I am having a moral dilemma – Black History Month yes, or no?


September 11, 2023

Well, I am back writing after the summer break, good news for those who enjoy my musings and bad news for those who don’t 😊 I find it quite therapeutic I am sure I have told you all that before. However, as the title suggests I am having a dilemma about the celebration of black history month. I guess over the last few years I have been influenced by the opinions of my black family, colleagues, activists, and friends some of those share more than one title by the way. They can be a friend and an activist. I am double counting here.

However, whatever label I given them what resonates with most is that black history should be part of mainstream culture, with a firm opinion about schools. I am conscious that the BEC’s role is never to offend a community and I am very much aware of unconscious bias.

In June I went away for a week to Portugal with my husband who being a creature of habit had his reading material lined up for lazy days by the pool. My husband is an avid sports fan, a former member of the barmy army having watched cricket all over the world. I am afraid meeting me and committing to family life put paid to that, but he is still an avid supporter of cricket.

I had bought him a book by Michael Holding (famous cricketer) for Christmas called Why we Kneel How We Rise, which was written after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing development of the Black Lives Matter movement.

This book kept his interest all holiday, I would be alerted to quotes from the book being read out about black history and culture and how underrepresented it had been during his time in education some nearly 45 years ago now.  He was fascinated that in 1909 a black man named Matthew Henson discovered the north pole. Long before Scott of the Antarctic! 

On a holiday last year to Italy, I had insisted on a bucket list trip, having been a lifelong history buff I got to see Pompei. It was wonderful and brought back so many memories of school history lessons and my fascination for people and cultures. I think I was as astounded as him when he told me that in 193AD a roman garrison had been built at Hadrian’s wall by Septimius Severus a Black Emperor I never learnt that.  For the Harry Potter fans you can see where JK Rowling got some character names 😊 

I did some research into the origins of Black history month, what I found is that when most people think of Black History month in Britain it is still very common to celebrate the works of famous Black American Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. However, of course we should now focus on the massive influence that Black people, activists, and members of our community have had in the UK. 

In Britain we started celebrating Black History month in October in 1987. I was 21 that year and certainly cannot recall it being on my radar as a celebration month. Influenced by the February Black History celebrations in the USA, Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council founded the UK version of Black History month. This was a chance to recognise the importance of black contributions in UK life.

Of course, all of the above ramblings do not provide the answer as to whether the BEC should be putting on special events for Black History month. As a comparison when we put on International Women’s Day events we always get a couple of men who email and say why are the events not for men. We have never had any complaints about Black History month events but the BEC wants to be part of ongoing change not tokenism so still a dilemma. If you have a view, please do email me!

On the subject of equalities, I am delighted to say we are having a guest blogger called Taz once a month till the end of the year. I hope you will enjoy her thoughts and opinions around representation in the LGBTQ+ community. Please look out for her first blog at the end of September. We would love feedback!