• Fatima Sheekhuna

Channel 4 Host The Voice Of Black British Artists For New Show "The Whole Truth"

To mark world Mental Health Day, musician, actor and founder of #IAMWHOLE Jordan Stephens, was joined by Arlo Parks, Che Lingo and Kojey Radical to talk about all things music, mental health and race on the special music show on Channel 4, The Whole Truth.

The show included intimate performances from each artists while they delved into an open and vulnerable conversation around the tool of their music in navigating through difficult times.

Starting with a look into Che Lingo's track "My Block," the rapper delved into the songs origin. After an old friend Julian Cole was left paralysed by the police during an incident in Bedford, Lingo created the song out of frustration that his community were not safe even from those whose job it is to protect them. Realising that "you are not born with pain in you... you are born with it on you" he is adamant that this is an elements of himself he wants to work on and heal and others should too. For Lingo, it is through the creation of his music and storytelling he has found a space to help him grieve and overcome this learned pain, and grief, not just from the Julians situation, but all the difficulties faced navigating the world, particularly as a Black man.

Following his performance, the conversation then diverts towards Arlo Parks, her song "Hurt" and the thematic presence in her music of helping someone in their pain. She says of her music that much of her songs are observations and stories of the people around her, and her desire to carry their weight while they are suffering, "There's this sense of helplessness in being in the face of something they cant control and you can't control.... but at the end of the day it is just your mind doing things for no reason." Parks also dives into how, for her, self care, no matter what it looks like is how she navigates through low period in her own life. “I think it’s important, and I feel like for everyone, it’s separate. Self-care is like a million different things,” Parks says in the clip. “It doesn’t have to be, like, yoga. It can be gaming.”

In the last segment of the show Kojey Radical opens up about the difficulty he faces in communicating how he feels during low periods of his life. "When I was younger, I felt like people that knew me had more space to judge me. So it was easier to be open with people that I had never met." His latest project, Cashmere Tears and the track he is to perform "Cant Go Back" are a testament to a time in his life where from the outside looking in, he was doing well as he was touring, and releasing music that was propelling his status, but silently his mental wellbeing was wavering. He says that reflecting on the loss of his best friend Harry Uzoka and the lessons he taught him, made him less afraid to tell personal stories, and thus more open to communicating his vulnerabilities.

The show is an important space as it centres voices often lost in the conversation around mental health. In recent years, there has been a steady rise in the openness of Black British individuals being more vocal on the topic. With the likes of Ramz opening up around his dealings of suicidal ideation, Dave's debut album Psychodrama that was conceptually based around being a therapy session and touched on array of subjects, or Adwoa Aboah's Gurls Talk Platform, the stigma attached to it seems to slowly be disregarded. With the stoic attitudes not just of African and Caribbean culture, but also British culture, it is often the case that mental health and race are conversations people tend to shy from, so a television network hosting a show like this is somewhat paramount in aiding the widening of the discussion. Of the show Jordan Stephens says, "this is not about shoving a load of Black faces into a TV spot during the one gracious month of blackness that our calendar so kindly offers, just to tick a diversity box. This is about providing space for silenced communities.”

You can watch the show on demand on Channel 4 for the next month.

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