October is the month we celebrate Black History Month, designed to recognise the history, experiences and achievements of black people, and employers and educators all over the UK mark these achievements through a number of events and activities.
The idea for a Black History Month started in America 90 years ago and in 1976 President Gerald Ford called for the public to, “seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history.”
Since 1987 we have celebrated Black History Month in the UK and, we include the history and achievements of people from African and Caribbean heritage as well as those from Asia too. This month gives us the opportunity to remember and celebrate Black individuals who have been pioneers in their chosen fields. People such as:
- Paul Yaw Boateng a Labour Party politician, who was the MP for Brent South from 1987 to 2005 and become the UK’s first black Cabinet Minister in May 2002, when he was appointed as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
- Diane Abbott, a Labour Party politician and the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons in 1987.
- Margaret Busby, the first black woman publisher and founder of the publishing house Allison & Busby.
From time to time arguments appear in the media about whether we should be celebrating Black History Month. Absolutely we should.
Earlier this month the government published its first ever ‘ethnicity facts and figures’ website which sets out the lived experience of Britain’s Black African and Minority Ethnic population. The data included in this website is highly important, because behind the numbers, there is a depressing story of sustained discrimination, poor access to education and justice, and a lack of opportunity and success.
We must celebrate Black History Month to remind us of the past struggles of black people in the UK (and wider world) and the journey towards equality and inclusion that still lies ahead of us. As Margaret Busby said: “So while diversity and inclusivity have become fashionable words, peppering many a publishing manifesto, is it still a case of plus ça change (same old same old)?”
For more information on Black History Month, the events being held around the UK and a wealth of resources, visit: http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/
Image source: Blackhistorymonth.org.uk