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Young people create new magazine to celebrate black icons

BLACK ICONS: A group of young people in London created a new magazine, which they also modeled for

A GROUP of young people have teamed up to create a new magazine celebrating black jazz icons.

Thirty-seven young people from London’s inner-city boroughs collaborated to produce Black Icons, a free magazine, celebrating heroes of the British Jazz Age in the 1920s and 30s.

Black Icons magazine is produced by young people, for young people, and will be launched in celebration of Black History Month on October 5, followed by a reception at the House of Lords.

The project aims to provide role models for young people trying to overcome socio-economic barriers, exploring an important area of history which is often overlooked.

Black Icons is an initiative by the award-winning charity Fashion Awareness Direct (FAD) and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in collaboration with the Black Cultural Archives.

HARD AT WORK: The magazine celebrates jazz icons

The project sees iconic Black figures such as entertainer Rita Cann, boxer Len Johnson and broadcaster Una Marsden brought to life, empowering Black youth and inspiring young people from all backgrounds with their shared heritage.

Angelica Ellis, one of the young volunteers involved, describes why it was so important for her to take part.

“The stories normally told about Black history are very limited," said Ellis. "The consequence is that young black people grow up with a loss of identity and sometimes we have negative beliefs about ourselves. I hope this project will inspire all young people and give them a sense of their own history and identity.”

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Black Icons launches on October 5

This unique project encouraged those involved to conduct hands-on archive research with original source material. Volunteers also heard lectures from some of the UK’s most respected historians, such as Stephen Bourne, to inform their work. The young volunteers explored London’s rich archives at the BFI, the British Library and the National Jazz Archives, before designing and creating textiles inspired by traditional East African Kanga cloth, to celebrate their chosen Black Icons. These cloths were then modelled by the young people themselves, providing the images for the final magazine.

“The process provided learning opportunities for all students involved, increasing their skill set and employability by providing hands-on experience,” said FAD CEO Maria Alvarez. “We are also encouraging peer-to-peer learning, as the Black Icons magazine will be disseminated nation-wide to educate, inspire and empower young people across the country.”

Black Icons magazine will launch on Wednesday October 5 and will be available throughout Black History Month from, or you can request a free copy from

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