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22 October 2020

Black History Month: Why is Black History Month important to me (and to all of us)?

My parents moved to London from Ghana as young adults, bringing with them their own culture and history. Growing up within a vibrant community in Battersea meant that the combination of British and Ghanaian culture have played a strong part in shaping my own identity. Many British people of African-Caribbean descent have similarly grown up with dual cultural influences. Black History Month (BHM) has been an important opportunity to recognise how African-Caribbean culture and the contributions of black people have helped to shape today’s Britain.

I recently discovered that BHM was first introduced in London during the late-1980s by Ghanaian-born special forces officer, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, working as part of the Greater London Council (now the Greater London Authority). Taking inspiration from US Black History Month, which is celebrated in the US annually in February, Addai-Sebo believed that BHM could become a valuable addition to our national calendar. The main aims of the month were to make black history accessible and meaningful to the wider community, and to inspire and instil pride of self among young black people.

The month of October now brings with it an abundance of informative and entertaining talks, articles and events, which I always look forward to. I believe it is important for organisations to mark BHM in some shape or form for a number of reasons. Firstly, it brings to light aspects of history not widely included in the school curriculum. Ultimately, Black history is British history and ‘the more you know of your history, the more liberated you are’. BHM is also an opportunity to share stories about the accomplishments of black people in various disciplines; the positive impact of being represented in senior positions in our respective professions should not be underestimated.

This year marks 33 years of BHM celebrations in the UK. During previous years, it provided opportunities to learn about all aspects of African-Caribbean culture and history. BHM has now evolved to encompass discussions regarding the present day experiences of black British people, and the inequalities that still exist today. The sentiments behind BHM undoubtedly resonate more this year, and many of us are motivated to address the issues affecting black people globally. The wider community should continue to take advantage of the opportunities BHM brings to build stronger relationships with black colleagues and friends.

BHM is important for many reasons. It is a reminder that although black people in the UK have many shared experiences, there is a wealth of diversity in what it means to be both black and British. We should all continue to use BHM as a time to reflect upon and celebrate the experiences of black people past and present.

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