A Brixton postbox has been painted black to commemorate the contribution of black Britons as part of the ongoing celebration of Black History Month this October.
Located on Acre Lane, the gold-trimmed postbox displays ‘Queueing at the RA’, a painting by Yinka Shonibare.
The Nigerian-British artist was one of six commissioned to produce artwork for a series of exclusive stamps commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy.
Peter De Norville, head of diversity and inclusion at the Royal Mail, said: “Black History Month is a great opportunity to celebrate the contributions that black people have made to this country over many generations.
“We are also using it as an opportunity to celebrate the vital work that our black employees do throughout the nation, from the mail bag to the meeting room.”
The Brixton feature represents London as one of four painted across Britain, with corresponding postboxes in Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.
Each postbox bares a scannable QR code that takes users to an online gallery showcasing all the black Britons who have featured on the Royal Mail’s Special Stamps.
Such figures include the focal points of the three other respective postboxes, with entertainer and co-founder of the Comic Relief charity, Lenny Henry, appearing on the Belfast version.
Glasgow’s highlights Walter Tull, a First World War infantry officer and Ranger’s first black footballer, whilst Mary Seacole, a Jamaican-born nurse during the Crimean War, is the centre-piece of Cardiff’s postbox.
However, the arrival of the black postboxes have caused considerable backlash online, with some criticising the move as performative activism in the place of genuine progress towards the betterment of black British lives.
On Twitter, comedian Munya Chawawa posted a video wherein he imitated a fictional meeting between a Royal Mail executive and their ‘one’ black employee.
Growing increasingly exasperated at his colleague’s reasoning for painting the postboxes, the employee says: “How does this do anything for us? It doesn’t mean anything, it’s tokenistic.”
Echoing Chawawa’s sentiments, one user said: “Another meaningless gesture. I’d love to be honoured by addressing the systemic issues that contribute to the disproportionate stop and searches, mental health sectioning, maternal deaths and educational attainment gaps of black men and woman. But hey, postboxes…”
Away from the postbox furore, Lambeth Council are a week into their itinerary of events for black history month.
The council have partnered with Lambeth Libraries to showcase books, talks and other online events, to both celebrate and educate with regards to African-Caribbean history and culture.
Councillor Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture, said: “This year we continue to remember and support the Windrush generation and acknowledge their struggle for a right to remain and for compensation.”