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Royal honour for BCA community champion

PROUD: Dawn Hill has been awarded a CBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours

DAWN HILL, chair of Black Cultural Archives (BCA), the UK’s only national repository of black history and culture, has been made a CBE – Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

The award was given for her “pivotal contribution to recording and celebrating black history and heritage in the UK”. Hill has been a Trustee for Black Cultural Archives (BCA) since 1988, becoming the Vice Chair in 2001 and current Chair in 2012.

Under her leadership, the BCA secured £6.9m of project funding to open its current iconic home next to Windrush Square in the heart of Brixton, south London. Now engaging 50,000 learners and visitors every year, the BCA champions black history within the British cultural and heritage landscape.

Her work at the BCA in promot- ing black history in the UK has been recognised by Prince Charles who visited the centre in 2016 and Prime Minister Theresa May who awarded the campaigner a Points of Light Award in October at a special Black History Month reception at 10 Downing Street.

During the reception, Mrs May told her: “At the Black Cultural Archives you have been fundamental in creating a vitally important national resource that is a shining light on the achievements of individuals of African and African Caribbean descent in British society.”

Speaking about the CBE award, Hill told The Voice: “It’s very humbling. During all those years working with the Black Cultural Archives and all the other community work I’ve done I haven’t thought about awards.

PICTURED: Dawn Hill with Prime Minister Theresa May

“If I have certain qualifications in an area and people think I can help then I will. But the CBE is very encouraging, because it shines a light on importance of the work that the Black Cultural Archives does in educating the public about the important contribution that is African and Caribbean communities have made to this country.”

Hill continued: “It also highlights this importance to young people. “Too often black children get turned off with anything to do with black history because all they’re ever told is when slavery is abolished as if that is the only thing that’s ever happened to black people.

“But black people have been in this country from Roman times. History tells a big story and currently it is too often being told from one perspective.”

Paul Reid, BCA director, said: “For approximately three decades, Dawn has been a leading light in the development and delivery of this award-winning facility and inserting largely unknown black history into British and global history.

“For Dawn to be recognised by the Queen with a CBE is very significant. The Queen’s honours
reflect what society as a whole considers as important. For Dawn to be recognised at this level means the contribution that black history has made to this country’s history and the work that Dawn has done on this is being recognised.”

Reid added: “Many great things have been happening at the Black Cultural Archives over the last few years. Prince Charles has visited. There has been David Olusoga’s Black and British documentary series, which we partnered with the BBC on, and we also hosted Nigeria’s Ooni of Ife. Dawn has been our chair through all of these events and she has been quite an important figurehead.”

Despite the elation of being recognised by the Queen, Hill says she is hard at work on her next project. The BCA recently launched a fundraising campaign called We Are One, a nationwide campaign to raise £30 million to help ensure that BCA is a lasting institution and legacy.

She said: “It is important that the black community gets behind the Black Cultural Archives, visits it, support the campaign and recognize its role as a community resource. We are asking everyone who believes in the importance of preserving and celebrating the many untold stories of Black Britain to support the campaign.”

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