Featuring Binki Taylor
Photography by Shana Trajanoska
Words by Laura Neilson
Sometimes it takes an outsider’s experience to know the truest sense of belonging. When she co-founded the Brixton Project several years ago, Binki Taylor understood that a community for oneself is also very often a community for others.
Binki Taylor co-founded the Brixton Project, a local organization for creating cultural, participatory and community-minded spaces, in 2019, and yet its ethos is one she’s spent an entire lifetime cultivating. Growing up in an adopted household with white foster parents, Taylor, 60, recalls being the only black child for “many miles around.” Even in her youth, she was deeply self-aware of being an outsider, while longing for a larger sense of kinship and community, a feeling that often compelled her to create those ideas for herself and those around her.
A longtime resident of the south London district of Brixton, Taylor fondly refers to past experiences—including opening a small goods shop inside Brixton Market that was ingeniously constructed from cardboard—as “pennies dropping.” Small, but significant moments that captured the elements of art and culture, with creativity and community engagement, these “pennies dropping” eventually synthesized into the mission behind the Brixton Project.
Given Brixton’s reputation for having a rough and hardscrabble past, Taylor’s objective, both personal (as a resident) and professional, feels all the more purposeful. “It’s important to show that Brixton can leapfrog this identity that’s been placed on it, which is more broadly a label rather than an actual understanding of the experience of black communities here,” she says. On the eve of Windrush Day, a celebration commemorating the arrival by ship of more than 800 Caribbean immigrants to the UK, Taylor discusses what it means to be a participant in her community, and what it means to make one for others.
In 2007 I trained as a coach, and the focus ended up being quite a bit about me: working out my story, who I was, what I needed. But going through the process also gave me this deep sense of everyone’s potential.
As far back as college, I was a community-builder—I was social. I’ve always been involved with bringing people together and building large networks of doers and thinkers.
Being part of Brixton Market was a really good way to understand how the wider community worked and what it needed. You’re really marshaling people’s energy to make it grow, and to work for people in a better way. And then through that, you see all sorts of narratives appear. You begin to understand how difficult it is for certain businesses to survive—some of the more traditional businesses—when there’s all these trendy newcomers coming in. That’s not a bad change, but there’s a larger scenario at play.
The consistent theme throughout my story is actually one of not belonging. There was a lot of love in my adopted family’s home, but it was Surrey in the 1960s, and I was the only black child for many miles around. But being in that position meant that I’ve always had an opportunity to see things from many different perspectives.
A memorable, defining moment for us was the redesign of the Brixton Road railway bridge, which we did as a public competition. Artists submitted from all over Europe, but there were a lot of local artists as well. And the winning design was based on a Jamaican vest. Its colors are red, gold and green, and in huge letters, it says on one side, “Come in love.” And then the other side reads, “Stay in peace.” It’s a hugely powerful message that was about disrupting perceptions, but at the same time, presenting all that Brixton really is.
Every year we celebrate Windrush,the commemoration of the Empire Windrush boat that arrived from the Caribbean to the UK. It’s a difficult and long story, and given Brixton’s strong Caribbean community, it’s something that we support. Sometimes Brixton can be a hard place to live, so events like Windrush and redesigning the Gateway bridge, and creating those moments of collective connection…that feels super important.
Brene Brown has been an inspiration in helping me to unstick myself from the fear of imperfection, allowing me to move through a million and one mistakes reasonably gracefully most days.
I believe we create our own reality from thousands of thoughts every day. So think hard about what you really want, and don’t waste time on the ‘shouldn’ts’ and ‘if-onlys.’
Any desire to change the world has to start with you. Get to know yourself honestly to be able to act with positive intention for yourself and others. It’s an ongoing job.
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