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.
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
Photos from Wikimedia Commons unless stated