A BRADFORD bookshop which became a hub for anti-racist campaign work is the focus of an exhibition marking Black History Month.

The Black Agenda Bookshop: Bradford’s First Afrocentric Bookshop & Library, 1991 - 1997 opens at Trapezium Gallery, in Bradford city centre on October 7.

The exhibition, by Being Bradford, is being held in conjunction with a programme of events in the gallery, including films, discussion and music, for Black History Month, running throughout October.

Nagbea, who was one of the team of volunteers at The Black Agenda Bookshop and is co-ordinating the exhibition for Trapezium, looks back on the bookshop and its local, national and international work:

“In January 1991 a small group of Afrikan and Caribbean parents concerned about the mis-education and excessive exclusion from school of their children, started an Afrocentric Library & Bookshop called The Black Agenda Bookshop.

"It was based at 24a Barry Street, Bradford, on the first floor, initially above a record shop called Global Beat and later above the Hemp and Head shop Bagga Wiya. The library/bookshop and its schooling facility, Per Ankh, served all communities for approximately seven years.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The bookshop was set up by a small group of parents The bookshop was set up by a small group of parents (Image: Trapezium Gallery)

“During this time adults and children benefited from access to a huge educational resource of books, audio/visual materials, cultural artefacts, educational trips and many community projects and activities. The bookshop was also a vibrant hub for anti-racist campaign work around immigration, prison and police reform and school and workplace racism, as well as being an inclusive and supportive educational space for people facing and exposing what has recently been described as the ‘Hostile Environment’.

“Participants and parents in the day-to-day running of the bookshop were all volunteers. Several of the keyworkers were fulltime, dedicated, unpaid and fully committed to providing this vital educational space in the face of general and local government indifference and at times hostility.

"Examples of special moments in the cultural and educational life of the library were three members spending four transformative weeks in 1994 in Ishaka and Bushenyi in Uganda. In 1995 four delegates attended and brought messages of solidarity from Bradford to the Free Mumia Abu Jamal Campaign at his critical Stay of Execution Hearing in Philadelphia, USA. One member representing the library attended the first historically significant 1995 Million Man March in Washington DC, (which was central to Spike Lee’s excellent film Get on the Bus).

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Nagbea and Jamil outside the bookshop in 1991Nagbea and Jamil outside the bookshop in 1991 (Image: Trapezium Gallery)

“Library members regularly visited UK prisons in support of black men wrongfully convicted and imprisoned as miscarriages of justice. Winston Silcott, Raphael Rowe, Michael Davis and Satpal Ram were all subsequently released and their convictions overturned. The Rahman family, facing deportation, were given indefinite leave to remain status after successful campaigns carried out over many years.”

Adds Nagbea: “Being Bradford would like to retrospectively really thank all the wonderful parents, library members, supporters and people of Bradford and Leeds who volunteered, cooked, helped raise funds, visited prisons, marched, campaigned, purchased books and generally helped the bookshop survive for seven special and transformative years.

“This exhibition is a testament to the enduring tenacity and contribution of Bradford’s Afrikan and Caribbean Communities and the stalwart support of many of Bradford’s wider communities.”

* The Black Agenda Bookshop: Bradford’s First Afrocentric Bookshop & Library, 1991 - 1997 is at Trapezium Gallery, October 7 to November 4. The launch is Friday, October 6, 5-9pm. Visit trapeziumarts.com or email art@trapeziumarts.com

* Events are taking place across the district to celebrate Black History Month. The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Cllr Jerry Barker, attended a flag-raising ceremony in Centenary Square on Sunday and the City Hall clock tower will be lit up in red, yellow and green during October.

This year’s theme is Celebrating our Sisters. From October 3-7 The Drifters Girl runs at the Alhambra, telling the story of the woman behind the American vocal group. From the highs of hit records to the lows of legal battles, Faye Treadwell was the legendary manager of The Drifters who refused to give up on the group she loved.

Bradford Cathedral, with the University of Bradford, is hosting an exhibition of Ugandan Asian migration stories, alongside stories from the Windrush Community, as part of Journeys of Hope exhibitions, COBO: Comedy Shutdown brings a Black History Month Special to the Studio Theatre, and the BRAVE Festival at Kala Sangam offers activities for all ages and abilities, including dance, music and spoken word workshops. There’s also an afternoon of poetic exploration at a Windrush Poetry Workshop at Kala Sangam.

Ascension Vibrations at Checkpoint BWICCA taps into ancient yoga, Nabil Abdulrashid’s The Purple Pill at the Studio Theatre explores empathy, morality and political contradiction. So Diva, championed by Sir Tom Jones on ITV’s The Voice UK, brings 80s dancefloor classics from the likes of Irene Cara, the Pointer Sisters and Kool and the Gang in The Last Days of Disco at St George’s Hall. Bradford Industrial Museum hosts Theatre In a Box’s Curiosity, The Laser and Me -The Story of Patricia E Bath, an African-American ophthalmologist and pioneer of laser cataract surgery. The family show covers themes of segregation, racism and gender equality in 1950s-70s America. Bolling Hall invites visitors to learn about historic Bradford astronomer Abraham Sharpe and modern-day British astronomer Maggie Aderin Pocock, with astronomical activities from poet Natalie Davies.