October is Black History Month in the UK – an opportunity for schools, organisations and the wider community to recognise and celebrate the history and achievements of people with African, Caribbean and Asian heritage.
Who founded Black History Month?
The idea began in the US back in 1926, when Carter G Woodson – an African American scholar, historian, author and journalist – established Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month. Both the US and Canada celebrate Black History Month in February.
In the UK, Akyaaba Addai Sebbo, who worked as Co-ordinator of Special Projects at the Greater London Council (GLC), is considered the driving force behind establishing Black History Month. The GLC invited US professor, activist and author Dr Maulana Karenga to an event on 1 October 1987; he went on to create a plan that recognised the contribution of people with African, Asian and Caribbean heritage. This covered the whole spectrum of life – whether economic, cultural or political.
Why was it established?
The idea was to ensure that the achievements of black people through history were given wider recognition, as many do not receive the prominence they deserve in our history books and in the media.
The aim is not only to educate and inform the wider population but also to encourage people with African and Caribbean backgrounds to be aware of their own cultural heritage and the positive contribution made by black and Asian people to British society and to the wider world. It’s also about celebrating the benefits of diversity.
Who is involved today?
There is no one official body behind Black History Month in the UK, although information is available at
http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/. As well as this portal, there is an annual Black History Month Magazine.
Various groups and organisations in different regions, towns and cities will hold their own events and initiatives every year, and many schools will study black history during the month of October.
The Guardian’s Teacher Network has resources linked to Black History Month for schools: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/sep/26/black-history-month-resources
The UK Parliament has for the first time produced a new range of resources for Black History Month:
How can employers get involved?
Equality, diversity and inclusion are all important factors in a thriving workplace (see our blog: A guide to equality and diversity).
Forward-thinking employers who ‘actively seek to recruit from minority groups’ are featured on the Black History Month website’s Diversity Dashboard.
Employers can also organise events and talks or invite outside groups to do so, or can take the opportunity to see if any measures are required to improve diversity within their organisation.
Key events for 2015
Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism
2 October – 5 December, Rivington Place London, free
The first major new exhibition of Syd Shelton’s photographs, documenting the musicians and audiences at Rock Against Racism’s gigs and carnivals, curated by Autograph ABP. A book to accompany the exhibition is also out this month.
Local events in Yorkshire
The following events are listed on the Black History Month website, although many more will be taking place across the region.
Black ‘N Proud – My Queer Culture
30 October 2015, Leeds Beckett University, free. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minorities in a minority face some of the worse discrimination and stigma; this event aims to start a conversation about the intersection of BAME issues with other marginalisations, including issues to do with working class, women, LGBTIQ+ and more.
The Holy & Horny Farewell Tour 2015
7 November, Library Theatre, Sheffield, Tickets 0114 273 4102
Following a sold-out 2014 national tour, actor, writer, poet and entrepreneur Tonya Joy Bolton presents her one-woman theatre show, playing 20 characters in a blend of comedy, poetry, drama, and song. “A ground-breaking play not only breaking box office records, but helping to change lives.” The Voice newspaper.