Updated: Oct 1
by Rachael David
Growing up I don't really remember what I did during Black History Month. I went to primary school in a borough with a significant Black population so I imagine we did a lot to celebrate and learn. At secondary school I don't think we did anything, I was the only Black person in my class and think the relatively low Black population in the area might have been part of the reason why. I also don't remember learning any Black history from my Nigerian parents, or even any culture. I grew up unable to speak Yoruba, when both my parents are native speakers. There are some many important Nigerian / Yoruba cultural and historical things I only learned about as an adult including the Benin Bronzes, Ifa, the legend of Moremi and the fact that the Biafran War took place in Nigeria. My parents didn't teach me about Black British History either, I only learned about the Black Liberation Front led civil rights movement of the 1980s a few years ago, and the anything about Britain's significant Black populations prior to The Windrush arrived not much before that.
I embarked on a journey of discovery as a young adult and have developed an understanding of my history and context as a Black British-Nigerian woman. I cannot underestimate the importance of this in terms of who I am today and would encourage others to do the same. For people who are neither Black nor Nigerian Black History Month provides an opportunity to challenge the narratives perpetuated by the mainstream Western media, traditional history textbooks.
The best way to engage in Black History Month is to learn some new Black history you didn't know before. Black history focuses on the achievements of Black people and their contributions to the world we live in today. Because we still live in a very unjust world many people find it hard to decouple Black people and their history from the ongoing issues they face. I would argue that racism, slavery and all the other associated systems are the history of the cultures responsible for setting up and maintaining said systems.
You can learn some new Black history by
Going on a Black History Walk
Reading some of these books: David Olusoga – Black and British: A forgotten history; Stephen Bourne – The Motherland Calls: Britain's Black Servicemen & Women, 1939-45; Patrick Vernon – 100 Great Black Britons; Miranda Kaufmann – Black Tudors