Sheffield’s Black Stories

In 2019, the Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association’s library in the Wicker reopened. The space aims to educate young people about their heritage, a history which is often neglected in schools. Everything in the library was chosen to celebrate African Caribbean heritage and it houses many books unavailable in other areas of the city. 

The Project Manager, Jason Cuffe commented, “Black history is often narrated around American figures like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X, but we want to show the Sheffield community about the contribution black people have made to British history.”

In that spirit, this article will cover some of Sheffield’s black authors and books so that you can learn about Sheffield’s black history. 

Oona King
King is a member of the House of Lords and published author. Her memoir ‘House Music: The Oona King Diaries’, documents her time in the House of Commons and was published in 2007. From Sheffield, her memoir explores juggling the work-life balance, her battle with endometriosis and her political background. King’s father came from a long line of civil rights activists and as the daughter of an academic and a social justice activist, King and her family are an inspiration. 

The Book of Sheffield 
This collection of short stories offers 10 diverse perspectives on the Steel City, from refugees to student radicals. The stories focus on topics such as class division and the erasure of black history. The collections editor, Catherine Taylor says the book treats “topics which are so relevant to Sheffield today: ecology, migration, contemporary motherhood, as well as the radical Sheffield of the past, present and future.” so if you want to learn about the Sheffield community, check this book out. 

Johnny Pitts 
Pitts is a successful poet, musician, photographer and author from Firth Park, Sheffield. His father was in the 70s soul band, The Fantastics, which undoubtedly inspired his band, The Bare Knuckle Soul Collective.  In 2019, Pitts published ‘Afropean’. The book is an ‘on-the-ground documentary of areas where Europeans of African descent are juggling their multiple allegiances and forging new identities’ which won the BBC History Best Book Award 2019. Pitts is Sheffield’s rising star in the literary scene with many awards to his name and many skills under his belt. 

Sharna Jackson
Although not from Sheffield, Jackson is the artistic director of the Site Gallery and deserves an honorary place on this list for her fiction. She is the author of a mystery series in which two sisters, Nik and Norva, solve crimes on their London estate. The first book in the series, ‘High Rise Mystery’ was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020. Whilst in Sheffield, Jackson works to engage children in the digital arts at the Site Gallery. 

Dominic Heslop 
Heslop is a rapper and spoken-word artist from Sheffield. In 2017 he founded Slam Barz, a citywide event for young lyricists and rappers. Dom is passionate about giving young people a space in which to express themselves creatively and the event provides this. It is a platform for young people to showcase their skills by competing in Slam Barz challenges or participating in open mics. Dom’s twitter bio reads ‘Don’t Be What the World Made You’ and his work reflects this attitude as he strives to create a better community for young people. 

Warda Yassin 
Yassin is a British born Somali poet based in Sheffield. Balancing being a teacher and an up and coming poet, she won the New Poets Prize in 2018. Her winning collection, ‘Tea with Cardamom’ is only a taste of her published work, which has been featured in The North, Oxford Poetry and anthologised in Verse Matters (Valley Press), Anthology X (Smith l Doorstep) and Halfway Smile (Hive). Read her poem, ‘Sheffield’ , here: 

Magic Magid 
We all know him as Sheffield’s former mayor but Magic is so much more. He is an author and activist, who was recently named one of TIME’s 100 rising stars in shaping the world’s future. His book, ‘The Art of Disruption- A Manifesto For Real Change’ was inspired by his countless trips to the library encouraged by his Somalian mother. Magic says, ‘Today I am grateful to have a book published and seeing the joy on her face means the world to me.’ Endorsed by Thandie Newton, this book is worth a read.

– Yzzy (Fourth Year English Literature and Hispanic Studies)

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