The Importance of Black History Month In The UK
Black & British
As we enter into another black history month, I have been able to reflect on one of my side projects that I ended up calling Black & British. Over the last year in particular it has definitely taken shape and has gone onto me creating a web site and Twitter handle accordingly. In fact I’ll be ramping things up further, with a little help, to include an Instagram account and begin to write blogs and reviews. So what was a passing thought a few years ago, has become something that I dedicate a few hours to every week without fail.
Why the project is important to me is partly linked to why black history month exists. Growing up in the 70s as the child of Jamaican immigrants, my identity was deeply rooted in Caribbean & British culture. At the time most black kids I knew were all pretty similar to myself in that way. Whether your heritage was African or the Caribbean, your parents held onto and instilled in you an identity that was related to their country of origin. It could have been through food, music, language, jokes, social events and the like. Everything revolved around what our parents took with them and used to make themselves feel at ease in the UK.
Why Black History Month exists
As I grew up I began to realise that despite being supposedly welcomed with open arms to this country, people from an Afro-Caribbean background were constantly only allowed a one dimensional portrayal in the media. The stereotypes were prevalent. So if we watched a film we would see how long it would be before a black character was soon killed off. Or if the character was allowed to be at best a footballer or musician or at worst a drug dealer or a layout about who smoked weed all day.
For those who don’t get why BHM needs to exist and continue then you won’t get any of what I have said or am about to say. But this is an example of the lived experience of many black people. At Grammar school, despite having good grades in many of my subjects, a number of my teachers would dumb down on my achievements. When I was old enough to start clubbing and going to pubs and bars, if we went to venues with predominantly white clientele, my friends and I would get approached to see if we were selling any drugs. Where else would people with pretty much no black friends have got the idea that any black guy they see in a club must definitely be a drug dealer of sorts?
So BHM is about recognising and celebrating the many positive and significant contributions that black people have made in the UK and the world at large. This impact was long before the Windrush generation started arriving in the 50s and certainly before slavery became a regular part of British society. Black history is a part of British and world history. Thus for black people in the UK we would like that recognised, accepted and appreciated.
Some resources for Black History Month
There are many BHM activities happening across the UK, some of which continue throughout the whole year. Below is just a small sample of links to projects, organisations and people who are doing some great things to this effect. Throughout BHM I will be providing many more examples via my Black & British project social media accounts and web site. If you want to get involved in BHM don’t forget to the use #BlackHistoryMonth and #BHM hashtags when posting on social media.
- Black Cultural Archives
- Black History Month
- Black British History
- Black History Studies
- BHM Magazine
- Young Historians Project
- Mary Seacole Trust
- 100 Great Black Britons
- Diverse Histories+
- Black Super Heroes
- Stephen Bourne
- Dr Caroline Bressey
Written by Alec Grant