What is Black History Month?
Black History Month is an annual commemoration of Black achievements and an opportunity to recognise our pivotal role in history. Black History Month was first proposed to the United Kingdom in the 1980s by Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a member of the Greater London Council. It was first commemorated as part of African Jubilee Year when US Dr. Maulana Karenga was invited to an event at County Hall on October 1 to commemorate the contributions of African and Caribbean individuals’ British prosperity.
From this, Addai-Sebo devised a plan to recognise the contributions of African and Caribbean people to the UK’s cultural, political, and economic life. Since 1987, Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK in October to combat racism and promote racial equality.
“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.”Maya Angelou
What is the significance of Black History Month?
According to the McGregor-Smith review, over 50% of black professionals still face prejudice at work, hence one of the main goals of Black History Month is to illustrate how members of such communities have contributed significantly to society. It’s also been estimated that 25% of people believe that assumptions about their ability, attitude, or behaviour are formed because of their race (Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, 2021). Such figures highlight the significance of Black History Month, which emphasizes how black people are undervalued in the workplace and unrecognized in our history books. The focus for Black History Month 2021 is “Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity,” which looks at the African diaspora and the growth of black families across the world.
Black History Month has also been criticized on several occasions for being patronizing, a pretext to neglect Black History for the rest of the year, and a system for dividing Black and British history. Whatever the merits and flaws of these discussions, they all highlight the fact that Black history needs to be taught across the board.
10 Interesting Facts to make you feel Black and Proud
- Usain Bolt became the first man to win three world records in a single Olympic event in 2008.
- Black Panther first appeared in comic books in 1966.
- For her work in Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry became the first Black woman to receive an Academy Award for Best Actress.
- For his film Dear Basketball, Kobe Bryant became the first athlete and the first black person to receive an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2018.
- Aretha Franklin was not only the first African American woman, but also the first woman, period, to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Nat King Cole was the first black person to top the Billboard charts and the first to host his own television show.
- Quincy Jones has 79 Grammy nominations and 27 wins, making him the most nominated artist in Grammy history.
- The first home security system was designed by Marie Van Brittan Brown, a full-time nurse.
- Madam C.J. Walker was born on a Louisiana cotton plantation and rose to prominence, becoming a self-made millionaire, after creating a line of Black hair care products. Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories was founded by her, and she was well noted for her generosity.
- In 2008, Barack Obama became the first black president of the US.
Personal experience with being Black in the UK
I am immensely proud to be black and honoured to have such a rich and diverse background and culture. Fortunately, I grew up in London, in a borough and school system which is quite multi-cultural. Nevertheless, I have been subjected to stereotypes which are commonly associated with black individuals and black girls specifically. Being with my group of girlfriends (if all were black) we were automatically considered to be loud, disorderly, and often aggressive by teachers. This unfair assessment was particularly infuriating as others of different races who acted in similar manners were associated with more positive connotations. It can be hard at times being part of a minority, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“The black experience is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”Marcus Garvey
How you can celebrate Black History Month
- Support black-owned businesses.
- Donate to charities that support racial equality.
- Attend Black History Month celebrations.
- Promote diversity and help to combat discrimination in your workplace.
- Learn about notable Black figures and their achievements/contributions.
- Listen to Black artists’ music, learn about it, and share it.
- Watch shows and films created by Black innovators (Netflix’s Black Lives Matter category has some great picks).
“Black is beautiful. In any shade and if you didn’t know, you better ask somebody.”