2020 was definitely a challenging year for the black community, from the disproportionate impact of COVID19 on ethnic minorities to the global uprisings against police brutality across the diaspora.
Why Black History Month?
Every year without fail, the question of why we need to celebrate Black History Month will be asked by those who don't understand its importance. The answers are loud and clear within society. For example, the British national curriculum's failure to include the history of black people within the mainstream study of a subject field, despite black history having been a part of British history for centuries. Black History Month provides an opportunity where we can all be educated and learn about the rich and painful histories of black people, as well as their enormous contributions to the wider world.
In the United States, Carter G. Woodson became known as the “father of Black History Month”, after publishing a press release announcing the very first Black History Week on the 7th February 1926. It was another 50 years until the celebration of black (specifically African American) history became a monthly occurrence in 1976.
Many may not know this but the month of February was chosen in the US to coincide with the birthdays of former US President, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass- a multifaceted abolitionist, social reformer, orator, writer and statesman.
Over here in the UK, Black History Month was founded in October 1987, by Ghanaian analyst, journalist and Pan-African activist Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. First celebrated in London as part of African Jubilee Year, Addai-Sebo wanted to give credit to the African and Caribbean communities for their contribution to cultural and economic life in the UK. Coincidentally, 1987 also marked the centenary of the birth of political activist Marcus Garvey, and the election of Dianne Abbot into parliament, as the first black female MP.
Throughout history, the black community has achieved amazing successes and contributed greatly to the societies that we live in today. We owe our gratitude to the many who have changed the way that we live today. One of many contributions to society is the work of African American Businessman Garrett Morgan, who in 1923 improved the traffic light system, taking it from two lights to three. This improvement in traffic lights helped to save lives. The new system informed drivers of when to stop, go and slow down, and his modification is visible in practically every city around the world; making traffic much safer for everyone to navigate.
Black Cultural Archives:
This Black History Month I want to encourage you all to dig deep and learn something new about our communities. My top recommendation for learning more about the history of black people in the UK is the Black Cultural Archives. As the only national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and displaying the history of African and Caribbean people in Britain, it is important to recognise and support their endeavours.
The final takeaway is: remember to share black stories, celebrate black culture, remember black achievements and support black businesses all year round!