In Southwest England there is a city that has shaped world and particularly, Black history — Bristol. The first European since the Vikings to land on mainland North America was John Cabot, who set sail from Bristol. The first Englishman to lead an exploration to North America was William Weston, a Bristol merchant. On the other hand, from 1700 to 1807, the Bristol slave trade was responsible for more than 2,000 slave ships that transported African people into American slavery. Dr Mena Fombo and Michael Jenkins are writing a new chapter in Bristol’s history, one that is especially empowering. Fombo and Jenkins have launched Black Wave, Bristol’s first Black owned TV production company.
Black Wave has a mission to “create content from a fresh perspective, giving a voice to those who are underrepresented on our screens, and telling stories which reflect and resonate with today’s TV audiences.” It is a mission that is very necessary, in fact. According to Bristol Live, the city is well known for award winning TV production but diversity is a huge challenge in the sector. According to Jenkins, Black Wave will bring “mainstream programming told through the perspective of two black owners” and that is indeed rare, in an era where ownership is still challenging and greatly contested. Ownership and control over who tells the narratives we consume are at the center of the Byron Allen case — the issues are not too far different, regardless of what side of the pond Black people call home.
Dr Mena Fombo is held in high regard as an authority in the areas of equality and diversity, locally. She founded Black Girl Convention, a movement to ensure all women of African and Caribbean heritage “have a sense of home, by sharing, shaping and owning the Black Girl Experience.” Michael Jenkins is a respected filmmaker in Bristol who, in the past, has made content for the BBC as well as other films for various other outlets. The two are combining their energies, in order to create a platform that will not only provide fresh content but also a platform for many others to utilize. Black Wave will be an institution that will support many to come, thanks to the boldness, vision and courage of its founders.