Photographer exhibits at shopping centre where he was falsely accused

This summer, Cephas Williams posted a video showing him being grabbed and questioned by security staff.


He returned on Monday to launch his Portrait of Black Britain exhibition.


The photos are designed to show "the humanity in blackness" and that "we are human beings too", Williams said

The crowd that gathered for the exhibition's launch was in marked contrast to what happened when the original incident happened, he said.


"When I was going through what I was going through at Bluewater, I was very much alone," he told BBC News. "You had a bunch of people looking over the balcony watching.

"Today I've got a similar effect, where people are watching me. But they're watching me not to scrutinise, not to stereotype, not to leave with a skewed narrative of black people. They're watching to stand with me.


"I think that sends such a powerful message in the same space where nobody helped. Nobody apologised that day either.

"So to be standing here with people that are supporting what I'm doing, I feel extremely safe, I feel extremely calm."


'A drop in the ocea

After being confronted by security guards outside House of Fraser in June, Williams asked to meet the chief executive of Bluewater's owners Landsec, Mark Allan


"Me and Mark sat down for a very long time and discussed many things and Mark really came to listen," Williams sai


"Portrait of Black Britain is a drop in the ocean for what we need to do. Portrait of Black Britain is not the problem solved. It's a door opening into a wider a much broader conversation that me and Mark also hadThe photos, which were displayed at Manchester's Arndale Centre as part of the Manchester International Festival earlier this year, show people from all walks of life, from poets to professors.


"Our contribution to the society is bigger than you used to see in mainstream media, which is very often either what they call the very, very best of us or what they call the very, very worst," said Williams, who also runs the Black British Networ


"So if you're not really rich, or a rapper, or an entertainer, or a football player, the perception I've been raised to see myself in is as a drug dealer, a criminal or a kid in with flies on his face


The artist and activist described the photos as "a gift" instead of taking action against the shopping centre or the sho


"I could have done a lot of different things because I was harassed. So me not doing those things and saying, 'How do we come together?' is not justice, it's a gift


In a statement, Allan said his company placed "great importance on inclusivity" and "reflecting the diversity of our customers and guests


"Working with Cephas and his team has given us the opportunity to listen, learn and importantly take action," he adde


A spokesperson for Landsec said: "Since the incident we have reviewed our role in it and discussed as a business how we could do better, including the training we provide our staff and more widely share with our brand partners


The company is rolling out a new training programme, which will be shared with its "brand partners", it added.


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