feature: i want to give a voice to young black people – ‘strolling’ web series

August 27, 2014

My name is Cecile Emeke, I’m a filmmaker, writer and artist from London. I have always loved art and life. For some, what I consider life might come under their category of “social issues”, but for me it was my everyday reality. In school art classes, everyone else would paint flowers and self-portraits, whilst I was researching and creating pieces that explored concepts of race, identity and philosophy. But being academically gifted meant I was encouraged to leave my artistic and humanities interests as “hobbies”.

By Cecile Emeke, AFROPUNK Contributor

To cut a long story short (well, not that short): I was six months away from graduating with a first class honors in Mathematics, with a year abroad at the University of Miami where I competed in Long Jump, with an opportunity of a track scholarship at another College in Florida. Despite excelling in my degree, I was left with anxiety and depression, and I soon realized that I had been using my athletic abilities as a means of escape by literally running away (or should I say jumping away). I decided to take a completely new direction; I decided to drop out of University all together, stop training and pursue my real passions.

Along this journey, I’ve had many conversations and I was surprised by how many of people felt alone in their thoughts and feelings that were in fact extremely common. I felt there was lack of open dialogue within our demographic on certain subjects. I decided it was about time to start documenting these really profound conversations with seemingly ordinary people and start alleviating some of the alienation. And so strolling was born: A short documentary series where I go on a walk with people and talk about various issues; everything from gentrification to mental health.

Not only did I want to document these conversations, but also I was also tired of being invisible & powerless as a black, working class female living in Europe. When you are black in Britain, or in Sweden, or in any other “obscure” place in the African Diaspora (and by obscure I mean deliberately erased,) it feels like you don’t exist and therefore society encourages you latch on to whatever representation feels like the closest match. Not having your own cohesive identity is damaging. I wanted to be a part of ending that by increasing the visibility and volume of voices that are usually ignored and silenced in their respective societies. I also wanted to help “internationalise” these problems that many of us seem to have in common despite living on opposite sides of the word.

My intention is for strolling to go global. I want to go everywhere from France to China and give black people globally a voice and a space to exist honestly and tell their own stories. I want to dispel the myth that black people only exist in America, the Caribbean and Africa. It’s unacceptable to me that in 2014 when I travel people still gasp “ What!? There are black people in England!?” We are everywhere and we always have been everywhere, from England to Russia. We exist.

Strolling challenges the myth that average Joe is disinterested and uninformed. The series bridges the gap between elite academics and ordinary people. Conversations about politics and society should be open to everyone, as opposed to being confined to institutions and those with degrees in cultural studies. These subjects are more than abstract concepts; they are people’s everyday realities.

I also felt like wherever there was a “voice” that I was meant to identify with, it was normally an older black male voice, which I did not relate to. I wanted to be part of helping extraordinary ordinary black women have a voice. Strolling is definitely, unashamedly focused on telling black female stories in particular.

For all episodes and more info on the short documentary series strolling: