Black History Month is a time when we focus our energy on celebrating the rich histories of Black individuals and communities. The first British Black History Month was held in London in 1987, led by Linda Bellos as a community-led response to celebrate Black contributions to Britain. Stories of Black scientists, activists, educators, and many more often go ignored in mainstream education and media. These are 6 ways you can celebrate Black history and commit to celebrating experiences and stories from Black communities and leaders; this month and all year round.
1) Celebrate Black history by checking out some of Writing on the Wall’s amazing events
Writing on the Wall is a Liverpool organisation championing the power of writing and stories. Join them to celebrate Black History Month 2020 with a series of outstanding events – check out the calendar here.
2) Black participants can learn about Black identity and heal from difficult histories in a space safe
There are a whole host of webinars to create safe spaces for Black participants. Take a look at the Black History Month events listings here. Check out UK Youth here, who are hosting a series of events as part of their #YoungAndBlack campaign. Sign up today, or forward an event on to someone else that would love to get involved.
3) Learn about community organisations making history right now
There are amazing Black leaders and communities changing the world right now. It’s hard to choose just a few groups, but recently we’ve worked with:
- Sebene Project – The Sebene project empowers young Black boys with support around identity, mental health and well-being and cultural heritage, supporting a positive outlook on community. Through discussions, culture and music, giving a different narrative to negative perceptions of being a young Black boy. Their work helps encourage confidence, self-esteem, peer interaction, communication, teamwork and gives transferable skills.
- F.U.S.E – The FUSE Youth Project aims to teach young people life skills through cooking, art, sports and group discussions. This summer they worked to ensure that young people living in West Hendon did not miss out on being able to have a fun and active summer. They also provided meals to young people to ensure that no one went hungry during the holidays.
- Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre – This organisation was originally started by the Liverpool Black Sisters to challenge socio-economic exclusion in Toxteth. Today their multi-cultural community centre continues to empower local people in Liverpool 8 and the City of Liverpool.
Hungry for more Black-led community action? Find out more about amazing community groups working to bring racial justice and community level change to Minority Ethnic communities here.
4) Commit to practical and personal action for your community group – not just theoretical learning
We celebrate Black History Month to learn about the historical contributions that Black people have made to the UK. However, it’s always important to turn inward and find out what our roles in creating history are. And as charities and community organisations, we are far from immune to structural racism.
As this compelling article from NCVO’s BAME network puts it, ‘At the root of the harm caused to BAME staff and communities is a paternalistic ‘white saviour’ model of charity, rooted in a colonial past. The sector’s link to colonialism […] positions BAME individuals and communities as passive recipients of help, never decision-makers in their own right. It keeps white, middle-class individuals and communities in positions of power, privilege and influence. This has to change, otherwise, the charity sector will continue to undermine not only BAME communities but its own aspirations for social change.’
Good starting points might include:
- Recommendations from this recent report ‘Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector’. This report from Acevo gathers together experiences of Minority Ethnic people working in the charity sector.
- This resource from Our Community Australia and this resource from the Resource Centre look at how to foster diversity and inclusion in community groups.
- This free evening webinar from Stir to Action and The Hive is a great place for community groups that run co-operatives to look at how co-ops can be part of the response to racial justice.
5) Listen to and amplify stories from Black experts within your field
It is essential to tell, share, and listen to the stories shared by Black individuals and communities. As humans, the stories we hear connect us and influence how we see the world. As Georgina from BUD writes, ‘We recognise that in order to see true systemic change we need to amplify our voices and continue to tell our stories.’
Listen to Black leaders from your field and prioritise paying for their skills, time and expertise. Easily accessible options include:
- The Colour Green Podcast with Baroness Lola Young is a great option to listen to Black climate and sustainability experts.
- The Root: Conscious Chatter with Dominique Drakeford talks with a range of experts about the world of ethical fashion to decolonise the sustainable fashion agenda.
- The Good Ancestor Podcast by Layla F. Saad is a great option for a range of environmental and social justice themes.
6) Commit to long term change
Finally, celebrating Black histories and Black stories is something that must last for the full calendar year. This is not an opportunity for performative allyship or optical allyship tactics centred around calendar events.
Dr Vivienne Connel-Hall points out in this article,‘Paradoxically, we must squeeze 100s of years of our story, the story of Black people, into 31 days that can never be enough time. There is an opportunity for a concentrated focus on Black historical input and achievement, in the United Kingdom. It is also a period tinged with disappointment, when I reflect upon the limited time given over to this during the rest of the year.’