Exploring Black History Month

∼November 2016 print issue.

Ruth Ochugboju explores the significance of Black History month and reflects on the joint society event organised by History, Politics and the African Caribbean Society.

 ‘Celebrating Black History Month’. Illustration by Ray Carter.

In the UK the month of October is usually dedicated to the acknowledgement of African’s and Caribbean’s history, which is commonly referred to as Black History Month. We use the month to remember the important contributions and achievements of African’s, Caribbean’s, and in a larger sense, black people across the world from the past to the present. This has proved to be a successful way of informing the youth about elements of black history that are heavily neglected; it encourages many to productively reflect on the past.

As the education, history and celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture is one of the founding principles of the FXU’s African Caribbean Society (ACS), they have organised a number of events in honour of Black History Month. One of the events that they arranged was “Let’s Talk: Black History Month”, which proved to create an interesting, interactive and informative discussion hosted by the ACS, History and Politics society. I found the event to be a unique and creative way to combine elements of these societies which created a mentally stimulating session.

The discussion highlighted key topics and events related to the history of black people. We explored how Africa has the world’s oldest civilisation with its own rich history which did not begin, as some people falsely believe, with European’s colonisation. Furthermore, we reflected on how black people’s history particularly in America, is mainly associated with the history of slavery; in our society this is saturated in our education and the media’s exposure of black people’s history. Furthermore, we looked at the effect misinformation of black people’s history has on the public and the racist ideologies it perpetuates. Conclusively, we reflected on how re-education and acquiring the correct information on the history of black people can benefit everyone in society. These topics were gracefully addressed and the contributions made by everyone were respected.

Also, ACS has also organised a jazz night in celebration of the rich contribution black people have made to this genre of music. As many people know, jazz music originated from the heavily repressed communities of New Orleans in the United States in the late 19th century. Wynton Marsalis stated, “New Orleans had a great tradition of celebration. Opera, military marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming, and all of the dance styles that went with this music could be heard and seen throughout the city. When all of these kinds of music blended into one, jazz was born.”

As diversity in all its beauty, continues to flourish and grow in our world and on our campus, it highlights the need to celebrate the various histories that make up the collective account of our world. As we use October to celebrate and educate people on black people’s history, we hope that it can inspire others to view the accomplishments of the past as a platform for future growth.