As he opens Black Cultural Archives' new Heritage Centre, Director Paul Reid reflects upon those who have inspired him throughout his life and career.
Mr Cornel, my fantastic maths teacher at Beaufoy school (now Lilian Baylis School) in Lambeth, was a strong disciplinarian. He had extremely high expectations of his students, and consistently went the extra mile for us. He was an influential role model, particularly for young boys of African and African-Caribbean descent, as he took a strong interest in raising our levels of self-esteem and our ambition. He championed my academic abilities and nicknamed me ‘The Scientist’ in an effort to encourage my aptitude for numbers alongside my love of athletics and basketball. He helped me to aspire to a professional career over a future in competitive sport. I will always be grateful that he introduced me to ideas and aspirations that were outside of my natural comfort zone.
I was an avid fan of kung fu films as a teenager. This motivated me to pursue martial arts training at the age of 15 years old. I joined a local class, and was fortunate to be taught by Mr Chang – a senior instructor and a Grand Master of the style of martial arts called Wu Shu Kwan. I remained under his tuition for 20 years. He instilled within me a sense of discipline, the importance of character, and a focus on achieving optimum health and longevity.
Len Garrison was an educator, writer and historian, and a passionate champion of Black heritage and culture. He established Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in 1981, where he remained Chairman until his death in 2003. I am inspired by his ground-breaking work which impacted schools and the community at a grassroots level. As Director of BCA it has been an honour to have helped bring his vision for a permanent home for Britain’s Black cultural heritage into reality. I often revisit Len’s writings for inspiration and guidance, especially in relation to BCA’s remit and relevance – his ideas are consistently a stabilising point of reference.
Lonnie is the visionary founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently being constructed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. I met Lonnie through friend and colleague Makeda Coaston, and he has since become a friend and mentor. As BCA develops its landmark heritage development in the UK, I have been inspired by Lonnie’s leadership within the dynamic cultural heritage landscape of the U.S. While similarly navigating the challenges of establishing a pioneering new national cultural institution, he has demonstrated a commitment to maintaining high standards, showcasing compelling stories, championing the respect of heritage, and enriching diverse audiences.
I was Town Centre Manager for Brixton when Derrick was appointed Chief Executive of Lambeth Council in 2006. I admire his leadership, his commitment to achieving high standards and customer service, and his absolute focus on aligning with organisational strategic objectives. He has steered the council through change at a particular challenging time – through economic decline, public sector crisis and restructuring. He has been creative in his responses and his managerial approach, and he has consistently excelled.
Hilary is a visionary and a facilitator of learning. I have long been inspired by her passion and advocacy for the UK’s cultural sector. As Director of the Cultural Leadership Programme she sought to activate and nurture ambition, excellence and collaboration within the sector. Hilary’s leadership within the UK’s creative sectors has helped me to think beyond convention.
Paul Reid is Director of Black Cultural Archives, which established a brand new heritage centre in Brixton in July 2014.