Lessons Learnt from Black History Month

Written by Abi Aimiuwu |

 

Black History Month is a time where as a country we learn, understand and appreciate the struggles and legacies of Black people throughout history and modern day. It is an opportunity to reflect on the trials and tribulations that Black people, all across the globe, have had to suffer through to arrive to where they are today. To fighting for a more accepting society. Nevertheless, with the conclusion of October and with it Black History Month, many stories of Black-British history still remain untold.

‘Black History’ is often tied to with Martin Luther King or slavery in the United States. However, the issue is not that we talk too much about the civil rights movement or the legacy of slavery, transcending into present day. Instead, Black History is mostly reduced to an American-centric perspective and we learn to generalise this history as universal for all Black people around the world. From a young age, we learn that all Black History stems inherently from trauma.

 

“From a young age, we learn that all Black History stems inherently from trauma.”

 

We learn about the Africans who were shipped off in boats to America where they were tortured and abused by their white counterparts. Yet, we treat the fact that over 300 years, Britain was a key player in the slave trade. Like this is some as an unkept secret that many choose not to dissect. The issue with this is that it changes the way that Black History in Britain can be conceived in vital discourse. By generalising these histories, we gloss over the

The lessons that we can learn from Black History Month is firstly that Black History is not universal. Black History is not a topic that can be oversimplified nor generalised. It is extremely intricate and riddled with a multitude of layers that help us explore the plight of Black-British people. Secondly, Black History promotes many things outside of trauma. It is the vibrancy and colour of Notting Hill Carnival in London that celebrates Caribbean culture.

 

HMS Empire Windrush | Credit: Royal Navy

 

It is the legacy of the Windrush Generation who, after World War II emigrated to England with the hopes of a better life only to be placed at the bottom of the food chain and are currently fighting to not be deported from the United Kingdom.

 

Statue commemorating Mary Seacole- Jamaican Nurse and Heroine of the Crimean War | Credit: David Holt

 

It is remembering Mary Seacole, who wanted to help wounded soldiers during the Crimean War but was denied this right by the government and instead, raised the money and went to Ukraine to treat these soldiers. It is our music, our art, our literature, clothing and food.

 

Diane Abbott, the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons

 

Black-British history is what allows us to celebrate Diane Abbot, who is the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons. It allows us to remember the British Black Panther Movement and Black-British people who broke the glass ceilings and continue to do so daily.

So now as Black History Month has gone, remember that Black-British History is not Black Panther or Hidden Figures or 12 Years a Slave. To be Black-British is to play a role in diversifying Britain’s social fabric in an environment where discrimination was unavoidable. Black-British History is not only trauma.

 

“Black History does not start and end with trauma”

 

We should never try to forget the racism and discrimination that Black children, men and women faced and still face to this very day however Black History does not start and end with trauma. History helps us to understand our past and how it translates into the present. It is imperative we remember Black history with accuracy and in its entirety.

Although, during the year, October is designated as Black History Month in Britain its legacy spills over into our day to day interactions. Until we can engage with Black-British history, our failure to address it in its complexities will change how we understand with what it meant to be a Black-British person in the past and how it created the social fabric that we live in today.

 

 

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