The Black Heroes Foundation uses the arts to tell the stories of the black community and to celebrate black heroes.
Joyce Fraser, founder and chair of the Black Heroes Foundation, set up the charity in memory of her late husband, Peter, who died six years ago.
Known by family and friends as Flip, Peter Fraser, who also worked as a journalist, was the creator of acclaimed stage musical Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame – the first all-black cast production to play in the West End.
When Peter died, hundreds of people came to his funeral to tell Joyce how much he had impacted their lives.
Joyce, who lives in Bromley and is also a part-time lecturer at the Open University, said: “He was an amazing man – he had inspired all of these people to get involved in the arts, and some had become doctors and lawyers because of him.
“I couldn’t let his legacy die.”
Inspired by her husband’s musical, Joyce launched the Black Heroes Foundation in October 2016 and the charity has since been awarded the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award, which recognises those making outstanding differences in their communities.
Since its creation, the Black Heroes Foundation has produced its own film, The Story of Sam King, which tells the story of the first black mayor of Southwark and was funded by Southwark Council.
The 17 minute documentary has been shown at the Tate Modern twice.
Joyce has also created her own play, The Story of Claudia Jones, which was put together during lockdown with other members of the organisation entirely over video-platform Zoom.
Wandsworth Council have offered the charity funding to help finish the play and hopefully perform it live one day.
The organisation’s journey wasn’t always so seamless however.
After being turned down by Arts Council England, the charity initially struggled to secure funding.
Joyce had to use her own money for the charity’s launch at London’s Living Room in City Hall, where they put on an art exhibition and re-enacted scenes from Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame.
Joyce explained: “We were so broke. I used every last penny I had to put that launch on.”
She was overheard discussing financial issues at Leilani Restaurant in Lavender Hill, Battersea, and the owner offered the restaurant to the charity to use for one night a month.
This, combined with a grant from Wandsworth Council, helped launched the Black Heroes Soul Food Cafe, a monthly event which showcases black art and celebrates a black community hero.
Joyce said: “It was wonderful to get the community’s support – Wandsworth Council really helped us get up and running.”
Recently, the organisation has been focused on Black History Month, and has been showcasing The Story of Sam King in schools in Southwark.
Joyce commented: “I think it’s wonderful that we have a point in the year when everyone recognises the contributions that black people have made to society, but at the Black Heroes Foundation we believe that every month is Black History Month.”
Joyce said she hopes to continue honouring her husband’s vision of the world.
She explained: “He saw a world where black heroes are acknowledged, respected and celebrated. That’s what we want to achieve.”
The charity is currently running the Virtual Locomotion as part of lockdown, initially created for those with dementia but now targeted at anyone feeling isolated.
It’s an online community event that celebrates local heroes and puts on music, dance and gentle exercise. You can register here.