Here's why we celebrate Black History Month in October

  • by Dean Jones

Black History Month (UK) 2020 in United Kingdom began on Thursday, 1 October and ends on Saturday, 31 October and is a period of recognition, reconciliation, renewal and a review of the state of Black Britain.

From finding out more about influential black men and women, to how the slave trade has shaped cities in the UK, there is lots to learn and discuss. And the month is being celebrated in a variety of different ways – from prominent Brits such as Sir Lenny Henry and Mary Seacole being honoured on postboxes, through to Alison Hammond learning all about black British culture in Alison Hammond: Back To School.

However, for young black people who took part in the summer's marches, this year's Black History Month is arguably one of the most significant since it was first celebrated in the UK in 1987. This year has forced many people to see and openly discuss the reality of institutional racism for the first time, from a global pandemic in which people of color have died disproportionately and will shoulder the brunt of its economic repercussions, to the killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement. Both young and older people have been energised by a year of protest and want changes to the way black history is taught in schools.However, once upon a time there was no such thing is Black History Month in UK, but there was one in the United States.

How did Black History Month start in the UK?

For years, talk of the need for a British version went round and round, before the proposal was put to the Labour by politician Linda Bellos in 1987. The origins of Black History Month in the UK derive from a chance conversation that its founder, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, had in the mid-1980s with a downcast colleague. The seven-year - old son of a colleague was named after Marcus Garvey, the black protester. And she told Addai-Sebo that the boy had posed a clear and heartbreaking question as she put her son to bed. 

“Mum, why can’t I be white?”

It was this innocent question that prompted Addai-Sebo, then a special project leader of the Greater London Council's Ethnic Minorities Team, to study how black children perceived their culture and eventually persuaded him that Britain needed an event that recognised Africa and Africa's contributions to global civilization.

Black History Month provides an occasion to put into the classroom forgotten historical episodes, from the British black panthers to the boycott of the Bristol bus and how teachers tackle this subject will reveal how far we've come.

"Black children must be able to believe in themselves. That's what Black History Month is for" Opinion by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo

In October, the United Kingdom is assumed to celebrate Black History Month as historically this is when African leaders met to address their disputes, hence Akyabaa Addai-Sebo choose October for the importance of this. Meanwhile February in the US means the month coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12, 1809, and Frederick Douglass, who was born in February 1818.

Where does your obligation to care lie? We want to hear from you. What did you do to mark the month of Black History? You might have heard about someone you didn't know about at school before, or you might have written a poem or drawn a picture. What do you think about Black History and why does it matter to you?

We remain so delicate, amid all the armaments of war and the show of human greed, and as such we must remain the keepers of each other and celebrate the goodness of each other. And you can't crush a caterpillar and be impressed by a butterfly's elegance. Black Lives Matter; so does Black History.


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