Guyanese-born Letitia Wright plays Altheia Jones-LeCointe, one of the leaders of the British Black Panther movement.
Wright stars in “Mangrove”, an episode telling the true story of the Mangrove 9, a group of Black British activists who stood trial after clashing with police at a protest in Notting Hill in 1970.
The series is premiering on iPlayer and BBC One this autumn, the anthology series will tell five different stories set within London’s West Indian community.
It was 50 years ago when 150 protesters of West Indian, African, and South Asian heritage, marched to local police stations in Notting Hill, West London. They were protesting police harassment in their communities including the Mangrove restaurant.
Small Axe: First Look Trailer – BBC
In the 1950’s Caribbean immigrants settled in the United Kingdom. Many Guyanese settled in large cities like London and Birmingham. Like other West Indians, Guyanese in London were united by their culture of tolerance and respect.
Letitia Wright Role as Altheia Jones-LeCointe
In an interview with Refinery29, when asked about her selection for this role even those she is Guyanese, Wright replied
“She was at the forefront but I was amazed because it wasn’t her intention to be a leader. [The Mangrove Nine] all saw each other as equals. They just wanted to use their voice and represent their people.
“The history of it is something that’s very important for people to know. During World War II, the Queen reached out to the Caribbean and the countries within the continent of Africa and said, “we need help to rebuild our country after the war,” so you saw a massive inflow of Caribbean people. That’s where the anthology series picks up.
We’re commenting on this burden, this weight, this oppression, this “you’re not welcome here” vibe in the atmosphere that was brewing for a long time and is still here. I think it’s important to remember that [Black people of the Windrush generation] didn’t come begging for anything. We were immigrants invited here to bring service men and women to help build the country back up after they had ripped everything out of our countries.”
Who is Altheia Jones-LeCointe
Altheia Jones-LeCointe is a Trinidadian physician and research scientist. She is also known for her role as a leader of the British Black Panther Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. In 1970 garnered pubic attention as one of the nine protestors, known as the Mangrove Nine, arrested and tried on charges that included conspiracy to incite a riot, following a protest against repeated police raids of The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, London.
They were all acquitted of the most serious charges and the trial became the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour (the repeated raids) motivated by racial hatred, rather than legitimate crime control, within the Metropolitan Police.
Who Were the Mangrove Nine?
The Mangrove Nine were a group of British black activists tried for inciting a riot at a protest, in 1970, against the police targeting of The Mangrove, a Caribbean restaurant in Notting Hill, west London. Their trial lasted 55 days and involved various challenges by the Nine to the legitimacy of the judicial process.
They were all acquitted of the most serious charges and the trial became the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred within the Metropolitan Police.
The Mangrove Restaurant in Small Axe
The Mangrove restaurant is the central location in Small Axe’s opening instalment.
Located on All Saints Road in Notting Hill, the Mangrove was a Caribbean restaurant owned by Trinidadian activist and campaigner, Frank Crichlow, one of the Mangrove Nine.
The Mangrove quickly became the heart of its community after it opened in 1968 and became the informal head offices of the Notting Hill Carnival and even helped publish a local newspaper, The Hustler. The restaurant became a meeting place for many in the Black community and was, therefore, a target of the Metropolitan Police following the 1970 protest that saw the Mangrove Nine arrested.
‘Small Axe’ Star Letitia Wright on Working with John Boyega, Recreating the Mangrove Nine Story
“Small Axe” star Letitia Wright joins Variety where she dives into her recent experience transforming into British activist Altheia Jones-LeCointe for the Steve McQueen anthology. Known as one of the Mangrove Nine, Jones-LeCointe was one of the peaceful protesters who were arrested in 1970 after a march turned into a confrontation with police.
“This story hasn’t been told in a mainstream, cinematic and media way before, so you’re a bit nervous because you want to do it justice, you want to represent her right,” Wright tells Variety of playing the real-life figure. Also, though the two don’t work on-screen together, Wright and co-star John Boyega talk about their shared experiences working on the series.
Small Axe is a collection of five original films by Steve McQueen set from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s that tell personal stories from London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination. New film every Friday from Nov 20-Dec18.