In the News: Black History Month 2018

October marks Black History Month in the UK. It has been celebrated for more than 30 years by schools and councils with discourse and community events highlighting black heritage for the wider population. However, this year a row has overshadowed one of the highlights of the cultural calendar.

Some councils have changed the name ‘Black History Month’ to be inclusive of other diverse cultures now living in the UK. Wandsworth Council, for example, now call it ‘Diversity Month’ and include stories of Indian, Polish, Spanish, Chinese and also African and Caribbean origins.

Historian, David Olusoga, has argued that Black History Month should remain focused on just that, black history. It is a celebration of the heritage of peoples welcomed into the UK, with Afro-Caribbean stories the mainstay of the month. Diversity, in this instance, dilutes the stories and the original character of Black History Month.

NPG 6856; Mary Jane Seacole (nÈe Grant) by Albert Charles Challen
Mary Seacole (1805-1881) by Albert Charles Challen, oil on panel, 1869

To me, it seems an opportunity to add other events to the cultural calendar has been missed; why can’t there be other cultural weeks or months dedicated to Asian heritage or Chinese heritage, possibly based around Chinese New Year, anyone? With the Asian population higher in some districts than the black population, recognising Asian stories is also valid, but rather than an afterthought clipped onto an already popular event, let’s give their narratives the importance they deserve and celebrate individually. 

The argument that Black History Month offers the opportunity to celebrate black history for just one month of the year and then forget about it for the rest of the year is a compelling one. However, forgoing Black History Month entirely would certainly mean stories of minorities remain untold.

Black History Month commemorates the often untold or hidden stories of people of black heritage and it’s crucial that their narratives are shared as this engenders a community inclusivity and an awareness of history that can be celebrated year round.

To celebrate Black History Month please feel free to share your stories in the comments, if you’ve a link you’d like to share with me please add it – with a little comment or it may end up in my spam box.

Do you come from a black family and want to share your family’s story?

Have you participated in a BHM event?

Have you been to the Notting Hill Carnival?

Have you a blue plaque dedicated to a person of black heritage in your community?

 

Black History on HistorianRuby

Cesar Picton 

The ‘Black Boy’ of the Philanthropic Society

22 June 1948: Empire Windrush Arrived in Britain

 

 

Photos from Wikimedia Commons unless stated

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/30/councils-condemned-for-shameful-rebranding-of-black-history-month

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/black-history-month_uk_5bb1d618e4b0343b3dc1abb8

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk

11 thoughts on “In the News: Black History Month 2018

  1. I am fascinated by history of all peoples, but my mind always thinks of the slave trade whenever I think of “Black History”.
    My time in Ghana made me fall in love with West African culture, but visiting places like Cape Coast Castle where prisoners were kept in depraved conditions before being shipped to the Americas made a huge impact on me. Also, as I am sure you know Ruby, there is a lot of information in Liverpool about the slave trade. Over the summer, when I visited, there was an exhibition celebrating many black men and women who have carved their own personal name in the history books up at the Liverpool Maritime Museum.
    I also stayed with some friends in Texas who are black, they believe their family came from Nigeria before ending up in America. They took us to some remarkable places – we went to a black cowboy club and other events linked with sport and music where we had an amazing time.
    I used to live slap bang in the middle of the route for the Notting Hill Carnival.
    I think I understand why some want to include other cultures and celebrate diversity (especially in London which is such a melting pot of different cultures). But I think especially when you are aware of the atrocities that have been committed towards a group of people, you can see why it is important to have a way to recognize a piece of world history that ought never to be forgotten and to celebrate a culture that makes this earth warmer and more colourful – that was the main impression we had of Ghana – an array of colour in the beautiful clothes, especially kente cloth and the warmth and gregariousness of people we met and worked with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I grew up in Liverpool so I’m aware of its past and so when studying at uni I went to the museum (although I’m long overdue a visit) and bought their academic books on slavery to help me with a paper. They were so good I could use them again the following year. I got my best marks at uni for that first paper. I think it was because I had a passion for the subject. I took a similar subject the following year because the subject was so compelling. The sad thing is, we still don’t find black Britons in the historical records, mainly because the historical record covers the elite and those lower down the social order are often skipped. This of course, is a nightmare for the family historian – if your family were of the working classes, often you will only see them if they were in trouble! Which is why we find Thomas West in the Philanthropic Society.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Seacole went to the Crimean War and she was a contemporary of Florence Nightingale. It’s often said that her story was overlooked by history while Florence was venerated for her work. In recent years there has been a lot of work to redress the balance and tell her story as not only was she of mixed parentage, she was a woman in the mid-1880s doing unusual thing for women of her times.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/seacole_mary.shtml
      There is now a statue dedicated to her in ther gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. it seems an opportunity to add other events to the cultural calendar has been missed… you hit the mail on the head with that one.
    Black History month should be used to explore and commemorate the contributions of the Afro and Caribbean immigrants. And other weeks/ months should be used to give voice to the stories of the Asian, Middle Eastern and other groups. As you pointed out, different places will have more concentration of different peoples and can use that as a wonderful opportunity to document and celebrate those cultures.
    Lumping all together as “Diversity” is oversimplifying and under appreciating these unique and significant contributions.

    Like

      1. You may find your blogs sometimes listed in GENERAL INTEREST section, under Always Interesting. Otherwise all the great bloggers will all be mentioned every week… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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