Jamaican heritage, compelling a diverse audience to engage with his profound narratives.

Throughout his illustrious career, Benjamin garnered recognition with the BBC Young Playwright’s Award, received at least sixteen honorary doctorates, and had a hospital ward named in his honour at Ealing Hospital. His second novel, “Refugee Boy,” secured the 2002 Portsmouth Book Award in the Longer Novel category. Notably, in 1982, he released the album “Rasta,” featuring a historic performance by the Wailers and a tribute to Nelson Mandela. The album achieved chart-topping success in Yugoslavia, leading to an invitation from Mandela to host the president’s Two Nations Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.

In addition to his artistic endeavours, Zephaniah actively championed veganism, animal rights, and identified as an anarchist. Notably, he rejected the appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2003, citing the term “empire” as a painful reminder of slavery and brutality endured by his ancestors. Benjamin’s life journey, from early struggles with dyslexia and a troubled youth marked by borstal and imprisonment, to his rise as a respected cultural figure, reflects his resilience and determination to overcome adversity.

Benjamin Zephaniah’s impact extended beyond his creative pursuits, as he engaged with societal issues, confronting racism during the 1980s race riots in London. His encounters with racism, including police stops despite success, highlighted the prevalent challenges faced by black individuals during that era. Benjamin’s life and work were abruptly concluded with his passing on 7 December 2023, at the age of 65, due to a brain tumour diagnosed just eight weeks prior. His death prompted tributes from friends and fellow artists, such as Joan Armatrading, who described him as a thoughtful, kind, and caring man—a loss not only for the world of poetry but for intellectual and cultural revolutionaries alike.

Eid

Eid Ali Ahmed

Eid Ali Ahmed, a former freedom fighter and international banker, Eid Ali Ahmed, helped found the Welsh Refugee Council (WRC) after arriving here as a refugee in 1987. He was the deputy chief executive when he left the WRC in 2011.

As one of the founders of the Somali Liberation Movement, which ousted dictator Siad Barre in 1991, he was forced to flee his home country. From Wales he has campaigned for the last two decades to have the self-declared and peaceful country of Somaliland internationally recognised as apart from Somalia.

Eid is former chairman and active member of Somaliland Societies in Europe and UK which works to raise awareness of the issue among politicians and public. He regularly visits Somaliland to meet members of the government, civil society, business people and academics for the promotion and development of Somaliland.

Sasha

Sasha Johnson

Sasha Johnson, a British activist and member of the Taking the Initiative Party (TTIP), gained prominence through her involvement in various protests, including Rhodes Must Fall, and Black Lives Matter.  Sasha studied community development and youth work at Ruskin College.

Sasha was active in community initiatives, ran a restaurant, and volunteered for food insecurity projects. Johnson was a key figure in the Oxford Rhodes Must Fall campaign and participated in the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. 

In the summer of 2020, Johnson was involved in the founding of the Taking The Initiative Party (TTIP); she serves on its Executive Leadership Committee. The party supports the decentralised Black Lives Matter movement but is unaffiliated with the specific organisation Black Lives Matter. Though the TTIP considered running for the 2021 London mayoral election (originally scheduled for 2020) under the name “Black Lives Matter for the GLA”, its first candidates for office stood in the May 2021 local elections.

False information circulated on social media in 2020 and 2021, claiming Sasha made controversial remarks which was eventually proven to be untrue, and evidence showed it was the result of a hacked (fake) social media account.

The shooting occurred on May 23, 2021, with Sasha facing prior death threats and vandalism to her car. Contrary to initial reports, it was later suggested that she was not the intended target, and a vigil was held outside King’s College Hospital, and eventually five males between the ages of 17 and 28 were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of Sasha. The prosecution, based on circumstantial evidence, was dropped in February 2022, citing a lack of direct evidence and cooperation from witnesses.  Sasha now has “profound life-changing injuries” following major surgical operations.

Cecil

Cecil Gutzmore

Cecil Gutzmore is a former University of West Indies lecturer whose work within the British African community activism stretches back to the late 1960s. Cecil migrated into the Black-British working class in 1961 later spending a decade back in Jamaica.

Cecil has been a student, a factory worker, a clerical worker, a community worker, and has worked in local government and freelance training and management consultant and as a university lecturer in London and at UWI, Mona, Jamaica. His activism combines black and left class positions.

Publications – in history, philosophy of science and political science and cultural studies – appear in The Black Liberator, Marxism Today, Race and Class and Interventions; as well as various book chapters, newspaper columns and reviews in the Guardian (UK) the Jamaica Gleaner, the Morning Star and other newspapers. His research interests including the visual history of Africa and her Diasporas has led to the production of a number of photo-history exhibitions dealing with Caribbean Women and Marcus Mosiah Garvey amongst others.

Cecil has also worked on some of the films of Menelik Shabazz.

The BLAC Awards