The Diverse Cultures within Black British Communities

Trends / Realness
Justin Lambert
Davina Ajana
Oct 6, 2022
It’s Black History Month in the UK, a month dedicated to recognizing the contribution of those in the UK with African or Caribbean heritage. Brands will be sharing various initiatives and commitments throughout the month, but after the month is over, brands will need to consider how they will continue to advocate for Black communities all year round.  

Although the cultures and histories of African and Caribbean countries may look similar, the diverse communities are different. However, visuals of Black people in the media are often not broken down by specific ethnicity. Activist Linda Bellos has said that ‘African’ should refer to people of African heritage, since ‘Black’ speaks only of skin colour; not history.1 

When visualising African and Caribbean culture and identity, we must be mindful of the broad ethnicities comprising different sub communities. Food and fashion contribute hugely to African and Caribbean cultures. Thanks to the growing West African diaspora in the UK, there is an increase in African visibility in mainstream culture.2  Younger generations are embracing and developing their heritage by paying homage to their parents through learning to cook traditional cuisines. For this reason, when representing African and Caribbean identities, consider multidimensional scenarios in the home, multigenerational families and gatherings amongst the local communities.  
Both African and Caribbean cultures value the strength of the family household and family values. Black Africans are the largest Black community to have a household comprised of married parents with dependent children (20.3%), and this includes multigenerational family members or their families living close by.3 At Getty images, less than 7% of visuals feature Black multigenerational families, mostly featuring lone parents, mothers and fathers equally.

However, brands presenting visual authentic stories about African and Caribbean families should also widen the lens on lone parents in work and family compositions because, according to recent reports from the Children’s Commissioner, nearly half of UK children are now growing up outside a ’traditional’ family.4 This is significant by ethnicity, 19% of white British families have lone parents compared to 63% of Black Caribbean and 43% of Black African families.5

After the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, there has been a steady increase of searches for ‘Black community’ (+3200%), and ‘Black History Month’ (+105%) from Getty Images’ customers.  But more than 50% of visuals feature Black people alongside other multiracial groups, and scenarios often show them at work as a collaborative team player, or within an educational environment. So, when visualizing Black ethnicities, consider a variety of lifestyle scenarios, and think about how those might differ by region.    
Our customers have also been searching for “Black business” (+245%) and “Black business owners”  (+191%). Black ethnicities are the second‑most represented in business and lifestyle visuals, after white ethnicities. At Getty Images, less than 5% of popular visuals of Black people show small business owners, and many of the scenarios are within an office environment or working from home. Overall, brands have an opportunity to visualize a variety of innovative Black‑owned businesses across a range of industries—for example: Homewares, Beauty, or Agriculture.  

So during Black History Month, start to think about visualising Black communities in an authentic way. As a starting point, when choosing visual stories, think about the following points:
  • Are you showing women and men in leadership roles? 
  • Are you showing Black business owners? 
  • Are you amplifying Black cultures and experiences? 
  • Are you showing everyday lifestyles within a Black family?  
  • Are you showing Black educators?                               
  • Are you intentionally approaching representation of Black ethnicities individually or  
    lumping identities together?      
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