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CONTENTS 4 WELCOME
By Patrick Vernon OBE. The Editor welcomes you to Black History Month 2017
Featuring Prime Minister Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn MP - Leader of the Labour Party, Vince Cable MP - Liberal Democrat Leader, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Helen Grant MP
8 LORD HERMAN OUSELEY
"We didn’t win the war for people like you to come here and take our homes and jobs"
9 INTRODUCTIONS CONT’D
Featuring Raj Tulsiani - CEO of Green Park
10 AKYAABA ADDAI-SEBO
Patrick Vernon interviews Akyaaba Addai-Sebo the architect of Black History Month in the UK
14 THE HISTORY OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH By Linda Bellos
16 BLACK HISTORY MONTH UK (1987 - 2017) By Ansel Wong PAWLET BROOKS
Serendipity Executive Artistic Director
18 PROFESSOR GUS JOHN 20 THE BLACK MEDIA - 30 YEARS ON PUBLISHED BY
SUGAR MEDIA AND MARKETING LTD No. 2, 2 Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX Tel: 0203 105 2161
www.sugarmediaandmarketing.co.uk www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk PUBLISHERS: Ian Thomas, Abdul Rob EDITOR: Patrick Vernon DESIGNED BY: Becky Wybrow BHM RESOURCE PACK DESIGN BY: John Paul Daly COMPANY ADMINISTRATION: Mie Larkin ADVERTISING: Ayana Hussein LISTINGS EDITOR: David Ruiz SPECIAL THANKS: We would like to thank all our contributors with special thanks to Lord Herman Ouseley; Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, Linda Bellos and Ansel Wong.
22 BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN WALES By Dr Roiyah Saltus
23 RELAUNCH OF 100 GREAT BLACK BRITONS CAMPAIGN By Patrick Vernon
24 BLACK HISTORY MONTH IN MANCHESTER By Linford Sweeney
26 WHY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH STILL RELEVANT? By Melissa Bennett
28 LIVERPOOL BLACK COMMUNITY THE EARLY YEARS By Dr Ray Costello
33 BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY
Paul Lawrence explores why we need to celebrate and reflect on black history and achievement – even if it’s just one month in the year
34 DISCOVERING BLACK HISTORY WHEN MOVING TO LONDON By Patrice Lawrence
35 MY LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH BLACK HISTORY MONTH By Catherine Johnson
36 DOTUN ADEBAYO 38 A LAWYERS PERSPECTIVE By Tunde Okewale MBE
40 BLACK HISTORY MONTH MORE THAN JUST BLACK AND WHITE By Richard Reddie
42 30 REGGAE TUNES By Dr Lez
44 BLACK HISTORY MONTH OR A YEAR OF BLACK HISTORY? By Janet Brown
48 PROF. HAKIM ADI 52 SEAN CREIGHTON 54 TURNER NOMINEE LEADS BLACK HISTORY MONTH EVENTS AT NATIONAL MUSEUMS LIVERPOOL 55 THE JOHN BLANKE PROJECT By Michael Ohajuru
56 I'M EMPIRE 58 WHOSE HISTORY IS IT ANYWAY? By S.I. Martin
59 BLACK HISTORY IN THE ARCHIVES By Sandra Shakespeare
60 WHAT BLACK HISTORY MEANS TO ME
Stephen Bourne, award-winning historian of Black Britain, reflects on twenty years of presenting Black History Month events
30 IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH STILL VIABLE AND SHOULD IT CHANGE?
62 30 YEARS OF CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH WHAT’S NEXT?
31 VIRGINE BUSETTE
64 VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN BLACK BRITONS
By Dr Miranda Brawn
32 BLACK HISTORY MONTH A REMINDER OF WHAT WE NEVER HAD By Victor Adebowale
By Jeffrey Green
66 THEY ALSO SERVED: A MIDLANDS WW1 PROJECT By Angelina Osbourne
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 03
Welcome to Black History Month 2017 It was an honour to be approached by the publishers of Black History Month to curate and shape this special edition of the magazine as part of the 30th anniversary of Black History Month this year. To be honest I already had a head start in thinking about this! Back in 2013 as I was co-curator with Toyin Agbetu for an exhibition at Hackney Museum celebrating the 25th anniversary of Black History Month. The exhibition was called â€˜Sankofa: The Truth behind Black History Month 1926-2013â€™. The exhibition provided a powerful narrative in reflecting the histories of African and African-Caribbean people in Britain over the past 75 years through language, literature, politics, protest, music, fashion and art. Thus, in many ways this special edition of Black History Month has given me the opportunity to explore this further by approaching a whole range of contributors reflecting the diversity and perspectives of how people see this institution which is now part of the fabric of Britain. Ironically no one owns Black History Month but every one controls it! This has led to growing frustration and disconnect with the notion of Black History Month over the last decade. This culminating into an intervention by several activists with support at a public meeting in 2013 at the Africa Centre to change of Black History Month to African History and for this to start in February like in America. Their actions unfortunately did not get broad support or endorsement but at least it provoked a serious conversation of the state of Black History Month. Everyone agrees this special edition of Black History Month was needed in 1987 with the after-effects of the riots in Brixton, Tottenham and Toxteth. Black Britons were fighting for tolerance and acceptance, and against marginalisation, racism and trying to define a sense of identity and purpose. The articles from Linda Bellos, Ansel Wong and Akyaaba Addai-Sebo provide this context. Also, we recognise the work in nations like Wales and the regions who also pioneered Black History Month during this time which is often forgotten or not valued enough.
The question of what we should do next for Black History Month in the context of Brexit, changing demographics, intersectionality in Black communities and the growing debate around reparation and the recognition that Afriphobia should be recognised as distinct form of racism against people of African descent is where there is wide difference of opinions and views. I have done my best to capture these views in the magazine and online which will hopefully lead to a debate and more critical thinking. The comments reflect issues around community ownership, funding, leadership and quality control of content and influencing the mainstream. Another key strategic aspect linked to Black History Month which is often overlooked was that 1987 was also the year that African Jubilee Year Declaration was launched which called on local and national government to recognise the contributions of Africans to the cultural, economic and political life of London and the UK. The declaration also called on authorities to implement their duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and to intensify their support against apartheid. The declaration also made a call to action for authorities to support and continue the process of naming monuments, parks and buildings reflecting the contributions of historical and contemporary heroes of African descent thus giving positive affirmation to children and young people identity and self-worth. Over the last thirty years we had buildings, roads, stamps, blue plaques and several monuments and statutes reflecting the black contribution to Britain but more needs to done. This raises the fundamental issue of central government not providing core funding for black heritage organisations like The Black Cultural Archives or more monuments like the proposed Memorial 2007 recognising the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Maybe the UN Decade of African Descent (2015-2024) could provide a new impetus in resourcing and protecting the tangible and intangible history of black history in the UK. Today across the UK during October over 4000 events are organised celebrating Black History Month along with activities within schools. It is difficult to assess the tremendous impact and legacy of the contribution of Black
History Month over the last 30 years and whether the Month has changed the perceptions of how people of African descent are viewed in society and within communities in exploring self-identity and racial pride. However, what is clear that Black History Month has influenced and inspired others in the equalities world to organise similar months around exposing the hidden and excluded histories such as LGBT, Bengali, Disability and Gypsy and Traveller History Communities Month. This edition of the magazine will also provide a platform of future around Windrush Souvenir Edition for June 2018 in celebrating 70 years of Windrush and migration to Britain and relaunch of 100 Great Black Britons after 15 years when the public voted Mary Seacole as the Greatest Black Briton of all time. I would like to thank personally everyone who contributed to the magazine and the various articles on the website. I would also thank the production and editorial team and Jon Daniel who designed our logos and branding for the 30th Anniversary who is still in a critical condition in hospital. The team at Sugar Media and Marketing thoughts and prayers are with Jon and his family at this present moment. I hope you enjoy the magazine but more importantly get involved in a debate to shape the future of Black History Month. Patrick Vernon OBE Editor in Chief
To view the Black History Month 2017 Full National Listings visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk 04 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
MESSAGE FROM PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY
I am proud to support Black History Month and I want to pay tribute to everyone who, over the last thirty years, has helped to support this opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary contribution that our African and African Caribbean communities make to our United Kingdom. Today, in every walk of life, from business to politics, sport to culture, there are African
and African Caribbean men and women whose achievements are not just making our country a better place but inspiring others to follow in their footsteps to even greater success. So as we mark the 30th anniversary of Black History Month, it is right to look back with pride on the progress that has been made in taking on racism and discrimination. But I am also clear just how far we have to go, not just in rooting out hatred and prejudice from our society, but in tackling injustices that still hold back too many people in our country today. That is why this Black History Month I am publishing the first results of the work which I commissioned within months of becoming Prime Minister – an unprecedented audit of public services to reveal racial disparities right across government. It exposes some uncomfortable truths about the injustices that still exist in our society today – from health and education to the welfare and criminal justice systems. As Prime Minister I make no apology for exposing these truths. I believe it is my duty to shine a light on these injustices and I want to lead a national effort to address them so that Britain can truly become a country that works for everyone. That is my pledge this Black History Month and I hope you will work with me to make it a reality.
This anniversary of Black History Month provides us with a great opportunity to recognise, appreciate and celebrate our diverse communities here in Britain, the role models that are inspiring our next generation, and the rich heritage that has built the society we live in today.
“Since its inception in 1987, Black History Month has given us many inspiring stories, reminding us of the tireless efforts of those who have fought for equality in the face of adversity, hate and indeed danger. They did so selflessly, so that future generations would enjoy the freedoms and opportunities they were denied. “I am really pleased to once again extend my support to this annual celebration of culture, identity and community in this its 30th year in the UK. As I think back over British history, I am overwhelmed by the remarkable legacies of BAME diaspora communities, whose contributions have transformed the political, economic and cultural landscape of this country for the better. “Undoubtedly, though, there is still so much more to be done. Levels of hate, prejudice and discrimination remain worrying and by some measures are on the increase, as evidenced in the recent Lammy Review. It is our duty to tackle this head on. “As a Liberal Democrat, I have a deeply held belief in the fair treatment of all people, regardless of race or background. That is why our party is committed to changing the structures, institutions and attitudes that still limit inclusion, diversity and equality. “Thank you to everyone involved in organising this year’s activities and I wish you all a very rewarding and thought-provoking month ahead.”
Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP Leader of the Labour Party
Vince Cable MP Liberal Democrat Leader
MESSAGE FROM JEREMY CORBYN MP I am delighted we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of National Black History Month in the UK.
The diversity people have brought to our country - their experiences, talents and contributions - has been profound and important. Britain would not be the place it is today without the involvement of Black and Asian communities. Despite what you read in sections of the media, our economy benefits massively from immigration, and so do our communities. Black History Month recognises the true efforts that have created and formed the country we live in today. It also encourages us to reject complacency, as the promotion of equality and liberation are vital to our society. I have devoted my life to the pursuit of social justice, equality, and human rights. And the Labour party I lead is committed to ending the racial injustices in our economy and social institutions.
MESSAGE FROM VINCE CABLE MP
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 05
MESSAGE FROM MAYOR OF LONDON SADIQ KHAN Black History Month is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the huge contribution black people have made to London and to our country. During October I look forward to joining Londoners from all backgrounds at a variety of events across the city to pay tribute to our African and African Caribbean communities and all they have done to add to the life of the capital, helping to make it one of the most vibrant places on the planet. At Africa on the Square, a highlight in the capital’s cultural calendar, Londoners from all backgrounds and visitors to the city will celebrate the best of African culture and creativity. I also want to use Black History Month to improve the wellbeing of the capital’s black communities and to raise awareness of the challenges they still face in London today. This year marks the 69th anniversary of arrival of the SS Empire Windrush to the UK. Britain and the world owes a huge debt to the African and Caribbean service men and women who fought alongside British troops during the First and Second World Wars. Earlier this year, I was proud to be present during the unveiling of the UK’s first war memorial for African and Caribbean soldiers at Windrush Square in Brixton. These brave individuals, who came from what was formerly the British Empire, sacrificed an enormous amount to defend the freedoms that we enjoy today. This is not simply a ‘black story’, it is a British story and a London story. I believe that it is important for us all to learn about this history, and with exhibitions, events and community celebrations across the capital, Black History Month is the perfect time to do so. I want to tell everyone around the world, loud and clear, that London is open to people of all backgrounds. Wishing everyone very special Black History Month. Sadiq Khan Mayor London
0606 BLACK BLACKHISTORY HISTORYMONTH MONTH 2017 2017
MESSAGE FROM HELEN GRANT MP The past year has been much more testing for people of colour than I could ever have foreseen 12 months ago. The persistent anti-immigration narrative in the Brexit
debate has been amplified by the election of Trump in the USA last November. It is an international development that augurs ill for millions both in America and around the world. I voiced my concerns in The Voice newspaper back in January, clinging on to a hope that an alliance of the American media, Congress and the Judiciary would be sufficient to constrain the damage, both direct and collateral, of a loosecannon Trump executive. In August, however, Trump’s insouciance toward right-wing populism allowed the spectre of civil unrest to raise its ugly head in Charlottesville. Catalysed by a white supremacist rally inspiring public hate and violence in the streets, it was with sadness that I then watched Kathryn Bigolow’s excellent but deeply disturbing ‘Detroit’. In dark serendipity, it was released almost simultaneously with the Charlottesville trouble. What should have been a history lesson for us all was instead a movie of historical record, illustrating perhaps that we have learned nothing in 50 years. Black History Month is a vital annual reminder of the struggle, reinforcing the message that we must seek every-which-way to counter the scourge of racism that continues to blight our world. I remain resolute in that mission, reliant on my faith and a belief that the goodness of humankind will prevail. I wish everyone participating in BHM 2017 warmest wishes and strength in your own challenges as the coming months unfold.
“As Permanent Secretary of the Home Office and Home Office Race Champion I am delighted to take this opportunity to celebrate Black History Month and promote the great work happening within our department. Throughout the Home Office estate, we are hosting a range of national events and activities throughout Black History Month, across all business areas and locations. We have a wide range of guest speakers on social justice, health and wellbeing, personal development and BAME staff empowerment, career planning, and working with key stakeholders and external partners, with the intention of engaging our teams and supporting our values. My vision as part of the wider Civil Service ambition is to make the Home Office the most inclusive employer in the UK and I am proud to say that within the Home Office nearly a quarter of our staff are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. We are working hard to ensure the Home Office remains an employer of choice for all, and our celebrations throughout October reinforce our vital message of inclusion. Black History Month is always a time of great engagement and activity across the Home Office and observing Black History Month is a key calendar highlight of our BAME staff support group, The NETWORK, who celebrate their 18th anniversary this year." Philip Rutnam Permanent Secretary
roles. Our alumni are actively becoming role models within the department and supporting our BHM celebrations” Hamid Motraghi works closely with Hugh Ind, Director General of Immigration Enforcement and Home Office Race Board Chair. Hugh remembers when The NETWORK was first established under Trevor Hall CBE at the turn of the century and reflects on its achievements.
Hamid Motraghi, The NETWORK Chair said: Black History Month is an opportunity for us all to learn and share the rich culture of Black people in the UK and their influence on British culture. The NETWORK is proud to work with colleagues across the Home Office, other Government departments, and external organisations to celebrate these events during October. Its befitting this year is the 18th Birthday of The NETWORK and we will be celebrating its many achievements with colleagues throughout the UK during BHM. One recent success of the Home Office was their award winning Access Programme, a talent development scheme developed specifically to support talented BAME staff achieve career goals and which won the Home Office the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, “Tapping into Talent” award and more recently shortlisted for a CIPD award. The NETWORK was instrumental in bringing this programme to life. Hamid added: “Our Access Programme which was developed ‘by BAME for BAME’ in collaboration with our colleagues from the Home Office EDI and Talent teams. We had 20 participants of middle management grade and above, but attracted over 150 applications. Over 60% of the programme alumni have now achieved promotion within the last year. This achievement was created to develop BAME staff, to progress in the Home Office into Senior Civil Service
Hugh informs us: “This year has seen a lot of hard work and achievements for The NETWORK, all of which I am proud to see. Work across the department has included holding open forums in business units to address members’ concerns around inequality and active engagement with both policy leads and senior colleagues. These achievements also include celebrating key equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) events, particularly Black History Month. Whilst we celebrate Black History Month every October, our work continues throughout the year. My regular meetings with THE NETWORK provide an opportunity for us to jointly review progress on EDI, and enable us to identify emerging issues. I share an open relationship with THE NETWORK which is constructive and challenging on both sides - as it should be and I look forward to maintaining and strengthening our relationship as I recognise that there is still more to do.”
LORD HERMAN OUSELEY
“We didn’t win the war for people like you to come here and take our homes and jobs.” Those are the words used threateningly to me, when I was still a child in the late 1950’s, by a group of adults on the streets of Peckham, in South London.
was aware that I had a right to be here and an entitlement to exist. Now, I had to develop an awareness of the reality of race hatred, based on ignorance, perpetuated by adults, unlike the children, who indulged in daily name-calling abuse without any awareness of the significance of their actions. The adult abusers were ignorant about the historical Black presence, Black people’s contributions to the war efforts and also their role in the development of GB. They also were ignorant about their prejudices, bias and race hatred of other people, who had darker skin than themselves. I was left traumatised, temporarily, but scarred forever in the realisation that this was NOT My country. I was uninformed and ignorant about the historic Black presence and contributions to GB. I had to learn quickly about the facts of bias, misinformation, prejudice, racism and, discrimination and exclusion. It has proved to be a long learning curve that never ends. It has been, and still is an even more hurtful experience for Black people who were born here but discouraged from feeling that they belong in Britain. Nowadays, we are better informed and educated about Black history. Our knowledge has been enhanced by enlightened work and publications from Black and White educationists and researchers who have provided us with the facts and truth, previously denied, about the Black presence and contributions to British society. We are, as a diverse multi-ethnic society, better equipped with such knowledge of Black history, heritage, achievements, contributions to be able to possess the feelings of belonging here in Britain with pride and entitlement. Yet, there are still fears and hostility. We are all, to some extent, still biased and prejudiced, some more than others, and too many people are driven by the hate they hold for people who are not like themselves. Vigilance and resilience are needed by all racial minorities and all other vulnerable groups of people in Britain, to cope with economic, social, mental and physical pressures. When politicians and others talk insensitively about “taking our country back”, controlling “our” borders and “putting OUR people first,” it generates
08 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
insecurity and fears. It resonates with the negative and discriminatory attitudes of the first Elizabethan period when Elizabeth1, in the 17th century, declared that there were “too many Blackamoors on the streets of London” and they should be instantly removed from “our shores”. Black History Month is essential in promoting learning, providing information and contributing to community cohesion. For the past 30 years it has shone, and continues to shine, a beacon of light on the facts about Black history, heritage, legacy and the on-going struggles for equality and justice. More than that, it educates, informs and inspires us each day of the year to be proud of who we are and to understand our history, our origins, why we are here and our right to stay and exist as equals. Lord Ouseley is currently engaged in extensive voluntary and charitable activities, alongside his public service duties as a member of the House of Lords. His working life has been predominantly in the public services sector, apart from a five-year stint of being Chairman and Chief Executive of the Different Realities Partnership, specialising in organisational change, people management programmes and tackling organisational inequalities. He was previously the Executive Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (1993-2000). Before that he was a local government officer for some 30 years, serving as Chief Executive of the London Borough of Lambeth, as well as the former Inner London Education Authority, where he was also previously a Director of Education. He held a wide variety of different positions in other authorities during that period.
MESSAGE FROM RAJ TULSIANI Over the last 20 years it’s been my privilege to meet and work with some of the most inspirational Black and minority ethnic leaders this country has seen, some of whom I’m very proud to have been able to call friends and mentors. It’s true that many senior BAME leaders did not immediately take up the gauntlet of creating more equal and inclusive conditions in the organisation they worked in; traditionally this may have been for fear of failure, and not seeing themselves as a role model or due to a lack of personal commitment to the cause. Today there is more status attached to being a proactive Black business leader then for many years. It’s a tremendous advantage to all of the wide range of campaigns and campaigners that have been brought together under the Black History Month banner. When our most visible leaders not only step up, but also stand up to hold organisations accountable for creating cultures and processes
that allow anyone to progress based purely on their merits and power of contribution. Many organisations now state that Race is on their agenda. However, without listening to those with lived experiences, we are in danger of the need to tackle institutional predjudice being replaced by investments in social mobility and efforts to market brand values of employers that don’t match our experiences. Organisations are in a glass box now and to keep them honest we need more authentic campaigners at every level. I asked some friends, mentors and notable individuals to pass on a single piece of career advice from their own lived experience that they felt would make the biggest difference to people's careers and ability to move up the ladder authentically. For what it’s worth my advice is “treat each challenge as a game or a puzzle; first understand the rules, then how to compete as yourself, then evaluate how others are trying to win, then devise a plan for winning this game and getting a flying start to the next one too”. Raj Tulsiani, CEO of Green Park
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BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 09
Akyaaba Addai-Sebo Patrick Vernon interviews Akyaaba Addai-Sebo the architect of Black History Month in the UK
10 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
'Self-pride is the catalyst for achievement and there is no greater “truth” than knowing yourself.'
PV: How was Black History Month first started in the UK? AS: I was stirred up in the mid-1980s by the identity crisis that Black children faced as some brazenly would not identify with Africa and shrank when called an African. A colleague came to work one morning broken hearted and in probing her why revealed to me in confidence that her seven year old son, who she had proudly and purposefully named Marcus, after Marcus Mosiah Garvey (a foremost Black nationalist leader), before going to bed, had asked her: “Mom, why can’t I be white?”. In consoling this devastated mother I was prompted to go around asking questions about “identity” and to observe and talk to children more after school, in buses, parks, and in the play grounds in the communities in some parts of London. I was awakened to the fact that even some Ghanaians tried to mimick being Afro-Caribbeans and some Afro-Caribbeans would take offense being referred to as “African”. A crisis of identity faced us squarely despite the Race Awareness campaigns of the Greater London Council (GLC) and the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA). I also worked then as the Special Projects Coordinator of the Ethnic Minorities Unit of the Greater London Council. More had to be done and so I conceived an annual celebration of the contributions of Africa, Africans and people of African descent to world civilization from antiquity to the present and got a lot of support from the leadership of the GLC and ILEA and most especially from Mr. Ansel Wong, Head of the Ethnic Minorities Unit and the leader of GLC, Mr. Ken Livingstone. PV: Why was October chosen to celebrate Black History Month? AS: There is historical link to Black History Month as celebrated in the US in February because of the inspiration of Dr. Carter G. Woodson who set it up there. We drank from the cup of Dr. Woodson but decided on a particular period of the year
that will engage most the minds of children and youth in the UK. We settled on the propitious month of October when the weather was not cold and children were fresh after the long summer vacation and had less to worry about exams and tests and the camaraderie was stronger as they shared experiences. We believed that they would absorb more if their living environment buzzed with positive vibes, instructions and images about themselves and their origins, thus celebrating who they are as “Africans” who gave the world the concept of monotheism (the worship of a one and only God); who helped to install the first electric lighting system in London, Amsterdam and New York, in the person of Lewis Latimer, a pioneering partner of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesler (credited with lightning the world) and many more. October in the UK as February in the US is to inculcate self-pride and especially in children. Self-pride is the catalyst for achievement and there is no greater “truth” than knowing yourself. PV: What was the context of context of you coming to Britain and establishing Black History Month? AS: I came to the UK to seek refuge from political persecution in Ghana during the regime of Jerry John Rawlings in January 1984. A death squad had been sent after me but I escaped their detection and was declared a WANTED MAN. The People’s and Workers’ Defence Committees at that time protected me and prepared my escape after three weeks of hide and seek with the security agencies. I settled in London with my wife, Nana Akua Owusu, who had arrived before me. We lived in the company of Pan-African intellectual giant, CLR James and his nephew, Darcus Howe, black activist who run the Race Today collective. I was therefore absorbed in community activism right on my arrival. I was in an elevating company with my strategic position as coordinator of special projects at
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 11
the Greater London Council and Chairman of the African Refugees Housing Action Group within a year of my arrival and later Operations Manager of the Notting Hill Carnival. We were at the forefront of the campaigns against institutional racism in the UK and the apartheid regimes in Southern Africa. My vantage position in the administration of the city of London enabled us to invite into our community personalities like Sally Mugabe, Graca Machel, Winnie Mandela, Nina Simone, Angela Davis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Max Roach, Hugh Masakela, John Henrik Clarke, Frances Cress-Welsing, Tony Martin, Yosef ben-Jochannan, Mawulena Karenga, Grand Ballets d’Afrique Noire, Ray Charles, and many more to inspire, educate and help in the in the intellectual preparation of our community for the future safety and development of Africa in our collective interest. There we reembracing arms and minds that made my sojourn in the UK so full of meaning and fulfilling service. 12 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
PV: Do you think Black History Month should change and it’s timing? AS: There has been no change from Black History Month to African History Month. Our original goal was to first create an enabling cultural space in the UK celebratory calendar and after public acceptance and recognition extend the month from October to December to encompass Kwanza and call the period Black History Season with the symbioses with the Woodson and Karenga creation in the US remaining. However there emerged an insignificant opposition to Black History Month being celebrated in October and their call was for it to be moved to February in as in the US. I deflated their logic by asking them why are they then not asking for carnival celebrated in August in the UK to be moved to February as celebrated in Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago? These small opposing activists were piqued by the fact that I came, promoted and got instituted an idea which they felt should have come from them. I buried them with the aphorism that Black History Month is African History Month as African History Month is Black History Month and with a wreath quoting Peter Tosh thus “No Matter Where You Come From So Far As You Are Black You Are An African”. PV: You now live in Ghana what is the impact of Black History Month on the continent? AS: The significance of Black History Month to African continent lies is in the fact that a renaissance in African values and lifestyles in the diaspora will facilitate a “Back to Africa” consciousness reminiscent of the Back To Africa movement of Marcus Mosiah Garvey in the first part of the 20th
Century. It is this aroused consciousness that will stimulate skilled professionals to return to Africa to contribute to the developmental process in order to remove the scourge of underdevelopment, civil war and poverty that fill the television screens, newspapers and magazines of the western world which causes our children and youth to shrink away from themselves when confronted with such disturbing images. Unfortunately it is only in Ghana that I know of where the British Council sponsored Black History celebrations but this initiative has been curtailed in favour of the promotion of Black Youth Entrepreneurship. PV: How would you describe your legacy of Black History Month in the UK? AS: This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month in the UK. After the sowing of Black History Month in the communities, educational, public and private institutions in the UK and as it sprouted my catalyzing role as an enzyme came to an end and I pulled back and rather encouraged others to take on the mantle and run with it.
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THE HISTORY OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH By Linda Bellos
his year in October we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK. And in doing so we recognise that it was first celebrated in 1987, eighteen months after the abolition of the Greater London Council, the GLC. I say this because I have heard some recent claims that Black History Month was initiated by Ken Livingstone whilst he was Leader of the GLC. I know it was not because I was one of the Leaders on the 15 Local Authorities which formed the body that took over the radical bits of the GLC after Margaret Thatcher's Government after its abolition. The London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU) recruited and employed hundreds of the staff that worked in the Ethnic Minority Unit, the Women's Committee Support Unit and others of the progress GLC that Thatcher hated. It was a difficult and demanding job to find ways of carrying on the progressive equalities work of the GLC but in the months leading up to abolition (31.3.1986) I and my fellow progressive Council Leaders across London did manage it just in time. I recall one of the most pressing issues was finding a building to house the LSPU but we did manage it. There was a particular irony for me because I was both a Councillor in Lambeth and an Officer working in the GLC and in the May of 1986 I was elected Leader of Lambeth Council and was soon sacked by Sir Tag Taylor whilst I worked for the successor body the London Residual Body (LRB) which took over the rundown of the GLC's business after abolition.
I cannot recall exactly when Ansell Wong, the Head of the Ethnic Minority Unit (EMU) came to me with the idea of initiating Black History Month in the UK but I jumped at the idea. I had long argued for the inclusion of our struggles and triumphs in Britain having been a critic of the constant erasure of our people from British history. By then I was aware of people like Mary Seacole, from my days at Spare Rib where we did include story of her struggles uncovered by Elizabeth Onuwamu. I was very aware of how little Black children knew about the positive achievements of Black peoples, especially as my role as a Councillor in Lambeth made be very aware of how little positive support Black children were receiving whilst in so-called 'Council Care'. It was at this point that as Leader I insisted that the informal policy of Same Race Placement was made official. So, having agreed the initiation of Black History Month I agreed that we would try to get Sally Mugabe to be a Guest of Honour and that we would use a large (and somewhat expensive) venue of the Commonwealth Institute. The nearest dates that fitted our Guest and the venue availability was October 1987. Hence Black History Month was held in October each year in contrast to being in February in the USA. Ironically when later Sue Sanders was considering running a similar initiative for the LGBT community she sought my advice (and approval) and I suggested that she ensure more control over what was done in the name of LGBT history Month than we
had for Black History Month, I think it was me the suggested holding the event in February so that the UK and USA reversed the events. By October 1988 we knew that we could no longer afford to keep the LSPU going Margaret Thatcher had won her third Election Victory in 1987. Sixteen of the Labour run Councils in London had been each contributing £1million so we agreed that we would close the LSPU but would absorb the staff across our various Councils. It was complicated but we did manage to do so for everyone who wanted to stay in Local Government. This was not however the end of Black History Month, because the duty under Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976 allowed us to promote good race relations etc. and those progressive Councils which had supported the LSPU tended to take that duty seriously, hence a series of Black History Month events across parts of London. Over the years they have been many and varied and some frankly have been awful. If I were in the same position again to start Black History Month I would call it African History Month not black or at the very least I would insist that Black had a capital letter and I think a steering group should propose an annual theme rather than letting anarchy and racism occur inadvertently due to lack of knowledge or just plain ignorance. I have been heard about what has happened in some schools across the UK that pick on the one or two African Heritage children and make them 'perform'. Black History Month has been largely successful but it could be more so.
To view the Black History Month 2017 Full National Listings visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk 14 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
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Black History Month UK
n 2017, we will observe the 30th year of the observance of October as Black History Month in the UK; an observation that has its gestation in an anti-racist momentum initiated by the programmes and priorities of the Ethnic Minorities Unit (EMU) of the Greater London Council (GLC), led by the Principal Race Relations Adviser and Head of the Unit, Ansel Wong and supported - politically by Linda Bellos, Narendra Makanji, Ken Livingstone, Bernard Wiltshire; culturally by a range of community activists, organisations and artists; operationally by staff of the London Strategic Policy Unit (LSPU), the GLC’s successor body. Much of the success of this initiative was due to the vision and efforts of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, Policy Team Leader in LSPU. Our original goal was to first create an enabling cultural space in the UK celebratory calendar and after public acceptance and recognition extend the month from October to December to encompass Kwanza and call the period, Black History Season, maintaining the symbiosis with the Carter G. Woodson and Ron Karenga creations in the US. A key feature that should not be forgotten
was the African Jubilee Year Declaration that we issued as part of BHM that called on statutory authorities to recognise the contributions of Africans to the cultural, economic and political life of the UK, to intensify its support against apartheid and to continue the process of naming monuments, parks and buildings after illustrious African leaders and to do everything in their power to ensure that black children did not lose the fact of the genius of their African-ness. We deliberately chose the word “Black” as it posited and reflected tolerance and acceptance of the enriching cultural diversity of contemporary British society; a unifier term that brings into sharp relief the various strands of suffering, humiliation, exploitation and denigration as well as an articulation of solidarity and the building of allies in relation to shared and common experiences. These imperatives that influenced the designation of Black History Month are still relevant today as in 1987. Thirty years on, there is a need to revisit and refocus by embracing developments in the demography of the UK, reflecting shifting nuances in the public discourses on rights and residence and arousing consciousness
Serendipity Executive Artistic Director. 16 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
BY ANSEL WONG
in our young. Black History Month is a reconnection with our cultural and political heritage that needs to be strengthened and promoted. We have passed the baton for the next 30 years. The relay must continue.
©Ansel Wong E: email@example.com
Thirty years of Black History Month is a milestone, an opportunity to look back, recognise and celebrate a legacy, but also to evaluate what this means today. This was the starting place for Serendipity when we embarked upon Lost Legends to mark this anniversary and document the contribution that the African and African Caribbean community have made to the cultural landscape of the UK, and in particular to Leicester, where we are based. Earlier this year we hosted a public debate asking the question of whether Black History Month should be scrapped or revamped. Although some might see this as an unusual question to be asked by the current coordinator of Black History Month in Leicester, we felt it important to contextualise Lost Legends. The debate highlighted the complexity in answering this question, whether Black History Month should not be necessary but there is still a need because Black stories and voices are hidden or ignored in the majority of mainstream establishments. There is also a need to recognise Black history on a local level too. Even when Black history is taught, it often looks to figures from a thousand miles away without recognising the untold stories of the people just next door. The last eighteen months of research have resulted in a publication, an exhibition, a short documentary and an online media archive featuring oral history clips and videos, a diverse yet inclusive collaboration of varying perspectives of artists, activists, elders, young voices and trailblazers, each discussing what Black History Month means to them. Lost Legends raises awareness about the issues relating to Black history with resources available that support educational, research and cultural programmes throughout the year. This October think about what Black History Month means to you. The Lost Legends exhibition is at Newark Houses Museum Leicester, 29 September - 31 October. Online resources and information is available at http://lost-legends.serendipity-uk.com
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uring the last 25 years, much has happened that in my view calls into question the provenance and trajectory of BHM, thus making it necessary for us to question our connectedness with it and how we are fashioning it for the current and future generations in the same way that the early pioneers laid the foundations for us. In no particular order, I would highlight the following developments in the last half century, some of which have served as an ocean liner’s anchor to bed down BHM to the point of ossification:
a) The growth in size and diversity of the Global African Diaspora (GAD) in the UK, constituting the historical Diaspora (people of African heritage from the Caribbean and elsewhere, descendants of enslaved Africans), Africans from the continent who have long had an active presence in Britain (since the nineteenth century), Africans from the continent who in the last 30 years have come to Britain in increasing numbers (as economic migrants, as skilled professionals, as students and researchers, as refugees and asylum seekers)
b) The growth of a sizeable portion of the Global African Diaspora youth population in the UK who have little real knowledge of one another and their origins, but who constitute a modern, mainly urban, vibrant section of those shaping the future of Britain into the next millennium c) The growing international campaign among Africans in the Motherland and across the Diaspora for Reparatory Justice and an acceptance by Britain and Europe of the massive debt that is owed to Africa and its Diaspora d) The implications of that for how the GAD organizes itself to become engaged with the development of Africa, starting with a comprehensive skills database and a focus on economic engagement underpinned by a culture of corporate ethics e) The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the General Duty it placed upon public bodies to: - promote equal opportunities - eliminate unlawful discrimination and - promote good relations between people of different racial groups The consequent and often cynical efforts made by such bodies once a year in October to organize programmes that enable them to tick boxes and demonstrate evidence of compliance with the Act, while at the same time: • • •
limiting equal employment and career progression for black staff excluding or institutionally discriminating against black students and keeping African heritage people marginalized seeing ‘race’ and the oppression of racism as entirely separate from other forms of oppression, and the anti-racist movement as having no connection to other social movements (disability, women, LGBT, etc), as if race, gender,
18 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
disability and sexuality, do not coalesce and combine into a single identity for black people who are disabled, women, lesbian or gay, etc. and who live their lives holistically
The fact that the above approach is evident in relation to public bodies’ attitude to compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010 f) The tendency of such bodies to pick and choose the Black History they recognize and validate and even what they would allow their staff, black or otherwise, to showcase and celebrate g) Their tendency to ignore or re-write the history African heritage people in Britain have made in the post-War period, including struggles against their very own policies and institutional practices, thereby failing to assist black children and all children in understanding political events and social movements for equity and justice in their own lifetime, movements that have challenged relentless the view that post-imperial Britain has of itself h) The fact that the history we have made through our presence in the UK and the impact we have had on the British social, political and economic landscape has been largely airbrushed out of the British social history narrative, and that consequently neither that expanding GAD population in the UK nor their counterparts of other ethnicities have any knowledge or understanding of much of that history, or of how they must record, interpret and attend to the history they themselves are making
i) The fact that this process is accentuated by the tendency, even among the African Diaspora, to focus on African icons and events in American history and the American abolition and civil rights movements and in the struggle for human liberation in the USA, at the exclusion of the civil rights, human rights and anti-racist struggles in Britain j) Our own tendency to treat Black History as ‘dead’ history, treat key figures in Black History as icons and dust them off and present them without establishing any connection between the history they made and the relevance of that to our time, to our contemporary struggles and to our state of consciousness k) The fact that information technology provides a multiplicity of platforms for accessing, recording, sharing and teaching about Black History Against that background, the question arises: What good does it do to encourage the treatment of Black History as if it is organic to the way British institutions and people function, the way history is taught, portrayed and understood by the society, and as if we as African people claim and respect a common heritage? Having regard to all of the above, Black History Month should be a time for showcasing and debating what was done to promote, understand and apply ‘Black History’ during the preceding 12 months, the pitfalls and challenges encountered, the gains and advances made and the good practice to be shared.
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Equality and diversity is embedded into everything we do, from policy and practice, staff training, communication, data collection and specific initiatives improving health of our LGBT staff.
We are recognised nationally for providing some of the very best health services in the country, ensuring our patients across North Tyneside and Northumberland experience the highest quality of care both in hospital, in the community and in their homes. In 2015 we were ranked second in the country for our services to LGBT patients in the Stonewall Healthcare Champion Index.
Without doubt, our people are at the heart of our success and we are proud of the work of our trust’s lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender staff network in raising awareness of LGBT issues and promoting workplace equality. This includes taking part in NHS Equality and Diversity Human Rights Week and Northern Pride Week, and supporting community groups in Northumberland access funding.
We are among the Britain’s best employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. The Trust was placed in Stonewall’s 2017 Workplace Equality Index which lists the top 100 employers in the country for the fourth year running and we remain one of highest ranking healthcare services taking part in the index.
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www.standrewshealthcare.co.uk/careers BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 19
THE BLACK MEDIA
The African-and-Caribbean community celebrate the thirtieth annivers and journalist and author, Ionie Benjamin casts the spotlight on the b
hirty years on and the African and Caribbean media in the UK have changed to such an extent that it is hard to imagine how anyone could ever go back to what it used to be and at the same time expect the level of commercial success needed to thrive and stay alive. The internet age and mass communication in general continue to herald innovative ways of transmitting and accessing media content so UK-based African and Caribbean media entrepreneurs have been diversifying from the traditional copy while creating online editions of newspapers, magazines and other media and making it accessible to all both nationally and globally. In the early to mid-1980s many publications which began in the 1970s were still in existence but by the 1990s it was clear that things were about to change with the sign of the times. Newspapers such as The Voice Newspaper, founded by the late Val McCalla in 1982 not long after the 1981 riots was bought in 2004 by GV Media, which started an online edition and continue to co-exist with its printed edition. African Times, Caribbean Times, Asian Times, West Indian World, West Africa, West Indian Digest, have not survived. Arif Ali, owner of Hansib Publishing is one of the most prolific newspaper and magazine publishers of the era. He owned
all these newspapers and magazines and when Root Magazine was up for sale he also bought it. Inevitably, he assessed the publishing trend and arrived at his decision. “I decided to focus on publishing books instead of magazines and newspapers,” he said. For one thing Hansib will no longer have to deal with the demand for advertising revenue for his publications or maintain online editions for all those publications. Undoubtedly printed media’s decline is permanent but the number of African and Caribbean internet broadcasters and online publishers continue to increase. Internet radio, television and online magazines continue to break new ground. Many are very much local and community orientated. Bang Radio, Fresh FM, New Style, JamTV, NowTV, Precious Online, Sugar Media and Marketing publishers of Black History Month Magazine, Keep The Faith and numerous others.
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Added to the media mix and in some instances leading the charge, are entrepreneurs who are products of the internet generation and millennials such as Jamal Edwards, who has turned hobby into multi-million online media entrepreneurship and attracting Virgin Media’s, Richard Branson among others. Other internet broadcasting entrepreneurs such as Dotun Adebayo’s Colour Telly and former BBC Presenter, Henry Bonsu who co-founded Colourful Radio tell a different story to that of Jamal Edwards, nonetheless they are all very important and valuable contribution to the African and Caribbean Media Story in Britain. Dotun Adebayo is also a regular Voice newspaper columnist in addition to his regular BBC radio programmes. He is also the co-founder of X-Press publishing which produced populist reading such as Baby Father, Yush and Single Black Female. Meanwhile, newspapers such as Black Briton, New Nation and Weekly Journal have long gone. So to what extent has the printed media been in decline over the last thirty years? The 1990s Broadcasting Act heralded the multi-media age and access to media ownership created real choice. Anyone with media entrepreneurial ambitions could apply for a broadcasting licence. During this era, Choice FM and WNK Radio were two of the first to obtain Broadcasting Licences from what is now government body, OFCOM. Throughout the 1980s some of the major African and Caribbean media influencers included Val McCalla publisher of The Voice, Arif Ali Hansib
A - 30 YEARS ON
ary of Black History Month in the United Kingdom this year black media in Britain over the three decades - 1987 to 2017.
credit: Twocoms / Shutterstock.com
Publishers and Choice FM’s Neil Kenlock and Patrick Berry and WNK’s Joe Douglas. Choice FM began broadcasting in 1990 from studios in Brixton, South London. Its founders Neil Kenlock, Patrick Berry with other board members such as Yvonne Thompson. later the radio station won a second licence to broadcast in Birmingham. Both Neil Kenlock and Patrick Berry previously owned Root Magazine, based in Duke Street, opposite Selfridges in Central London. Despite the trappings one of the major challenges for media entrepreneurs has been the need to secure lucrative advertising which is the life blood of all commercial media. In 1999, the Birmingham branch of Choice was sold to Chrysalis Radio which later became Galaxy. Choice, South London, expanded and acquired licence to also broadcast in North London. They moved from Brixton to Borough High Street, South-East London. To the dismay of its loyal fans, Capital Radio Group - one of Choice’s shareholders - acquired the entire Choice FM station and moved it to its flagship headquarters in Leicester Square, London. Now turning the spotlight on the mainstream media, it is fair to say that representation of Caribbean and African media professionals is still not as representative in terms of quota so the media debates and conferences of the 1980s and 1990s as still as relevant then as now. Among the few African and Caribbean media
professionals who has featured regularly on our TV screens over several decades include former news anchor Trevor McDonald, media entertainer Lenny Henry and BBC’s Moira Stuart. Others such as Juliet Alexander, Trevor Phillips, Wes Kerr and Vince Herbert were also of the 1980s era which may have given Black History Month cause to celebrate back then. With the few that have emerged on our airwaves and the small number that continue to appear on our TV screens from time to time such as Brenda Emmanus and Charlene White, Ronke Phillips Gillian Joseph-Adebayo and a few others is a start. Inevitably there are those who continue to voice the concern that there is a professional glass ceiling. The Broadcasting Act of the 1990s have created opportunities for greater media ownership but the enormous cost of broadcasting on the Sky or Cable media platform means that the alternative is internet broadcasting which remains the least expensive option as opposed to paying hundreds of thousands to broadcast on the cable and Sky platforms or thousands for printing and distribution costs for magazines and newspapers. In the thirty years since the launch of Black History Month in 1987, a great deal has changed in the way the media in terms of ownership and control and dissemination of information and content. For one thing there are more African and Caribbean Media Channels. Among the many are Ben TV owned by Alistair Soyode and OHTV founded by Akin Salami and Colour Telly was founded by Dotun Adebayo. Churches founded by Africans and Caribbeans are have also risen to the challenge of being innovative in reaching the masses. The national and global audience of mega churches such
KICC, NTCG, Ruach and hundreds more are reaching potentially millions with their message and many continue to thrive. With the power of Social Media platforms such as YouTube, FaceBook and Instagram plus satellite and cable channels and the potential audience of millions, African and Caribbean media owners and controllers who have the ability and resources to communicate on multimedia platforms will continue to reach across the world. Continuing to thrive with each generation adding to the mix and mega churches such KICC, NTCG, Ruach and many others have the capacity to reach millions across the globe.. At the click of an electronic mouse and the press of an e-button, wherever you are in the world, whether holidaying in Barbados, Bahamas or Jamaica or attending a convention in Nigeria or Ghana or village-building or water-aid mission in Gambia, there is access to tailor-made media content, right at your finger tips via your mobile phone, iPad or lap top. If you were to ask me if I prefer the online version of a publication or the traditional hard copy, to be honest, I like both the option of the internet where you can browse free of cost and be informed, inspired and entertained, or admire and buy online. At the same time having a copy of your favourite glossy lifestyle magazine right there in the comfortable living room where you can see it. Even though browsing a favourite magazine on the internet is free as opposed to buying a copy of a favourite glossy, either way, there is nothing like having consumer choice today, compared to what was available before. So as we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Black History Month we can also raise a glass as the African and Caribbean media continue to make its mark. BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 21
Black History Month in Wales
istory is about how we understand the past and chart our future. As a platform and site of cultural-political resistance and intervention, Black history re-tells, re- interprets, re-present the lives and experiences people of African descent that has been systemically erased or marginalised in dominant narratives of people and place. Black history month is also an occasion to praise and commemorate the achievement and the fact of our survival and to affirm and share with others, our place and a sense of belonging in Wales, the UK and beyond. This year marks the 10th official nation-wide celebration of a Black History Month in Wales with the stated aim being to host yearly themed events that engage and empower all our citizens to recognise and commemorate the many contributions that people of the African Diaspora have made in the history of Wales' economic and cultural development and to their continued role, significance and place in modern Welsh society. It is, as our First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM, stated last year in his first ever endorsement of BHM Wales, an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of people of African descent as part of our shared history and heritage here in Wales. For me to speak about history in the context of Black History month in Wales is to note that I live a place that back in 1282 became the first colony of the English empire. Linked to this is the Welsh word Hiraeth (pronounced here-eyeth). It has no exact cognate in English. Hiraeth is a word that the
22 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
conveys a range of sentiments and yearnings that can be understood in part as emerging from protestation against subjected status, and a connection with others (rooted perhaps in the more often used Welsh name for the country, Cymru - home of the Cymry, or fellow countrymen). The sentiments the word convey include a yearning of spirit and imagination, a pull of the home and homesickness, a sense of loss and nostalgia of a time before colonial subjugation, a needing to (re) connect to ancestral land, and an inexplicable feeling of strength and agency found in belonging to place and people. Hiraeth is a Welsh word born out of a Welsh experience. However, there are links to be made between these very Welsh sentiments of the past and the present, of loss and reconnection, of protest and agency, and of belonging and place, and those that drove the founding fathers and mothers of the Black History Month movement in the UK. It's a deep, at times indescribable (and for many ancestral) connection to, and yearning for both Africa and the Caribbean, as well as to the more immediate embedded (although at times no less tricky and complicated) bond and sense of belonging to the UK towns and cities in which we were born or have long lived. It's a need on a personal level for these connections and networks to be mined deeply as well as the equally pressing need to address the manifold ways people of African descent have continued to sustain themselves against the ongoing impact of everyday structural inequalities first put in
place with the rise of colonialism and slavery. It's a sentiment, drive and longing that is our saving grace.
I am a Sociologist and my research incorporates critical race theory, feminism, community development theory, and critical perspectives in health, social policy and practice. My abiding research interest is rooted in intersectionality, in particular, the interplay and impact of, gender, age and social class as experienced by racialised and minority ethnic population groups. Dr Roiyah Saltus Principal Research Fellow Faculty of Life Sciences and Education University of South Wales
Relaunch of 100 Great Black Britons Campaign
BY PATRICK VERNON
14 years after its initial launch of 100 Great Black Britons when in 2004 Mary Seacole was voted the Greatest Black Briton of all time Every Generation Media in partnership with Sugar Media Marketing Limited are relaunching 100 Great Black Britons in 2017. The original campaign was in response to the BBC 100 Britons campaign in 2002 where the public voted for Winston Churchill. The 100 Great Black Britons was inspired by the non-existence of any one of African descent on the BBC campaign despite the fact there has been a black presence for over a 1000 year. Freddie Mercury was the only person of colour on the original list BBC list. Over the last decade there has increasing demand for a follow campaign and list but in many ways, it is in the wake of Brexit that 100 Great Black Britons is even more important than ever to ensure the continued legacy and achievement of Black people in Britain. Also during this time periods academics and independent scholars have discovered new historical figures and there has been new role models and icons since 2004. The campaign also provides an opportunity for reassessment and reflection what makes a Great Black Briton and how do we recognise unsung heroes who may not have the profile and the coverage about their impact and legacy? We believe the new campaign has the potential to further educate, inform and influence the contribution of Black people in Britain and inspire a new generation of role models and achievers. Nominations open 1st October â€“ March 31st 2018
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BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 23
Black History Month in Manchester A Personal Reflection
hen we are educated not to respect, value or appreciate the important contributions made by black people to society, effectively we are being taught not to respect, value or ap-preciate black people currently living in the UK. The end result usually brings distrust, ridicule and indifference in how such people are treated by others. This ring true, as I endeavour to teach black history in Manchester. After a period of strong focus on Black History Month, for several years Manchester had no overall co-ordination, which led to many disjointed, and yet gallant, efforts to carry on re-gardless. However, the National Black Arts Alliance, led by Su Andi, came together with oth-ers to launch a voluntary list of Black History Month events. Known as Black History Month Greater Manchester (BHMGM), it is now preparing for its third year of promoting events with either historical and or educational context. The National Black Arts Alliance is also co-organiser of BHMGM's Launch Event, to be held again this year at Manchester Cathedral. Historically, since 1987, Culture Week, held at the West Indian Centre and coordinated by the inimitable Berry Edwards, was Black History Month in Manchester. Over the years several thousand people attended cultural events during the West Indian Culture Week held at the Carmoor Road West Indian Centre. From 1977, the Roots Festival, led by Elouise Ed-wards, focused on the history of the 'ancestors'; and for more than thirteen years both festi-vals explored a range of themes using music, dance, drama, art and sports dedicated to in-creased racial harmony. For example, 'Roots 86', held during the UK's Caribbean Focus year, included in the printed programme an outline history of the Caribbean migration and the different cultural traditions they brought with them.
24 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
Black Arts Alliance (now National Black Arts Alliance) first hosted Acts of Achievements, a listing of Manchester's Black History Month events, in 2001. This continued until 2009 be-fore funding issues sadly curtailed its activities. An impressive selection of events has taken place in Manchester over the years. For instance, in 2003 'The West Indian Front Room' was exhibited at Zion Arts and it explored the original homes created by post-World War Two im-migrants who came from the Caribbean to Britain in the nineteen fifties and sixties. The sixtieth year commemoration of the Pan-African Congress was celebrated in 2005, along with Black Victorians gallery of paintings at Manchester Art Gallery, Master Drummers of Africa, 'Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors' (hosted by myself) and 'The Early Black Popu-lation in Manchester'. Other events over the following years included Black History Trail in collaboration with Black Arts Alliance and English Heritage, led by Dominique Tessier and looking at the history of Black communities in Manchester. Between 2010 and 2014 a wide range of largely uncoordinated events by many organi-sations took place. Organisations that contributed included The People's History Museum, Contact Theatre, University of Manchester and The Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Re-source Centre. Two notable events were: 'Empire Pays Back', a lecture and film screening by award-winning broadcaster Dr Robert Beckford tackling the issue of slavery; and 'Exploring Your Black History', a question and answer session with Julius Garvey (son of Marcus Garvey).
Since 2015 Black History Month Greater Manchester (BHMGM) took to listing events. That year also marked the seventieth anniversary of the 1945 Pan-African Congress and three days of events took place across Manchester led by Colette Williams of PAC45. The fifth Pan-African Congress was held in Manchester in October 1945 and it was one of the major events of the 20th century as decisions taken at that conference led to the independ-ence of African and Caribbean countries. In that same year I delivered a series of black his-tory talks and this continues into 2017. In 2016, Manchester's Black History Month launch was supported by Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, The Granada Foundation and the National Black Arts Alliance, and 2017 will continue To learn from the past and look forward to new and exciting events. Black History Month in Manchester will be launched on 26th September.
By Linford Sweeney Community Black History Educator, Caribbean Genealogist and author
Life in the Royal Air Force
he Royal Air Force is one of the world’s most advanced military forces, offering exciting opportunities to the right people. Whether in the skies above Britain, or airspace around the world, it is the RAF’s job to protect the UK and its interests 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We require highly-trained personnel throughout our organisation and there are currently more than 50 careers to choose from in a range of different trades. From pilot to engineer or chef to aircraft mechanic, our job roles guarantee a multitude of exciting opportunities. Our Role at Home The RAF’s primary role at home is to defend UK airspace. We do this through reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, surveillance, and cuttingedge technology which enable rapid responses. Equally important is the work we do in communities across the UK and beyond. We’re actively involved in raising money for a range of charities, hosting youth leadership courses, protecting environments and taking part in community projects. This is in addition to the world-famous aerobatics displays and ceremonial events which form an integral part of life in the RAF. If you are looking for a responsible job that is challenging and rewarding, the RAF has a career for you. Our Personnel RAF personnel form the foundation of the Service and are based all over the UK or wherever in the world they are called upon. They live an exciting life while developing vital skills that will serve them throughout their careers. Our personnel come from a range of
different backgrounds; have varying educational qualifications, interests and abilities. This is the perfect mix for an organisation which has more than 50 different job roles to choose from. Our Facilities The RAF has many bases across the UK, each with its own role to play. From front-line operations to training establishments, most bases are like small, self-contained villages with shops, gyms, playing fields, childcare facilities and in some cases even cinemas and bowling alleys! Some are close to large cities while others are in more remote locations because things like night flying need to be conducted in less populated areas.
Support In the RAF you will be part of a large community. Advice and support services will be available to help with everything from settling in, to planning a foreign posting for you and your family. We do everything we can to cater to the individual requirements of our personnel, including religion. Chaplains are on hand, along with other religious counsellors. Prayer facilities are also usually available and we will adapt your uniform, catering and duty roster to meet your religious requirements, where possible.
Friends & Family Most RAF personnel work normal hours and have evenings and weekends free to spend with family and friends. If you’re not on duty, and your family isn’t already living with you on base, you can leave to visit them whenever you wish after your basic training is complete. Benefits The benefits of joining the RAF are vast and the accompanying lifestyle isn’t too bad either! Joining the RAF entitles you to: • Competitive pay and pension • Training and life-long learning • Free medical and dental care • Subsidised food and accommodation • Sports and adventurous training • 6 weeks’ paid leave
To find out more about a career in the Royal Air Force and the various roles on offer, please visit www.raf.mod.uk/recruitment or feel free to come and ask us any questions you may have on www.facebook.com/rafrecruitment or @RAF_Recruitment on Twitter.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 25
Why is Black History Month still relevant?
very year, throughout the year, new black histories are uncovered and shared with the public through books, films, television programmes, and talks. Being a researcher has allowed me to witness and be a part of the unveiling of such stories at conferences and in archives, and ensuring that these stories reach the public is an important responsibility of the academic community. The past year provided us with numerous brilliant examples of black history reaching the public, most notably the BBC’s Black and British season. Black and British: A Forgotten History showed the nation that Black History was British history. Black Romans were deployed to the region near Hadrian’s Wall, black people served in the court of Henry VIII, and were key figures in the abolitionist movement. Black Midwives highlighted the important contribution of the women who responded to the call of the mother country at the founding of the NHS and have remained a key part of our health service ever since. Outside of our television screens Black History has also been broadcast through museums, galleries, and public spaces. Soul of a Nation has showcased powerful artwork from the Black Power movement to a British audience at a time when the Black Lives Matter campaign is steadily growing. At Portchester Castle in Hampshire, a fascinating exhibition has revealed that the castle housed 2,000 African-Caribbean prisoners of war who were
transported from St Lucia in 1796 after fighting for the French, who had freed them from slavery, against the British who hoped to claim the island and its slaves. Such stories complicate traditional narratives about Britain’s status as pioneers of the anti-slavery movement. This story is complicated further by the fact that between 1795 and 1808 the British government brought an estimated 13,400 slaves to form the West India Regiment, the first official predominantly black unit in the British Army. My own research project on the West India Regiment has unearthed numerous photographs of the black men who fought to maintain and expand Britain’s colonial empire, and discovered the fascinating stories behind them. It forms part of the AHRC funded Africa’s Sons Under Arms project that focuses on numerous aspects of the West India Regiment’s history and this November we too will share our findings with the public through an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. If Black History Month had not provided incentives for bringing these kinds of histories into the public realm for the past thirty years, it is unlikely that such research would receive funding, that exhibitions like the ones mentioned would take place, and that Black History would be brought to our televisions. What started thirty years ago as a movement to ensure this history reached the public for just one month, has slowly evolved to ensure that it is something that touches us all year
Written by Melissa Bennett
WIR Soldiers in Sierra Leone
round. This does not mean that Black History Month has lost its relevance, it increases its importance as a showcase for the kind of work that goes on 365 days a year and the kind of stories that can be found across our country every day in museums and galleries, on our streets, and in our homes. Long may it continue to spark interest and wet appetites!
West India Regiment Gunners in Sierra Leone 26 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
NATIONAL BLACK POLICE
olice & Crime Commissioner David Keane and Cheshire Constabulary, in conjunction with the Cheshire Constabulary Minority Ethnic Group are proud to host this years’ Annual National Black Police Association (NBPA) Conference. The Conference theme of "Exploring the Dynamics of Hate Post Brexit Britain” focuses on developing, engendering and supporting good relations between police and the community, with particular emphasis on the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community. The purpose of the conference is to identify and offer constructive solutions and encourage positive dialogue on race hate within the community, policing hate crime and the influence Brexit has on the BAME communities and workforce. There will also be an opportunity to explore equality with BAME officers and staff within forces nationally and its potential impact on policing. The annual conference is always well attended, and provides a formal setting for up to 200 guests from fellow Police Forces, strategic partners and members of the local community.
Commissioner David Keane said: “We are delighted that this year the annual Black Police Officers Conference will be held in Cheshire. It is an honour for us to host this prestigious event and we look forward to welcoming delegates from around the UK and further afield.”
CHESHIRE CONSTABULARY’S JOURNEY TO HOSTING IN 2017
Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Sareda Dirir said: "As a female Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner from a Somali British background I feel proud to be in a unique position to influence policing in my county, amongst other things, helping our Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane, to gain useful insight into the issues that are important to black and minority ethnic communities."
across the force. This is part of the Constabulary’s positive action strategy which is focused on increasing representation across all strands of diversity. Key development such as the Constabulary’s Insight scheme allows individuals to learn more about the force, improve confidence and provide awareness of process in relation to recruitment to various roles. Alongside this scheme, proactive attrition campaigns which are targeted at specific community groups through the use of locally BASED Police Officers and PCSO’s has resulted in 1.4% representation for BAME which has increased by 0.4% since 2016. Cheshire Constabulary is continually recruiting to a range of job roles including, officers, PCSO’s, police staff and volunteering roles with details all to be found on the force website alongside all of the relevant initiatives that are in place to support potential candidates through the various stages of recruitment.
The conference is the culmination of an exciting year for Cheshire Constabulary, building on from a number of initiatives that have been implemented
For more details visit www.cheshire.police.uk or contact the positive action team direct at positive.action@Cheshire.pnn.police.uk
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 27
LIVERPOOL BLACK COMMUNITY The Early Years
n the North West of England a community of people of African descent exists that is unique in Europe. Black communities have existed in Britain for at least five centuries, but some have died out only to rise again at a later date. How the Liverpool Black Community differs from other vibrant cities such as London, and Bristol with communities of even older origins is its continuity, some black Liverpudlians being able to trace their roots in Liverpool for as many as ten generations. The slave trade undoubtedly played a large part in the build-up of the early Liverpool Black Community, both directly and indirectly. Following the mid-eighteenth century, Liverpool had steadily overtaken London and Bristol, her main rivals in the Slave Trade1 and by 1795, Liverpool had the monopoly of five-eighths of the European Slave Trade.2 In the early days, isolated black people could be found in in many parts of the township, although parishes in the area now known as Toxteth and the southern fringes of the then Liverpool township centre, such as St. James, St. Thomas and St. Peters are possibly the earliest settlement.3 In spite of the slave trade, not all black people were slaves or servants and during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, early settlers ranging from freed slaves and black servants to the student sons of African rulers, who had visited the port from at least the 1730s. Britain gained politically, as trade rivalries with other European countries in the eighteenth century
Dr. Ray Costello
meant that by offering educational opportunities to the sons of African rulers, they would be sent to England to receive an indoctrination favourable to the British viewpoint.4 In St. James Parish 1796, there is an intriguing entry: ‘Samuel Baron, son of the African king Onramby, alias Johnson, was baptised January 21st.’5 During the American War of Independence (1775-1783), some African American slaves remained loyal to Britain. In November of 1775, a proclamation was issued offering freedom to all slaves who deserted their American rebel masters to serve in the British army.6 With the loss of the American Colonies, Black loyalists were shipped out to Britain in the late 1780s after the British surrender to the American rebels. Most were taken directly to London, but some settled in Liverpool. Another entry in St. James Parish Registers 1783 is – Peter Salisbury, Negro from Baltimore, Maryland, was baptised September.’ 7 One of the largest single contributions to the Liverpool Black population is that of black sailors settling in the port. Many present-day families owe their origin to seafarers, Board of Trade papers for the years 1794 to 1805 showing 76 free black sailors working on slave ships as being recruited in either Liverpool or their African or West Indian homelands.8 When one American captain sailed into Liverpool in 1857 with an all-white crew, he exchanged them for an allblack crew, claiming they were the best men they had.9 The evidence is scattered and the half-forgotten memories of families to be found in family ‘shoeboxes’ are often better than documents found in archives, as they are first-hand material; untampered with by clerks possibly with their own biases and prejudices. Any difficulties are compensated by the excitement of finding information previously been ignored, providing a wider and truer picture of our national heritage, a far older multi-racial society than is often popularly thought.
Williams, G. History of the Liverpool Privateers (London, William Heinemann, 1897) pp. 473, 469. Williams, E. British Historians and the West Indies (London, Anthony Deutsch, 1972) p. 34. 3. St. James Old Registers, 1775-1813, Liverpool City Records Office, lIIa. 4. Wadström, C. B. An Essay on Colonization Particularly Applied to the Western Coast of Africa with some free thought on cultivation and commerce, Vol. 1, reprinted 1968 (Newton Abbot: David and Charles Ltd., 1794), pp. 94-95. 5. St. James Old Registers, Baptisms, 1775-1813, Liverpool City Records Office. 6. Blackburn, R. The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery 1776-1848 (London, Verso, 1988), p.103. 7. St. James Old Registers, Baptisms, 1775-1813, Liverpool City Records Office. 8. Christopher, Emma, Slave Ship Sailors and Their Captive Cargoes, 1730–1807 (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006, Appendix 1, Black Sailors on Liverpool Slave Ships, 1794–1805, 231–33; Appendix 2, Black Sailors on Bristol Slave Ships, 1794–1805), pp. 234–35. 9. W. Jeffrey Bolster, Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 218. 1. 2.
28 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
What’s life like as a BAME engineer?
Many may think of engineering as a white and male-dominated profession, so what’s it like being a black or minority ethnic engineer? Anthony Ssenyonga and Vanessa Burton at engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald tell us more…
What preconceptions did you have of the profession? Vanessa I thought I wouldn’t fit in as nobody spoke or looked like me. And when I told people I was going to do civil engineering, I was told “That’s so hard” and “that’s a man’s job.” I was very scared before going to university. When I walked into a classroom of 300 mostly male students, I walked straight out to take a breath before going back in!
What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering? Vanessa I excelled at maths, science and art, leading me towards architecture but I soon realised I was more interested in the mechanics of how a building was built. My grandfather was an engineer in the RAF, and my aunt – who used to be a materials engineer – suggested civil engineering, so I did a placement and realised that it was the career for me! Anthony I know it sounds like a cliché, but I always enjoyed problemsolving. I was a big fan of Lego and K’nex as a child, and at school I was especially interested in maths, physics and geography. I googled where those A-levels could take me, and was attracted
to civil engineering and the idea of getting involved in the design and construction of large projects, as well as the potential for travel. What would you say to BAME students considering a career in engineering? Vanessa Don’t be put off by stereotypes about who works in the industry – if you want to become an engineer, then go for it! The profession is becoming more diverse, and the more BAME engineers, the more we can change the profession for the better. Anthony If you have an interest in solving problems and you enjoy maths and physics, then I encourage you to pursue engineering as it offers great job satisfaction.
To find out more about careers at Mott MacDonald search Mott MacDonald careers
Anthony TV documentaries I had watched during my school years focused mainly on the construction side, so I was less aware of the consultancy aspect. I also believed the industry offered lots of opportunity to work abroad. How have these perceptions compared to reality? Vanessa Engineering is still very male-dominated, but you get used to it and the industry is changing. Diversity produces inventive and groundbreaking teams where everyone brings something different to the table. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the people who told me not to do it. Anthony Being in the consultancy side of engineering, I better appreciate the processes that occur before construction
even begins. Working abroad also means one of my few preconceptions became a reality. Who would you consider to be your role model? Anthony My grandfather was born in the 1920s in Uganda and started life with almost nothing. Through hard work he moved upwards and had become a successful businessman by the time he died, with family who work and live around the world. If my grandad could achieve what he did with so little to begin with, then the possibilities of what I can achieve are endless. Vanessa My Caribbean grandparents, who were limited in the careers they could choose at that time in England. Despite this, they worked hard to ensure their kids could go to university to have better opportunities than they did. They told us we could achieve anything we set our minds to, and not to let others dictate our futures. Having that as a motivator has made me even more adamant to achieve my goals.
IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH STILL VIABLE AND SHOULD IT CHANGE? The question is asked every year whether Black History Month is still viable. Black History Month is more important than ever this year especially in todayâ€™s current climate.
Dr Miranda Brawn
often get asked whether Black History month is still relevant why do we celebrate Black History Month just in October? My response today remains the same as it has been as a child, Why not other times of the year? Why are the achievements of African and Caribbean People not integrated into the national curriculum? or celebrated all year round ? A couple a months ago I was asked to comment about a school in Kent that did a re-enactment of a slave auction as part of a lesson on the impact of slavery, as apparently this a requirement from the DfE to teach about the impact of the transatlantic slave trade. They do not however provide much guidance on how it should be taught. Since the outcry, MACA has been in talks with the school about how to teach a more balanced view of Black History. Our view is that Black History should not be confined to just a month, and needs to be reflected in a more holistic way all year round. We are attempting to achieve this through our Black History Live Project, The Project which is
This year is the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month in the UK and the participation should be for everyone to celebrate not just the Black community. As ex Vice-Chair and Patron of the Black Cultural Archives, we highlight the importance of understanding Black British history which provides patterned awareness. For us, UK Black History Month is celebrated every day of the year because all history begins with Black history. Black British people have made some key contributions to this country which should be acknowledged, remembered and respected. Ignoring Black history creates a false national narrative that leads to continued inequality and never learning from mistakes. Schools should be incorporating a full range of diversity as part of their mission. If there is a concerted effort to approach Black History Month in new ways each year, then we can combat some of the issues of only highlighting certain movements, figures and events. Black history should be part of the school curriculum. It is
THE RELEVANCE OF
BLACK HISTORY MONTH by Carol Stewart Chairperson Medway African and Caribbean Association
important to discuss issues of race in the context of current events throughout the year, while expanding beyond current comfort levels. It is also vital to highlight the figures of today. We tend to only highlight contemporary celebrities and politicians, ignoring that we have activists and community organisers that are still making an impact on a daily basis. My non-profit Foundation is called The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation and an example of this. The Foundation plays a key part in helping to close the race diversity gap within the workforce. This is achieved by supporting, encouraging and educating our next generation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnics (BAME) future leaders to become a success through scholarships (mentoring, funding and work experience) and diversity lectures. Black History Month needs to evolve and be part of our every day and not just one month per year. This will help to build racial and cultural understanding while closing the race diversity gap at a quicker pace.
We are really excited to be undertaking this ground breaking project, to our knowledge nothing like this has been attempted on such a scale with all the partners involved. The aim will be to create a lasting legacy accessible to all the community long after the project has ended, at any time of the year. We have received great support from The Chatham Historic Dockyard, Medway Council, The Medway Council Black Workers forum, Mid Kent College, The University of the Creative Arts, Kent University, Kent County Council.
a 3 year HLF funded project, aims to bring to life the stories of African and Caribbean people of Kent in the 19th and 20th century. The project will have a number of outputs, a play called Black Heroes of Kent, on 7th October, a documentary, an online learning resource, and ends with an exhibition from October 2018 until the end of November 2018 at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent.
To find out more and to get involved visit our website https://www.blackhistorylive.org.uk/ or www.macacharity.org.uk 30 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
Busette My parents were part of the wave of immigration that followed for many years in the wake of World War II. They left Martinique to answer the labour needs of a still seriously injured France with lingering war wounds who needed to rebuild itself.
A former French colony re-classified as an Overseas Department of France in 1974, Martinique like many other West Indian islands, comes with a unique history and set of traditions. I was only 19 when I left France to move to the UK for my studies. A few months in and with a rather clumsy mastery of the English language I quickly realised that being Black in France and being Black in the UK were very different things. Looking back now, I understand a little better that feeling of invisibility I constantly had while growing up. You see, the French Republic promotes one society where all communities are blended into one, so any surfacing unique identity of one community with a desire to stand out, would threaten that ideal. So, I grew up being French at school, but Martinican at home, relying on my parents’ teachings to understand my heritage. Unfortunately, those could only take me so far, so I grew accustomed to the black hole that was my history very easily. The study of the Afro-Caribbean culture and history is not part of the French curriculum, or at least it was not back in my school days, and to this day, there is no French equivalent of a Black History Month to speak of, which is in keeping with the French Republican ideal mentioned earlier. In France, I was Black but I learned to be French. But then I landed in London. So many Afro-Caribbean communities are wearing their culture as a badge of honour. This was a completely new experience for me. Here you could be proud and celebrate your heritage with everyone, Notting Hill Carnival being a yearly rendez-vous. The presence of literary events catering for Black culture are a huge opportunity for exchange. I don't exactly fit in when it comes to the Black British experience, and that’s ok as my journey has to take its own shape. If anything, Black History month has helped me realise over the years that where I come from does not matter. I am here now and even though my path to understanding my history is not a common one, I can take it now and find out.
£1000 grants for community groups Apply now if you work with people who: • are Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) • have low socioeconomic status • are facing adversity • have a disability • live in a remote and rural location • are women and girls Empowering community groups to run their own science activities during British Science Week. Deadline: 13 November 2017 For more information, visit http://bsa.sc/communitygrants
No prior science experience required!
Registered charity 212479 & SC039236 www.britishscienceassociation.org
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 31
Black History Month a reminder of what we never had...
have never been a fan of black history month I get asked to speak at some event or other I usually say no with a sense of guilt at having let the brothers and sisters down it’s not something I can articulate easily because it feels like being against Christmas or not wanting to sing happy birthday at the party of an acquaintance I like but not that much. It feels like I’m in favour of sin amongst the innocent, every year it rolls round and the events can range from speeches to, pro, statements and educational fairs. All attempting to change something that hasn’t changed since the inception of the idea of black history month, the fact that we only get a month. One month in which to say hi, hello what about us the other eleven are a desert of ignorance in which history is a preserve for those that own the means by which the narrative is told. It’s not entirely all bad I know that for some people black history month is revelation in a conversation with one of my friends it was pointed out to to me that but for BHM educating their children to the fact that history included black people it was a first for their kids. I could only agree, although I can’t help thinking that the fact that its once a year underlines my point its something her kids forget for the other eleven months so let me tell you what I think would really stick lets have a black history. Lets dump the month it reminds me of the fact that the media, largely ignores it and everyone else does the same except for those who are committed to remembering BHM. why don’t we have black history give ourselves a chance to move the needle, give ourselves the chance to remember what we forget and others have forgotten and that history isn’t history unless we are in it black history month just reminds me of what we should have and what history should be.
We are the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognized national statistical institute. We are responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. We also conduct the census in England and Wales every 10 years. We are at the leading edge of Data Science and are developing a Data Campus at our Newport site. We know that excellent results can only be achieved by investing in and retaining the people who work for us. This is why our people count in more ways than one. Ensuring fairness and inclusivity for all is at the heart of our organization. Our role in this is twofold: firstly as an employer that values and celebrates the diversity of our people, and secondly, by helping to inform decisions that affect diverse communities. We have a strong ethos of equality and diversity and have been listed in the top 100 employers in Stonewall. We are members of Business Disability forum and have been awarded by them as disability confident. What makes us a great place to work is that we have set up networks that represent people from all communities such as BAME Culture and diversity group. We are committed to making sure that our people are able to meet their potential. But wider than this we believe and celebrate that everyone is unique, and all of us have something to bring to the table.
To find out more about who we are and what we do visit www.ons.gov.uk 32 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
BLACK HISTORY IS WORLD HISTORY Paul Lawrence explores why we need to celebrate and reflect on black history and achievement – even if it’s just one month in the year.
“…the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination…” “….Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening…” “….The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation…..” If I told you that the above battle cry was uttered in the 1960’s by a black American civil rights leader whose name began with a 'M' it would be an easy guess to whom I was referring to, right? After all, he was well known for his radical and often confrontational speeches. So, if you guessed Malcolm X, you’d be wrong. Those were, in fact, the words of Martin Luther King and more shockingly these words came from his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, and yet these words which form the tone of the majority of that speech are mostly unknown by the very masses MLK wished to inspire all those years ago. How this has been hidden from most of us is perhaps even more important than why. How have these words been hidden in plain sight from the vast majority of people? As we ‘celebrate’ Black history Month we must be mature enough to ask these questions, listen to the answers and act. So, what was essentially a war cry had been effectively watered down to a rhetoric filled cry for racial harmony. We all know why. Tensions between black and whites had been rising for decades, and the size of the followers of leaders like MLK and MX, combined with their discipline and organisation meant that for the first time since the slave revolts, blacks in America were seen as a threat to the status quo. If this war cry
were broadcast, recorded and replayed, the powers that be felt revolution would be the outcome. The 'how' is oddly far less complex, whites had total control of the media and to this day maintain an iron grip on taught history. You’ve heard the saying 'the victor takes the spoils'? Well the victor also gets to write history as they see it, and if the victor also controls the news media, the newspapers and the publishing houses, guess what, history will reflect their viewpoint or simply the messages they choose. Funnily enough, they’ve done it before. When I went to school, my history teachers told me and my fellow students that slavery was ended because of the benevolent actions of the likes of William Wilberforce. I was never told of the economic damage that constant revolts in Haiti and Jamaica did to the slave owners, forcing them to reconsider direct slavery as an effective economic model. Control of the story of the abolition of slavery meant that for decades black youths (and white for that matter) were lied to and blacks meant to feel gratitude to a white system which a) should never have enslaved us in the first place, b) should never had kept us slavery for so long and c) should never have conned us into Slavery v2.0. Meanwhile, UK whites have felt pride that at least some whites forced the hand of slave owners and ended slavery against the odds. Each year as October approaches you will see the inevitable discussions about the value of Black History Month. Why is it in October and not February to match the USA? Why just a month and not all year long? Why is there no White/ Asian history month? And of course the far more developed question, which is, why not just teach world history? It’s this last question, which truly intrigues me. What is the true need for a Black History Month? In my view, there is really only
one real reason, and that is because history has been so whitewashed that creating a polar opposite is seen by many as a first step in redressing this long-standing deception. Make no mistake the whitewashing of history is the standard modus operandi of the British and their American offspring. This is not a crime specific only to African history. Read a British account of the split of India and the formation of Pakistan, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the Brits were merely innocent bystanders, rather than the key catalyst. World history would by definition highlight the highs and lows of all races and their path through history. World history would tell of the glorious empires of Africa which reigned while much of Europe still lived in caves. World history would show that it was Africa that was the centre of learning of the world until it was attacked and plundered by the Europeans. World history would help instil a true sense of identity in black youth struggling to fit into the world and understand their true worth. World history would highlight the debt owed to Africans by the rest of the world and put to bed the doubt surrounding the validity of the call for a global apology and the payment of reparations, not just for The Transatlantic Slave Trade, but also for Colonialism and yes, the creation of Racism which continues to oppress Africans worldwide. So, whatever you do this Black History Month or the days and months to follow, never forget to consider the source of the information offered to you and the intent of those responsible for penning that information. Unite and Rule. Paul Lawrence MA, is a founding member of the 100 Black Men of London, Trustee & Trainer of Urban Synergy, Author, Columnist for The Voice, Coach and philanthropist. Website: www.engagetraining.org.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 33
Patrice Lawrence Growing up in Sussex and discovering Black History when moving to London
would never call my family a cliché, but my parents did follow a rather familiar route to the UK. They came from different parts of the Caribbean to train as nurses. So it feels rather poignant that I didn’t learn that Mary Seacole existed until I was in mid-30s. Why was this? Maybe it was that Trinidadian thing about not giving Jamaicans credit. If you know my mum, you’d understand. Or maybe it was that complete erosion of black people from British history. Like all young people growing up, I wanted to find my place in the world. The singer, Skin, from Skunk Anansie, once talked about our generation being the first ones born here. We didn’t have our parents’ memories and sense of belonging to another land. We emerged from British maternity wards, learnt our times tables in British class rooms and strained to recall the finer details of crop rotation in British exam halls. Our roots were in islands far away and sometimes we struggled to stay upright.
Nottinghamshire Police is proud to support Black History Month You can make a difference. www.nottinghamshire.police.uk/ careers
34 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
My first sense that people like me had been on these shores in centuries past came via my mum. I was in primary school and we’d been given one of those pieces of work I dreaded. (The worse one was guess the baby. I went to a virtually all-white primary school in Sussex.) We had to pretend we were a character in (British) history and write from their point of view. I was despairing that there were no black people I could be. Mum told me there were.Blackamoors in Elizabethan times, for a start. I would have preferred to have been a princess. But this was the 1970s. I took what I was given. One of the most powerful moments came in a secondary school assembly. Our head, Mr Trethowan, a rather powerful orator at the best of times, spoke about Jesse Owens. I watched the sea of white children around me learn how a man my colour stood up to Hitler. I felt pride ride inside me. Previous to that, all they’d been taught about us was that we were slaves. That’s all I had been taught too.
Stories are powerful. They sneak into our consciousness through hidden doors. Black History Month pushes those stories out into the wider world. It spotlights our resilient, creative, angry, inventive, stubborn rebellious selves.
Patrice Lawrence is London-based writer. Her debut novel for teenagers, Orangeboy, was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award, 2016 and won the YA Bookseller’s Prize and Waterstones Prize for Older Children. Her second book, Indigo Donut, was published in 2017.
is a novelist and screenwriter. Her books include Blade and Bone and Sawbones – winner of the Young Quills Historical novel of the year 12+, The Curious Tale of The Lady Caraboo, and A Nest of Vipers. She also writes for film and TV including the dramatic inserts for Rough Crossings, Simon Schama’s BBC documentary programme about the American veterans of the war in Nova Scotia’s resettlement and the foundation of Sierra Leone.
have a love/hate relationship with Black History month. On the one hand it’s a time when, for some people at least, maybe in schools and libraries (where there are still libraries) there might be a special focus on Mary Seacole, or perversely, William Wilberforce. But the rest of the year Black history is ignored, an outlier of a topic, although one that recently sparked outrage on twitter when Professor Mary Beard, one of our countries’ foremost classics experts, dared argue with trolls who insisted that a BBC website illustrating Roman Britain with a mixed race family (Black centurion Dad) wasn’t political correctness gone mad but quite legitimate. Why, and how long, and where, we have been in this country is still a massively hot topic. I think it’s vital for me to say to my young readers that we belong here. Belonging is a huge topic across all Young Adult and Children’s fiction, but for mixed race people like me, it is massive. We have nowhere else. We can’t reclaim our
roots because this, this present, this place where we are right now, is all we have. So my books are about showing to all readers, of whatever heritage, that the UK is, and always has been a place where people from all over wash up. And although my stories might be fiction they are never implausible. We have been here forever, people like my near neighbour in Roman East Sussex, Beachy Head Woman, or Septimus Severus, Libyan Roman Emperor and resident in London, or John Blanke, musician at the Tudor Court. And it’s not just London, there’s John Ystumllyn, a steward who lived in mid eighteenth century North Wales or Joseph Emidy leader of the Truro Orchestra, William Derby, known as Pablo Fanque, showman extraordinaire who was born in Norwich and was famous throughout the North of England. We are important radicals and politicians, shopkeepers, writers and musicians. Tailors, sailors, beggars and landowners. And if these are a few of the stand out names,
names that have been recorded and passed down, think of how many have been forgotten. For every one of those people with a history there are probably a hundred more who lived quiet lives and whose descendants ‘bred out’. So often we’re fed the lie that black history began in the UK in 1948 with the arrival of the Windrush. My hope is that society will come to realise how short sighted that is and how that Black History is just one - important - strand in British History.
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BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 35
Dotun Adebayo I still recall going to West Green Primary School in Tottenham as one of their Black History Month guests to be one of the highlights of my long and (some would say) illustrious career as a writer and broadcaster. Not because of ‘black history’. In fact, I ended up not talking about ‘black’ or ‘history’ at all. But because the image of a hundred children sitting cross-legged on the well-polished floor of the school assembly hall, all ears and with hope in their eyes, remains indelibly etched on my mind. You see, forty years before I was them. No, I really was. I went to school right round the corner from them. Woodlands Park School on Black Boy Lane (that still makes me laugh) is
36 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
no more than 200 yards away form West Green Road School so they were our big rivals and we often fought them on the flatlands of Chestnut’s Park, which we always knew as Woodlands Park because, as far as we were concerned, it belonged to us, not to West Green. They saw things differently. So I told the story of our pointless school rivalries and how a lone boy from West Green was jumped on and beaten up by Ginger and four of our other school bullies, as half our school was pitched on the park grass watching the inter-school football finals. The West Green boy left the park, his tail between his legs, to the abuse of the bullies who humiliated him by suggesting that his family were so dim they used Daz instead of shampoo which was why his hair was so tight and curly. The boy returned ten minutes later with his two big brothers and as I watched the scene unfurl I could see the bullies on the other side of the football pitch suddenly realise that they were in deep trouble. They expected blows form the big brothers. On the contrary the big brothers didn’t get involved. All they did was stand by and ensure that it was a fair fight. One by one the West Green boy laid into the bullies. One by one they got duffed up. One by one they cried out for their bully mates to help them. But one by one the bullies looked up at the big brothers and decided to await their turn to take blows rather than intervene. Now, I’m not sure if the teachers at West Green Road were particularly enamoured of me telling their young charges this story. I hope that somewhere deep
‘Our time in these isles has been one of struggle and survival. Look how much we have to still fight today - just to maintain.’ down in their psyche the children there remember my story as vividly as I remember them. And as they get older they might be able to unpick the race relations hints in the story and it might tell them something about the ‘black condition’, a living. breathing thing as it exists today. THIS is our history. We are living it every day. Our time in these isles has been one of struggle and survival. Look how much we have to still fight today - just to maintain. Dust out the cobwebs Black History Month. Let the dead bury the dead. Confine Mary Seacole to the dustbins of history and let us who have a living memory and breath to speak tell the history that we are testament to before we join the ancestors in a place far, far away where here’s no night there’s only day. Look into the book of life and you’ll see what I mean.
Dotun Adebayo was one of the original ‘young, gifted and black’ boys to arrive in Britain from Nigeria in the 1960s. After ten years of running the south London and north London streets with bad bwoy business he achieved just two ‘O’ Levels. He used whatever gifts he had left to winkle a university place and, subsequently, a newspaper job and a career as a radio broadcaster with the BBC. Along the way he published books including ‘Yardie’, soon to be a major motion picture. He is married to the lovers rock star Carroll Thompson with whom he has two daughters who have not wasted their gifts.
National Education Union: we’re standing up for the future of education
The National Education Union combines the expertise and experience of both the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), forming the UK’s largest education union with over 450,000 members. We are the professional voice for education. It’s key that our classrooms are free from discrimination and celebrate diversity, so every education professional and student can reach their full potential. Through our Black member networks and conferences, the National Education Union will continue to ensure that Black education professionals have a voice in the union, in the classroom and in broader society. The National Education Union wishes everyone a fantastic Black History Month.
lack History Month has always been the subject of criticism. Some argue that it is unfair to devote an entire month to a single group of people. Others contend that we should celebrate Black history throughout the entire year. I think both arguments are valid. The objective of the Black History Month should be to facilitate the integration of Black history into general world history. A world history that is learnt, known and shared to all throughout the year. However, to accomplish this awareness needs to be raised hence the need for Black History month. This awareness or campaign during Black History Month should have the specific aim of making Black History Month redundant. Black History Month is important as it highlights the contribution of Black people to world history. These contributions are not often taught in schools nor widely known to the general public. An illustration of this is Lewis Latimer (who perfected the light bulb), Daniel H Williams (carried out the first successful open heart surgery), Lonnie G Johnson (Super Soaker). However, we need to shift the focus away from individual heroes during Black history Month. We must remind ourselves that October (February in the United States) should not be the only month in the year to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of Black people, especially when we use some of the things that were invented by Black people every day. Black History Month should be a month of awareness that has a long-term objective of ultimately becoming redundant. The promotion of Black History Month should be on the basis that Black history is everyone’s history. The impact the Black people have had in the world is part of our collective consciousness and societal progress. In the same way that other historical figures like, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Marie Curie have contributed to the world’s evolution. We need to ensure that when we celebrate Black history it draws people of every race into the grand and diverse story of this world. It often has the opposite impact and is erroneously received as being divisive. Black History Month has the potential to be incredibly important as a building block of fair race relations. For this reason, Black History Month needs to be more than the history of the Black experience. It needs to include the history of race relationships globally. All too often, only the most negative aspects of “Black” culture and communities get highlighted. We hear about under-achievement, crime, poverty, and dysfunctional families. We are inundated with negative images of disorderly entertainers, vulgar reality TV stars as examples of success for Black people. Additionally, we are daily subjected to unfair stereotypes and assumptions. These stereotypes although not created by the Black community are often reinforced when the Black community creates its own media content. Paradoxically this has the unintended effect of creating a sense of legitimacy to the purported negative stereotype. We should harness the attention and energy expended during Black History Month and use it to investigate race relations of the past and present with the aim of continually shifting the balance of power to achieve a fairer and more representative society in the future.
TUNDE OKEWALE MBE A Lawyers Perspective
To view the Black History Month 2017 Full National Listings visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk
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BY RICHARD REDDIE
Black History Month more than just Black and White
have always been an avid supporter of Black History Month (BHM), which I consider both necessary and relevant in this country. There is little doubt that since its inception three decades ago, countless numbers have been educated of, and inspired by, the vast contributions made by people of African origin. It is my contention that BHM has always presented Black Christians with an open goal to propagate their faith. Back in the early days when BHM largely revolved around the teaching of African enslavement and the life of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, those within Black Majority Churches (BMCs) could wax lyrical about the role Christianity played in ending slavery – pointing to the Christian African abolitionists Olaudah Eqiano, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and the Sons of Africa – and the massive Christian dimension to the US Civil Rights struggle. Equally, Black Christians could use this celebration to highlight the prominence of BMCs, which have transformed the socio-spiritual landscape of the UK. These religious institutions are the real Black “success stories” over the last 60 years, and history reveals that some of the larger Pentecostal congregations, which began in a front room over 50 years ago, are now national organisations with churches in every major English city. If these churches were franchisedstyled businesses, rather than places of worship, the pioneers who established them would be considered captains of industry. Moreover, in many neighbourhoods and communities, church leaders, who can count their congregations in the hundreds (and in some cases,
proverbial 30 pieces of silver.) Likewise, a good number of Black Christian households still refuse to play the music of Bob Marley, whose songs eulogized the Rasta faith and whose rebel philosophy critiqued western (Christian) values and extolled the usage of ganja. Marley’s message of Black unity and African pride proved very persuasive and during the height of his fame, many youths abandoned the church to follow the Rastafari faith. I could continue by citing the likes of other BHM stalwarts such Claudia Jones, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Dr Walter Rodney, Bernie Grant MP, George Padmore, Angela Davis, Olive Lewin, Nanny of the Maroons, Kwame Nkrumah and others. These men and women of all faiths and none believed that their religious principles, political ideas or rational thoughts inspired their involvement in the struggle for Black freedom and equality. the thousands), are the de facto community leaders. It should be noted that key figures within the BMCs were pioneers of the Supplementary School and Black Housing Association sectors in the UK. Equally, BMCs have been behind such initiatives as Street Pastors, the Pentecostal Credit Union, Excell 3 (education), which are rightly mentioned when talking about BHM. Despite these sterling efforts, there is no shortage of detractors who argue that churches ought to be doing more, given their reach and influence. The common criticism is that BMCs could have done more to tackle gang-related issues as well as address the concerns of those with mental health problems or the incarcerated. While BHM presents the BMCs with an open goal, a good number of Black Christians are still reluctant to engage with this celebration. I cannot tell you the numbers of times I have been invited to a well-known Christian radio station in October to debate the importance of BHM with some of its irate Black listeners. I am convinced that one of the reasons for this reluctance is the prevalence of Black heroes and she-roes of other faiths or none. For instance, some Black Christians are often in a quandary over Malcolm X, the articulate, firebrand champion of Black rights and self-determination because of his faith. (This is not helped by Malcolm’s stinging denunciations of (Christian) Dr Martin Luther King as “Reverend Chickenwing” - an Uncle Tom figure who was selling out his fellow African Americans for the Street Pastors
40 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
In my opinion, any failure to engage with BHM because an individual was/is not a Christian is both myopic and unhelpful. Black Christians have much to be proud of, but they should also be cognizant and embracing of the equally outstanding endeavours of their Black brothers and sisters, who are also ‘made in the image of the God’ they worship.
The Race... For Equality Changing the Conversation London South Bank University is a vibrant, diverse university, with sites based in Southwark and Havering. With over 20,000 students and 2,000 staff from over 130 countries. LSBU has a unique profile of student age, experience and ethnicity 50% of the student population is drawn from ethnic minority communities and 60% are over 25 years old on entry. There are around 1,300 international students on campus and more than 700 from other European Union countries. We are truly a global university based in the heart of one of the world’s most exciting cities. At London South Bank University we believe that we should be celebrating diversity and inclusivity throughout the year, we should use our powerful position in the local community to shine a light on inequality and unfairness wherever we see it, and we should empower our students and staff to reach their full potential.
We have launched our Race... for Equality in conjunction with the Equality Change Unit’s Race Equality Chartermark. In starting this journey, we aspire to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within our university. As part of this process we have engaged with our students and staff via the Race Equality Chartermark surveys. We have taken a data driven approach to set the University’s strategic objectives around race equality. This has all been underpinned by our robust governance structure and commitment from leaders across the University. If you would like to get in touch please contact Sofia Jabeen Equality Charter Mark Project Manager and Tolu Oke Equality Charter Mark Project Coordinator at Edi@lsbu.ac.uk.
Become what you want to be
S E N U T E A G G E 30 R
myself refused to partake in BHM for much of the 90s into the new millennium, because many of the events were compromised, more so if they were funded by the local councils: which they should be. At one such event I witnessed Irish folk dancers and couldn’t fathom the link. However, during BHM 2003, I was invited to a secondary Catholic Girls’ school in South London where I had, let’s say, an epiphany during a special assembly. I’ll never forget how the majority black students literally sunk in their seats, when they realised that Dr Henry, their main speaker, was a dread. Now anyone who is used to delivering these sessions, is probably used to this reaction, but what I experienced was different; it felt like an outpouring of collective shame. So instead of delivering my full presentation I spoke for a while on the notion of shame and then played them a couple of tunes, the content of which became the basis for discussion. They are featured in the 30 I have selected below, which are some of my favourites due to their poignant messages (Nicodemus is in there because he was my favourite deejay).
The first tune I played as part of my epiphany (well I showed them the video from the BBC archive), was ‘Ku Klux Klan’ by Steel Pulse (1978), where some of the band wore white hoods. I over emphasised the introduction where David Hinds said, “This one now, right, straight at the National front, and straight to the head of the Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke.” I explained to them how powerful and unprecedented this performance was. I told them I remembered how everyone was talking about how clever the tune was to link the treatment that Africans/blacks were facing in the UK, to the most identifiably racist group on the planet. In fact, they perhaps should re-release it in light of what is happening in the USA and the UK right now, with Trump and Brexit emboldening the rife racists once again. The second tune I played was by Macka B ‘The Effects of Slavery’(2000) and I got all in attendance, including the teachers, to recite the last line with me “what’s wrong with us, was the black holocaust not so serious?” After we finished reasoning through the lyrical content of the tunes, the same students who were cowed upon my arrival were sitting upright, enthused and uplifted, because I explained to them I have no time to berate white people and even less time to wallow in misplaced and misguided shame. I chose the medium of reggae music because that is a font of my knowledge, perhaps also my number one source of education about the black/African global struggles for liberation when I was in my youth. The tunes I have selected speak to different aspects of our struggles against white domination, in a language that is owned and controlled by the people. This is important because ‘knowledge gives us the power to enslave or liberate’, during BHM and beyond.
1. Flesh of My Skin Keith Hudson 2. The Promise Land The Royals 3. Black Man Time I Roy 4. Armageddon General Echo 5. Revolution Dennis Brown 6. Slave Master Gregory Isaacs 7. True God Sizzla 8. I Shall Sing Marcia Griffiths 9. Heart of a Lion Shabba Ranks 10. Til’ I’m laid to Rest Buju Banton 11. So Jah Seh Bob Marley and the Wailers 12. Black Woman Judy Mowatt 13. Bone man Connection Nicodemus 14. The Effects of Slavery Macka B 15. Guidance Nerious Joseph
Peace and blessings
42 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
16. Mi God Mi King Papa Levi 17. African Tears Peter Hunnigale 18. African Story/African Glory Mikey General 19. English Gal Sister Audrey 20. Mr DC Sugar Minnott 21. Ku Klux Klan Steel Pulse 22. Bobby Babylon Freddie McGregor 23. She’s My Lady The Administrators 24. Prophecy Fabian 25. Equal Rights Peter Tosh 26. To Be Poor is a Crime Still Cool 27. Poor and Humble Wayne Wade 28. Warrior Stylee Mikey Dread 29. Swarm Me Anthony B 30. Why Worry Israel Vibration
BLACK HISTORY MONTH OR A YEAR OF BLACK HISTORY?
BY JANET BROWNE
ctober is the one month in the year when too many events in the same geographical area take place on the same day and time, all reaching out to the same audience. It is also a time when Black talent is perceived to be most in demand than any other time of the year. How can we remedy this 'shackling' of our Black contributions and talent? I'm acutely aware of the racism, historical amnesia, and unconscious bias that continue to mask the threads of colonialism and imperialism. In my own practice over the last 11 years, I try to work towards redressing the imbalance and provide a platform throughout the year that celebrates Blackness in all its forms, including those of an uncomfortable nature, through Art, Design and Performance - the main research areas of the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum’s work. As Programme Manager for African Heritage and Culture at the V&A, I am responsible for shifting the museum away from Black History Month (BHM), to a 3-month season, and currently a year-round series of events. I curate live interventions across the collections, for temporary displays, key headline exhibitions, and gallery redevelopments. You can hear the deafening silence of visitor disbelief when I say ‘I’m not doing anything for BHM’. A few years ago someone did tell me quite plainly, that they pay their taxes for people like me to offer BHM because I work for a place (the museum) who are the custodians 44 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
of 'artefacts' some of which were plundered, and it was my responsibility to unearth their history, ensure visitor accessibility, and enable the narratives to come alive. What else could I do but to agree with them, the only difference was that I understood the museum's working practice, the time it takes to make change especially within large institutions like the V&A with massive collections to re-interpret, for today's contemporary world and future prosperity. We are moving forward in getting the voice of diversity out there in ways that impact greatly on the stories the museum chooses to tell, but there is still masses to do to elevate real change.
Through the V&A's current gallery re-development plans, there is a commitment to ensure the inclusion of African and Diaspora related material. As part of the Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) redevelopment of the Europe 1600 – 1815 Galleries I trained thirteen guides in January 2016 for a year, to offer permanent year-long ‘Africans in Europe 1600 – 1815’ tours. To date over 2500 visitors have experienced these tours. The new ‘Caribbean Historical and Hidden Histories Tour’ covering 300 years of history, 8 objects across 6 galleries take place on Sundays until 15 October 2017.
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A recent event 'Ghana - A Nation in Retrospective' in August 2017 celebrated Ghana @ 60 and the UNESCO Decade for People of African Decent 2015 - 2024 with over 850 visitors. The event was an opportunity, amongst other things, for visitors to view displays and discuss with curators the Ashanti Gold and Regalia held within the museum's collection, previously acquired through military plunder by General Garnet Wolesley during the 1874 raid on Kumasi and the Asantehene Kofi Kari Kari. ‘Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s’ was a 7-year (2008 – 2015) partnership project between the V&A and the Black Cultural Archives, to increase the number of black British photographers and images of black Britain in the V&A collection. It raised awareness of the contribution of black Britons to British culture and society, as well as to the art of photography. Funded by the HLF, the Museum collected 118 works by 17 artists, and BCA collected oral histories from a range of subjects including the photographers themselves, their relatives, and the people depicted in the images. BHM does matter to me especially as it creates moments when the UK are collectively contributing to this national initiative and probably when many institutions consider making changes to their staff profiles, or the content of what they offer and how they offer it. I am however, also concerned with the number 46 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
of stories written out of history and what little time we have to make them visible, understood and inclusive within the bigger picture of history; so please forgive me if I rarely offer an event during October, and leave the 10th month to those who wish to celebrate this important subject, and who might not have the privilege, like me, to do so all year round. Janet Browne is Programme Manager for African Heritage and Culture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Janet trained as a textile artist & designer during the 1980s, and has 25 years experience in adult education management. As a teacher educator for visual & performing artists, craftspeople and designers Janet created the Pyramid Project, a teacher training and artist residency programme that trained artists with qualifications and who were disadvantaged. Janet was instrumental in setting up two Training and Development Lead Body (TDLB) assessment centres to monitor standards for GNVQ and NVQ within the arts, and was Director of Visual Arts at Morley College for 10 years (1996 – 2006). Janet is the former Learning Manager for Public Programme at Black Cultural Archives (2012 – 2015), and currently Programme Manager for African Heritage and Culture at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum (since 2006).
‘Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.’ Some years ago, in 2007, I was asked for my thoughts on Black History Month, now renamed by some African History Month. In those interviews, I said that although BHM had made some positive contributions it was not a sign of success but of the fact that there was a serious problem. For the other eleven months, the history of Africa and those of African heritage is largely forgotten and there is still much work to be done to address the problem of Eurocentrism and racism in schools, universities, the media and elsewhere. Disinformation about history in general and the history of Africa and Africans is everywhere. The commemorative events that were held in 2007, in connection with the bicentenary of the British Parliament’s alleged abolition of the trafficking of African men, women and children, is a case in point. First, the trafficking and enslavement of Africans did not cease in 1807, but the actions of the British parliament had more to do with the impact of the revolutionary events in Haiti and other political and economic considerations than any alleged humanitarianism, as I wrote at the time in ‘The wider historical context of the abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.’ Now ten years later we have another BHM and it is perhaps useful to consider what progress has been made. Undoubtedly there has been some progress but then I recall that twelve years ago, in 2005, there was the major report by the London Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage, whatever happened to that? In recent years, we have seen the opening of the new Black Cultural Archives Heritage Centre in Brixton, even though unlike other national cultural institutions the BCA receives no statutory funding. It does heroic work but remains both underfunded and understaffed. There have also been some positive developments in schools, particularly the introduction of the new Migration GCSE course which was so disturbing for some in the media. I’m pleased to say that I was one of the authors of the course and the textbook that accompanied it. Then there was David Olusoga’s epic TV series and book, which was certainly a very welcome and positive development. No doubt there have been other significant developments, not least the many community initiatives up and down the country and those who devote themselves to this important work. However, the fact that we still have BHM suggests that for most of the year the history of Africa and the African diaspora is still largely marginalised and ghettoised. Within our African and Caribbean communities, history remains a very popular subject, outside it less so. It appears, for example, that young people of African and Caribbean heritage are being turned off history in schools and universities. In March 2014 The Guardian 48 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
i d A m Haki reported that only three ‘black applicants’ had been accepted to train as history teachers in Britain the previous year. Official figures show that there are less than 300 ‘black’ history teachers out of a total of some 16000. Amongst undergraduates of African and Caribbean heritage, History is the third most unpopular subject, only Veterinary Science and Agriculture are more unpopular. Evidence shows that in many cases the only African history presented to students in schools is that related to enslavement and this might even be considered a form of mental cruelty or child abuse. The figures speak for themselves. Even many of those who get top grades at GCSE level do not pursue history at A level. Those with top grades at A level do not go on to study history at university. Consequently, we have very few undergraduates or postgraduate students of African or Caribbean heritage studying history, very few black history teachers in schools and even fewer academic historians in universities, probably no more than five.
There is an oft-quoted African proverb ‘until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.’ It was this dire state of affairs that led to the History Matters initiative in 2014 and the first History Matters conference the following year. The aim was to discuss why there are so few history students and teachers of African and Caribbean heritage and what can be done to address this problem. There is an oft-quoted African proverb ‘until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.’
The conference participants discussed possible solutions and three broad approaches were proposed: initiatives for schools to encourage more young people to engage with history, initiatives for those at university level with a similar aim, and an initiative to encourage more people to train as historians. Since 2015 the History Matters group have tried to implement these proposals with support from the University of Chichester, the Black Cultural Archives, Every Voice, the Historical Association and others. A Young Film-Makers Award was established for schools and ran for the first time in 2017. It encourages those between the ages of 11-18 to make a short five-minute film on any aspect of the history of African and Caribbean people in Britain. History Matters also established a Young Historians Project which has been working on a film and exhibition on the Black Liberation Front that will be launched on October 20 at Goldsmiths. The launch will open the Second History Matters conference – New Perspectives on Black British History, at Goldsmiths on October 21, which will highlight the work of young and emerging historians. Last, but not least, the University of Chichester has acted on the proposal to find ways to encourage more people to train as historians by establishing the first ever online Masters by Research in the History of Africa and the African Diaspora which will begin in January 2018. All this constitutes progress but perhaps only when we have created a society in which there is no need for a BHM, when every month is BHM, can we declare that we have been victorious. We must learn the lessons of history to create that society. Prof. Hakim Adi is Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at the University of Chichester. He will launch the world's first online Masters by Research programme on the history of Africa and the African Diaspora in January 2018 and is the convenor of the New Perspectives on Black British History Conference at Goldsmiths University this October.
Black History season is alive every month at De Montfort University De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is a multi-cultural institution in a city which is renowned for diversity. Almost half of our UK students in 2015/16 came from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background. Our commitment to effect positive change is ever present in the work we do to ensure our BAME staff and students have the best environment in which to achieve. We champion equality in our DMUfreedom charter, which encourages everyone to have the freedom to be, the freedom to inspire and the freedom to succeed. DMU is one of the best UK universities for BAME graduate employability and was a major factor in DMU achieving a Gold rating in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results this year. The TEF panel praised DMUâ€™s outstanding student support and how employability is embedded in the curriculum in every faculty.
To find out more about studying or working at DMU, visit dmu.ac.uk
It also highlighted the contribution to Leicester by DMU Square Mile, which offers services to often isolated local communities. We are one of just nine universities in the UK to be awarded a Race Equality Charter award by the Equality Challenge Unit. Active network groups at DMU continue to provide a voice for a wide range of BAME staff and students, and to promote equality within the university. We are committed to positive action so that every student is able to achieve the best outcome regardless of their background. With strong local roots in the heart of England but with a truly international outlook, DMU is proud to offer opportunities for all. We are confident that by taking a lead on fairness and working to overcome barriers that can limit personal progress, we can be a key part of an even greater force for good.
Why students chose to come to DMU
t DMU, we truly believe that all our staff and students be afforded the respect, inspiration, space and support to reach their full potential. Based in Leicester, in the centre of England, De Montfort University (DMU) is a dynamic, multicultural hub of creativity, rooted in a culturally vibrant city. We are strengthened and supported by our local community as well as by our students, staff and partners, each with distinctive identities, from a spectrum of cultures and backgrounds. We are immensely proud of our brilliant home city and our part in its great history, exciting transformation and future success. Diverse and multicultural, but with its own confident character, Leicester has been named one of the best UK cities in which to live and work. So it is not surprising that UCAS acceptances last year showed that DMU was one of the fastest-growing and most popular universities in the UK, and despite the national number of students applying for places through Clearing being down, DMU has achieved unprecedented levels of demand which is incredible and testament to the reputation DMU has amongst UK universities both at home and overseas. Students are also drawn by the university’s employability rates. A total of 96.7% of graduates from summer 2016 are in work or further study after graduating, according to the annual Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DHLE) report. The national average for universities is 94.3%. For non-white students figures show DMU as being one of the best universities for BAME graduate employability.
We believe that defining yourself elicits success
Recognising yourself and your background in the culture and curriculum of the university is critical to success. DMUfreedom, our equality and diversity charter is a clear and proud declaration of our commitment to putting inclusivity at the heart of everything we do. We believe that everyone should have the freedom to be, the freedom to inspire and the freedom to succeed. And we are confident in our strong reputation for positive action and our conviction that we can and should lead on fairness and inclusion in the higher education sector.
That confidence is further strengthened by achieving the highest possible Gold standard in the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), putting DMU in the top third of universities. Our unswerving commitment to equality and diversity was a significant part of our submission and major contributing factor to us achieving Gold standard. One in five of DMU’s professional services staff is from a BME background, which is far higher than the sector average of 9.9%. Some 14.4% of the university’s academics are BME compared to 12.2% in the HE sector, which is encouraging but we know there is room for improvement and we are continually working to improve. When staff and students look around campus, see our advert at the cinema or pick up a prospectus, they see fabulous, creative and inspiring images of successful people like themselves reflected back at them. Our imagery reflects our make-up and the positive, ambitious culture of DMU.
We strive for positive outcomes for all
At DMU we have an ambition for all students to achieve. One of our specific objectives at DMU is to close diversity-related gaps in student and staff retention, progression and student attainment. We aim to transform our students by helping them to develop, not only educationally but personally and professionally. Our Freedom to Achieve programme was born out of our recognition that the attainment gap exists between white and BAME students. Designed to help BAME students achieve their potential and receive good honours degrees, the programme is helping us to address issues that prevent them from attaining good degrees. Ben Browne, DMU’s Chief Operating Officer said: “Across the sector BAME students encounter barriers to attainment in their programmes of study that are not linked to their ability.” Speaking at the launch of our Dare To Be mentoring project, part of the Freedom To Achieve programme, DMU’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard said: “In the UK, there is an unacceptable gap in the marks received by white students compared to some sections of the BAME community. “It is our moral duty to deal with this. It is absolutely not about aptitude, or about one group being more talented than another. This is
about environment, this is about context. This is about the ability to be free to achieve.”
We have a commitment to inclusivity
We are already recognised for our work in equality and diversity; we are proud to be one of just eight universities in the UK to be awarded a Race Equality Charter by the Equality Challenge Unit. The award has been created to recognise the work universities are undertaking to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education. Through this, we have committed to reviewing and developing the curriculum, teaching and assessment, and equipping our BAME academics with the skills and confidence to enhance their practice and opportunities for progression. Our BAME staff network group is very active and influential, providing a source of consultation on the university’s policies and practices on BAME issues. The network introduced Black History Month to DMU in 2009 and continues to plan, arrange and promote Black History Month as a prominent and positive experience in DMU’s annual events calendar.
“One of the most important things to me about being the Chancellor of De Montfort University (DMU) is the way this institution admits such a wide diversity of students – be they from an ethnic minority, with a registered disability, from a family for whom they are the first person to attend university or from an economically disadvantaged area – and gives them such a velocity into the wider world when they graduate. The precious gift of education enables us all to use our talents to create a better, more fulfilling life for ourselves and for others.” The Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon OBE, Chancellor, De Montfort University
aving been involved in exploring BH for many years by 2014 I came to see BHM as increasingly problematic: wrong title (African History/African Heritage); wrong month (February as in the USA); top-down tick box organisation by local authorities; the separation off of South Asian history; the overloading of events about contemporary culture; BH as a twelve months of the year activity; the increasingly ethnic and nationality mix of Britain’s population. The 30th Anniversary allows me to further reflect. There have been dramatic changes in the profile of BH, e.g. through TV programmes; the 2007 abolition of slavery; HLF project funding: Black Cultural Archives; Nubian Jak Community Trust plaques; Tony Warner’s Black History Walks, and a growing number of local initiatives. People who were active in the former Black & Asian Studies Association are still playing important roles: Oku Okpenyon (Memorial 2007); Miranda Kaufmann (What is Happening in British Black History?); Hakim Adi, Dan Lyndon, Marika Sherwood, and Martin Spafford (OCR Migration GCSE); and Kathy Chater (genealogy). Other people who have been making important contributions for years include Patrick Vernon (Every Generation); Jeffrey Green (website postcards and biography of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor), Jak Beulah (Nubian Jak Community Trust plaques), Alan Rice (Central Lancaster University – Black Liberationists and other projects); Stephen Bourne (books on black entertainers and the Wars) and David Killingray. New groups have come on the scene like Narrative Eye. There have been an increasing number of autobiographies and biographies of post-war
52 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
experiences of activists ( e.g. Darcus Howe and Gloria Cameron). The work of the Legacies of British slave-ownership team at UCL (espec. Nick Draper) has led to fruitful co-operation with non-academic local and regional historians. There has been a mushrooming of study into the influence of black music and musicians in Britain (Paul Oliver, Jeffrey Green, Howard Rye, Nubian Jak, the What is British Black Jazz project at the Open University, Kwaku (Black British Music), and Mykaell Riley (Westminster University).
Whatever the past reservations there have been about BHM, it has a continuing important role, especially if its drawbacks can be overcome, and as part of combating racism. There has been the growth of Black historical fiction for children, young people and adults inc. Steve (S.I.) Martin. The remembrance activities about the World Wars have also provided opportunities (Marc Wadsworth’s film ‘Divided by Race’, Nubian Jak’s war memorial). Informal networking and co-operation, sharing news, events and ideas, and research findings continue. (e.g. the roundtable debate ‘Black Georgians’ at the Annual Conference of the British Society for 18thC Studies last January), and my blog postings . Whatever the past reservations there have
been about BHM, it has a continuing important role, especially if its drawbacks can be overcome, and as part of combating racism. It provides a focussed and partially resourced opportunity to share our work. It gives new people becoming involved an opportunity to contribute, and encourages others to become involved. If we link the concept of Black History today to the growing concern about the labels BME and BAME which subsume those of African heritage, then there is a powerful case to re-name it African Heritage Month, as a recognition of the way in which the African Diaspora occurred through the brutal system of slavery, and then colonialism, imperialism and today’s neo-colonialism.
Sean was a member of the BASA Committee. He has publications on Paul Robeson in the UK and John Archer (Battersea Mayor 1913/14). His publishing imprint includes work by Stephen Bourne (Esther Bruce), Jeffrey Green (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor) and Jonathan Wood (Bill Miller). He co-ordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Network. He posts details of events and news on BH on his blog at http://seancreighton1947.wordpress.com
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Turner Nominee Leads Black History Month Events Events at National Museums Liverpool
powerful new exhibition by 2017 Turner Prize Nominee Lubaina Himid MBE, leads a packed Black History Month programme taking place at many of National Museums Liverpool's museums and galleries this October. Opening at the Walker Art Gallery from 7 October to 18 March 2018, Lubaina Himid: Meticulous Observations and Naming the Money features works selected by Lubaina from the Arts Council Collection, alongside 20 figures from her major installation Naming the Money. The pieces selected by Lubaina for this exhibition are all by women artists, and will occupy one room within the gallery. At the centre of this display is her 1987 series of watercolour drawings, 'Scenes from the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture', about the formerly enslaved who led the Haitian revolution. The meticulous detail within this series, and its focus upon some key moments and everyday happenings in L'Ouverture's life, has inspired Lubaina's selection of other works by artists including Bridget Riley and Claudette Johnson. The full installation Naming the Money was gifted by the artist to the International Slavery Museum. It addresses how Europe's wealthy classes spent their money and flaunted their power in the 18th and 19th centuries, by using enslaved African men and women. The highly individual sculptural figures, each with their own profession and life-story, demonstrate how enslavement was disguised and glamorised. The enslaved people were made to look like servants or dressed in the clothes of courtiers.
54 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
Visitors to the Walker will find groups of these figures positioned around the gallery in configurations determined by the artist. Lubaina says "My relationship with the Walker has developed over the years because of the 19th century sculptor Edmonia Lewis, she and I are the only women of colour to have work acquired by this wonderful public collection. Her exquisite sculpture of Longfellow influenced my choice of work from the Arts Council Collection." Director of Art Galleries, Sandra Penketh, says: "Lubaina Himid is one of the most influential artists working in the UK today. Her work is powerful, dazzling and engaging. Lubaina's project at the Walker will be thought provoking not only in terms of Black histories but also in considering how artists look at and represent the world they inhabit. We're excited to see how her work transforms some of the Walker's rooms." The International Slavery Museum (ISM) co-hosts the Historians Against Slavery 2017 conference 7 and 8 October, which is being held for the first time outside of the U.S. It is a biennial event, which this year brings together a distinguished body of leading scholars, museum professionals and anti-slavery activists from around the world to look at how history can inform contemporary efforts to end the enslavement of 46 million people worldwide. Places are free and can be booked online at www.has2017.eventbrite.co.uk Other events at ISM include talks examining transatlantic slavery and its abolition, and another looking at Liverpool's role in the transatlantic slave trade. Visitors to both talks will be able to
handle objects from the Museum's collections that bring to life the horrors of slavery and the experiences of the enslaved. Poetess Empress-jai presents a talk about the life and music of musician Nina Simone, exploring how she used her music to speak out about inequality and injustice, as well as her activism in the Civil Rights Movement. For families and people of all ages, there will be craft making sessions and workshops. At Merseyside Maritime Museum, the new exhibition Black Salt: Britain's Black Sailors opens on Friday 29 September. Combiningpersonal stories, historic data, objects and memorabilia, Black Salt charts a course through the often troubled waters of Britain's maritime past to explore the work and experiences of Black seafarers over a 500 year period. Historically overlooked, the exhibition shows how they contended with the dangers and hazards of life at sea, and challenged inequality on board and ashore. Throughout Black History Month there's a special programme of free events to accompany the exhibition, including a talk by local historian Ray Costello about the role of Black sailors at the Battle of Trafalgar. The exhibition was informed by Ray's book Black Salt: Seafarers of African Descent on British Ships, with one section dealing with the battle. It features one of the widest paintings in the Walker Art Gallery's collections, Daniel Maclise's The Death of Nelson. The main highlights are listed below, for the full programme, visit: www.liverpoolmuseums. org.uk/blackhistorymonth
A THE JOHN BLANKE PROJECT: Imagine the Black Tudor Trumpeter
Black presence in an historical drama based in Tudor England has been claimed to be ‘inaccurate and inauthentic’, this is an historically incorrect and imaginatively impotent statement. I welcome Black History Month as it is a focused opportunity to correct and update British History and to challenge such failures of the Imagination. Through The John Blanke Project I am working with artists, historians, poets, writers, rappers, musicians and playwrights to tell a real and unmistakably inclusive Tudor history showing how History and Imagination can work together to make connections in Black British History between then and now. John Blanke, the Black trumpeter to the Tudor courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII is currently the first person of Black African descent in England for whom we have both visual and written accounts. John Blanke appears in Tudor records between December 1495 and January 1512, these, all too brief, references invite questions: Was that his real name? Where did he come from? The artist who created John Blanke’s images certainly wanted to show that he was Black but appears to lack the skill to create a truly lifelike rendition of a Black man, begging the question: Is that what he really looked like? The John Blanke Project celebrates those questions in its strapline – imagine the Black Tudor trumpeter – the project’s contributors are invited to respond in their chosen media to that statement.
There are almost fifty contributions to date, including the visual artist Phoebe Boswell who re-imagined him as the Black British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, the creative director Jon Daniel imagined him as a ‘trump card’ in a pack of playing cards with Henry VIII as the King. The poet John Agard speaks of him blowing ‘not quite a fanfare for diversity, simply doing [his] bit for pomp and pageantry.’ The historians responses include: Dr Onyeka Nubia who is concerned about his fame, ‘by making [him] an exception we marginalize and make strange his existence’; Dr Temi Odumosa saw him as a ‘satisfying mystery’ which should be honoured even though there is much we cannot really know’. Black History Month is that focused opportunity to celebrate the Black presence of characters such as John Blanke in British History. In doing so denouncing all those who myopically and tendentiously reject any claims for that Black presence as ‘inaccurate and inauthentic’ as they try to take control of Britain’s past in order to shape its future. So not just for one month of the year but the whole year, through Black History Month we can make evident a Black British History that is not only real and accurate but one that can be reimagined and celebrated authentically and accurately, for example as in The John Blanke Project: Imagine the Black trumpeter. www.JohnBlanke.com. Michael Ohajuru
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Online Open Day
Wednesday 6th December
Aberystwyth University’s rankings are compared against the HE institutions listed in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018
www.aber.ac.uk/openday BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 55
E R I P I’M EM A recent study found that 1 in 4 members of LGBT community were victims of homophobic attacks in the past 3 years in the UK. In this unfortunate climate black pride is a rare opportunity for the LGBT community to express themselves without the fair of being judged. Growing up I was used to not seeing many people of colour on the gay scene, it was as though LGBT POC didn’t exist, and I eventually found some BME oriented nights clubs, but this lack of visibility lead me feeling like an alienated sub group in the LGBT community. Black pride LGBT is an event that celebrates the diversity within the community while highlighting issues that can often get missed within the non specific event, it's seen as a celebration of inclusiveness - a time people regardless of sexuality come together to accept love is love but this celebration can become a smoke screen - subconsciously or consciously some POC in the LGBT community feel excluded from these celebrations while pressure from ethnic communities such as bullying and stigma sometimes make reconciling the two a painful internal crisis.
...according to research by FS magazine, 80% of black men, 79% of Asian men and 75% of south Asian men have experienced racism on the gay scene. If it's not the door policies that are implicitly racist, it's the adverts that only depict white people skin, colour is unfortunately an unspoken currency of the LGBT community and on dating apps such as “grinder” you only have to scratch the surface to find phrase’s like “No Blacks, No Fems, No Asians these negative, racist comments leave me with the impression that as a black man all I have to offer is the size of my anatomy and according to research by FS magazine, 80% of black men, 79% of Asian men and 75% of south Asian men have experienced racism on the gay scene. Being visual creates awareness this can help BME people who have issues coming out and It is no secret BME struggle more when coming out to their families. I often get asked who my favourite black gay icon is - myself and my BME LGBT friends I had growing up - We never had "icons" of sort to admire, this is something I worry the current generation can sometimes take for granted. It's important thing to do is love yourself and be able to find inner strength. Most white LGBT people may not have ever experienced racism within the community, this makes it easy to assume that discrimination of POC doesn’t exist, ignorance is not bliss and unfortunately discrimination does exist. Ignorance is never acceptable and it's important that POC have a space to be surrounded by others who share similar cultural experiences - I don't believe in segregation is the answer - creating a space where all is welcome regardless of race but mindful of sentiment at the heart of it. LGBT people are much more likely than heterosexuals to suffer from some form of mental distress, the level is even higher among POC. Undoubtedly, racism plays a role. In closing, it doesn’t’ make it any less real just because you haven’t experienced it and victims of discrimination can very easily become the oppressor, this fact is the unfortunate stain on the perceived inclusively of the LGBT community. 56 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
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WHOSE HISTORY IS IT ANYWAY? BY S.I. MARTIN
'Change is afoot, however, for better and worse. As local government budgets shrink and demographics change, ideas of Black history and its ownership are altering.' 58 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
30 years ago the Inner London Education Authority instituted the first official Back History Month in the United Kingdom. The same year saw riots in Chapeltown, Leeds and the election of three Members of Parliament of African origin (Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant and Paul Boateng). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the Black History Month offerings in the British Isles were crafted as an umbrella to cover disparate and divergent sets of colonised or neo-colonised communities and cultures. It was not unusual to see Maltese storytelling, facepainting, 'African' drumming, Irish dancing and Chinese craft workshops all on the same bill. The African element was one among others. It remains the case that some budgets for this month still cover South Asian as well as African activities under the label 'Black'. To the extent that the terms Black and British are seen as mutually exclusive, there is a reluctance amongst all communities to embrace the diverse histories of people of African origin in Britain. The lives and impact of Black Georgians, Victorians and Edwardians are so far outside the comfort zone of so many that we prefer the kinds of history showcased during the month of October: histories locked within the narratives of African American experiences and the entertainment industry. No serious cultural feathers are ruffled with rehashings of the American civil rights struggles, screenings of the latest non-Caribbean-located 'slave movie' or hip-hop mimicry. Alternatively, BHM may take us to continental Africa (by way of music, dance and Mandela) or the Caribbean (music, dance and Marley). The message is clear. Black history (apart from the arrival of the SS Windrush in 1948) occurred elsewhere.
Change is afoot, however, for better and worse. As local government budgets shrink and demographics change, ideas of Black history and its ownership are altering. Since 1987 Black London has transformed from a majority African-Caribbean set of cultures to being
overwhelmingly continental African. West Indian heritage can no longer be assumed. We do not all connect to Carnival. The good ship Windrush has well and truly sailed... Historically-minded Africans have already laid claims of ethnic kinship to a host of figures from Black British history. Their lives are celebrated throughout the year. Sierra Leonean Krio societies in Britain regularly uphold the memory of the composer Samuel ColeridgeTaylor or of London's Black Poor and the expulsion of 300 of them in 1787. Igbo cultural assemblies honour Olaudah Equiano regardless of the season. The continuing movement of professional Black families from the capital (Black flight) has led to a proliferation of locally-focussed Black interest and Black history societies who are challenging the conflation of 'Blackness' and urbanism. Historic Black settlement in Wales and Scotland reveals similar stories. The rising number of people of mixed backgrounds is giving rise to scholarship on the impact of mixed-race populations and individuals (Mary Seacole, William Cuffay, William Davidson, Robert Wedderburn etc) on Black British history. An abiding interest by some members of the majority community is also leading to interesting developments. One outcome of the study of Black settlement in Britain before 1948 is the finding that large numbers of apparently White British people have African ancestry through a Black forbear. How will these facts of their ancestry impact the future access, ownership and meaning of Black histories? So, 30 years on, some things have changed, some haven't. Although we have 16 Members of Parliament of African origin, British BHM is still largely about the United States or the performing (and occasionally South Asian!) arts. At least, let's be thankful that we have real ales brewed in honour of Lt.Walter Tull and the 18th century Nottingham businessman George Africanus. We may all need a drink at the end of this month.
BLACK HISTORY IN THE ARCHIVES BY SANDRA SHAKESPEARE
he National Archives holds over 11 million records created by Central Government and the courts of law. Some of the records are hundreds of years old such as passenger ship lists, slavery records and maps. The archives also hold ephemeral material including hundreds of thousands of photographic records of Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. The Outreach team at The National Archives recognises the value and importance of creatively learning more about our shared histories and heritage. Through memory, oral histories, performance and stories; archives remind us of where memories are stored and where histories are made. To put it simply, archives are like repositories of knowledge or fragments of the past that are
open to multiple levels of interpretation and reinterpretation. If we think of this as different ways of seeing, experiencing public archives go beyond that of secondary information from an historian in a history book. Your perspective, your experience and your knowledge are all vitally important to understanding the clues so often found â€˜hiddenâ€™ in archival records. Given the provenance of governmental archival records and metadata (information about the records), what we define as black British history, is often nuanced and complex largely depending on the authorship. To that end public archives have a duty and responsibility to ensure records are open, accessible, stored and preserved for future generations. There are cases where certain files may remain closed for longer than 20-years if
information is classed as particularly sensitive or sensitivities around Data Protection, so archives have an ethical responsibility in the use of records where named individuals may still be alive. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 offers further advice and guidance to request information from public authorities. Focusing on black history helps to counter its poor coverage within the school curriculum and can potentially spark a greater interest amongst young people in studying history at Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels. A deeper understanding of the histories of people from African, Caribbean and Asian heritages are fundamentally important to an understanding not only of ourselves, but for all people if a cohesive vision of British society is to be realised.
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n 14 October 1997, I took part in my first Black History Month event. I gave a talk about my first black history book, Aunt Esther’s Story, at the Sojourner Truth Community Centre in Sumner Road, Peckham, a small but popular community venue. The event was well attended. In addition to reading passages from the book, I also screened a video recording of an interview I did with the subject of the book, my adopted Aunt Esther, a black Londoner, born before the First World War. It seemed fitting that she would be the subject of my Black History Month debut. Twenty years have passed since that first event, and I have participated in hundreds of Black History Month presentations since that time. October is the busiest month of the year for me. In addition to grass roots community groups, I visit schools and academies, and I have been invited to many different venues, including the Black Cultural Archives, Imperial War Museum, City Hall, National Portrait Gallery, Globe Theatre, National Army Museum, and various University conferences.
What Black History Month means to me Stephen Bourne, award-winning historian of Black Britain, reflects on twenty years of presenting Black History Month events
One of the many highlights occurred in October 2016 when I was invited to give a talk about my book Black Poppies at the Houses of Parliament. Black Poppies acknowledges and celebrates the black servicemen of the Great War of 1914-1918 and sheds light on many overlooked achievements. I was overwhelmed by the attendance of over 200 members of the public, mostly black parents with their children of all ages. They were keen for a new generation to learn about Britain’s black past, especially the First World War. I was 60 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
touched by the positive reaction of the audience, especially the younger members, some of whom asked perceptive questions. They were appreciative of my efforts to bring black Britons from history into the public domain. I am always worried when criticisms are made about the existence and usefulness of Black History Month. In some respects, this is justified for I have grown increasingly concerned about the distribution of limited Black History Month funds being awarded to groups which stage events that bear no relation to history. The focus on history can be lost. However, when the focus is history, October can be used as a wonderful platform for enriching and enlightening our communities, especially the younger members, about our black British past. However, I would agree that black history events need to be held throughout the year, not just October. I am concerned that, without Black History Month, British schools and academies will not be presented with opportunities to learn about the history of black people Britain. Except for
Mary Seacole and Walter Tull, black Britons are not included in the history curriculum. Our young are more likely to learn about African Americans from history. Black History Month offers opportunities for historians like myself to offer an alternative black history, one that relates to this country. What makes this work worthwhile is the positive feedback. Last year I was deeply moved by a letter I received from a young black man in prison. He said: “I have just finished reading your book Black Poppies which has given me a rare insight into the lives of early black people of great courage, insight and pride, living, working and standing strong as a unit. This has brought great pride into my life, bringing about a sense of ownership. Looking at the pictures was like seeing familiar faces I’ve observed growing up around me over the years. I was very impressed with the construction and well thought out content of this book. God bless you.”
I am concerned that, without Black History Month, British schools and academies will not be presented with opportunities to learn about the history of black people Britain.
I am looking forward to celebrating 20 years of participating in Black History Month with more Black Poppies events. One that I am looking forward to is taking place at New Scotland Yard for the Metropolitan Police Black Police Association.
In October 2017 London South Bank University will honour Stephen Bourne with an Honorary Fellowship for his contribution to diversity at their degree ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall.
I joined the London Fire Brigade in January 1990. It was cold. I had previously been a postman so you would have thought that I would be used to cold weather. I wasn’t. When I joined – it was my second attempt - my only aspirations were to put out fires, earn a better salary and receive a decent pension after service.
Sadly, my introduction to fire service life was not a positive experience, and I was amid other black operational staff who were desperately unhappy at how they were treated. Discriminatory language and attitudes were written off as ‘banter’. I had grown up in a community that had embraced multi-culturalism and had benefitted from that cohesion, but the fire service was seemingly opposed to that diversity. Equality was a negative word. In the early 90s the Fire Brigades Union began to realise that certain behaviour was contrary to the union ethos of equality and fairness and therefore unacceptable. It embarked on a difficult journey to change its structures to ensure that its under- represented members had a voice, and ultimately a place at the union’s highest levels. This historic and progressive step led to fire service employers and government ministers working in partnership with the union to bring about a fire service that understood diversity and worked hard to encourage BME, women and LGBT people within our communities to consider a career in the fire service. Several of us took up the challenge to make the fire service representative of our communities. There were some difficult times. The challenge however remains – a recent lack of recruitment in the fire service has seen employment diversity stagnate. Fire service cuts and efficiencies have seen diversity specialists and training disappear. Some of the old attitudes have, sadly, re-surfaced in some areas.
My recent MBE was awarded in recognition of my role within a changing fire service, and recognition of the struggle of a few to make the fire service an environment fit for all. Like I said, the challenge remains ... Michael Nicholas MBE Black & Ethnic Minority Members (B&EMM) National Secretary Fire Brigades Union
BLACK & ETHNIC MINORITY MEMBERS OF THE FBU CONTINUE TO DEMAND A FIRE SERVICE THAT IS FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION AND ONE THAT ALLOWS ALL EMPLOYEES A POSITIVE AND REWARDING CAREER fbu.org.uk
Matt Wrack FBU general secretary
Alan McLean FBU president
Michael Nicholas B&EMM secretary 2760_FBU_BHM-ad.indd 1
BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 61
30 years of celebrating Black History 2017 marks 30 years of celebrating Black History Month (BHM) in the UK. The Black History Month initiative is widely recognised and celebrated by schools, government bodies and local communities across the country. October marks the moment when we collectively celebrate the diversity of Britain and shine a light on the history of Black people in Britain. The early concept of BHM can be traced back to the celebrated historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 in the US. Intellectual and political exchanges between leaders and campaigners in the US and UK throughout history has been commonplace; and new approaches towards the empowerment of Black people have been inspired. In the UK, the BHM initiative was brought forward by Akyabba Addai-Sebbo and in its infancy was proposed as a set of lectures across London boroughs, but rose to greater appreciation as many people across the country also celebrated the African Jubilee Year Declaration. With the support of the GLC and the Strategic Policy Unit driven by campaigners like Ansel Wong and Linda Belos, and political support from Herman Ousley, Paul Boateng MP, Bernie Grant MP, and many others, the first Black History Month 62 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
in the UK took place on 1 October 1987. The original aim of BHM was to inspire a greater appreciation of Black history for young people in Britain. According to Addai-Sebbo, October is a significant month of tolerance and reconciliation in Africa, it was fitting to adopt the same ethos here. Black History Month was seen as an opportunity to reconnect with the histories of Africa and the diaspora. There are many debates around the relevancy of Black History Month today? Do we still need a month to celebrate and raise awareness as we did 30 years ago in the 1980s? But, in truth Black history is still not widely adopted into the national curriculum. And, for those who do embrace the teaching of Black history in formal education, how much of the subject matter relates to the Black pioneers and historical figures of British history.
Black Cultural Archives (BCA) was founded in the same ethos as BHM in 1981. Spearheaded by campaigner and educationalist Len Garrison the promotion and teaching of Black history was at the heart of the mission for the unique institution. With its mission statement to collect, preserve and celebrate the histories of diverse people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. The archive institution plays an important role in advocating for the future of BHM. Its big vision is to broaden the subject knowledge of educators, greater accessibility for all and the understanding of how Black history is part of our shared British history. BCA’s presence builds on the foundation of initiatives like BHM and continues to build the confidence of educators to inspire future generations to think openly and critically. BCA’s archive collection documents the history of Black History Month mapping its expansion within London boroughs and beyond. As we mark the 30th anniversary of BHM, we also place a marker for change and a new future vision. BCA aims to not only remember the past and capture the present, but to build a collective voice that empowers future generations. The dedicated Learning Team works with schools, higher education institutions and universities across the country to critically engage students and teachers offering a deeper insight into how the past shapes ideas about the present and future. BCA’s work unlocks the potential of their archive collection to develop new ideas, thinking and ways in which to enjoy Black heritage and
Month - what’s next? culture in Britain. Take a closer look at the personal narratives and how they connect with everyday experiences and have contributed to the history of this country. Whether bringing to life the poetry of the Black Georgian freedom writers to the dynamism of the pioneers of Black Sound in Britain from the jazz clubs to sound system culture to the pirate radio stations and DIY music studios. The current
exhibition Black Sound: Black British Music’s Journey of Creative Independence is on display until 4 November 2017 at the heritage centre in Brixton, London. And, a series of online exhibitions share the narratives of the early Georgians and Edwardians. Also, the conservation project and upcoming exhibition, Family Ties: The Adamah Papers, rediscovers the kingship and regality of a British-Ghanaian family through a personal, true story. A snapshot of everyday life in early 1900s to the 1950s in Ghana, this extraordinary rediscovery includes important information about what it was like to live under colonial rule with the earliest document dating from 1858. Hear the stories of the people that lived these lives and in their own words. Travel from Ghana to Britain through the lives of the Adamah family and learn how one family’s history tells a global story. So, we can celebrate the BHM legacy that has been forged and also spaces such as Black Cultural Archives that offers everyone a space to see British history from another perspective. Black Cultural Archives works beyond the parameters of one month. The objective is to no longer marginalise Black history, but to ensure it is inclusive in our wider British history. And, is truly celebrated for its richness and contribution to our shared society. Black Sound: Black British Music’s Journey of Creative Independence is on display until 4 November 2017 at the heritage centre in Brixton,
London. Free admission, donations welcome. Access to the archive collection and reference library is free to the general public. Black Cultural Archives is located in Brixton, London. Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am - 6pm. For information visit, www.bcaheritage.org.uk Follow on: Twitter @bcaheritage, Facebook @bcaheritage and Instagram @bcaheritage.
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Victorian and Edwardian Black Britons
The activities of people of African descent in Britain from the 1830s into the 1910s were broad and spread across the whole of the British Isles.
WRITTEN BY JEFFREY GREEN 64 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
Arnold 'Kid' Sheppard
AGNES BIZZETT/AGNES FOSTER was born in Jamaica around 1827, inherited money from her Scottish father, and in 1848 she married in London. They had four children, and lived on a farm in east Yorkshire. She became a Salvation Army officer, returning to Jamaica where she founded the Salvation Army (1887). Back in England she worked for the Army in Manchester where she died in 1910. One of her daughters was also an officer in the Salvation Army.
a wealthy Croydon wholesale grocer, in 1890 and had two daughters.
of M Division (Southwark) in 1856, retiring to Suffolk in 1866.
She was a friend of SAMUEL COLERIDGETAYLOR who was born in London in 1875, the son of a doctor from Sierra Leone. He and his mother moved to Croydon when he was a baby. He studied at the Royal College of Music, London, for seven years from 1890. His compositions were popular and his four-part cantata (choir and orchestra) Hiawatha was a continuing success. He died – pneumonia – aged 37 in 1912.
Sergeant WILLIAM DOBSON of the 72nd Highlanders was an African born in South Africa around 1840. He joined the 72nd Highlanders in Edinburgh by 1858 and was sent to India where he was a drummer. By the early 1870s he was a sergeant, ‘popular among the soldiers’ and ‘in every respect a typical Scot’ but for his colour. He completed 21 years and retired to Edinburgh ‘with his wife and family’ and may have died in 1898.
Sarah Parker Remond
FRANK DOVE was born in London in 1897. His father was a barrister from Sierra Leone. Dove went from Cranleigh school to Oxford (1915), enlisted in the Tank Corps and was awarded the Military Medal in 1917. He boxed for England at the 1920 Olympic Games. He qualified as a barrister. He died in a road accident in Wolverhampton in 1957.
SARAH PARKER REMOND was a ‘free person of color’ born in Massachusetts in 1824, active as a public speaker (against slavery, and for women’s rights) in Britain from 1859. She became a naturalized British citizen in 1865, studied medicine in Italy and died in Rome in 1894. MARION ‘MATTIE’ THRIFT died in Croydon in February 1907, aged 44. The daughter of an American doctor she had joined the famous Fisk Singers and toured to Australia and New Zealand in the 1880s. She married Harry Thrift,
ARNOLD ‘KID’ SHEPPARD was a boxer born in South Wales whose career started in 1907. By 1939 he had amassed a record of 155 defeats. Another British-born black sporting personality was JAMES PETERS, born 1879 in Salford, Manchester. He played rugby for England in the 1900s.
Thomas Bethune (Blind Tom)
THOMAS BETHUNE known as BLIND TOM was autistic. Born into slavery in Georgia, he toured Britain in 1866-1867 where his piano playing attracted praise and wonder: he could reproduce, at the keyboard, music he had only just heard. A later African American entertainer was PETE HAMPTON, active in Britain and the continent 1903-1914. He made well over one hundred records, singing and playing the harmonica. James Peters
The activist and Chartist WILLIAM CUFFAY, born in Chatham in 1788 and exiled to Australia where he died in 1870, had a sister Juliana who died in the Chatham area in the summer of 1837. Little is known about her. ROBERT BRANFORD was born in Suffolk in 1817 and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1838. He rose to inspector, then superintendent BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017 65
THEY ALSO SERVED:
A MIDLANDS WW1 PROJECT By Angelina Osbourne
n July this year, a memorial commemorating the service of African Caribbeans in both world wars found a permanent home at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, South London. The unveiling of this memorial marked the continuation of a critical reassessment of the history of Wold War 1, with the inclusion of African and Caribbean military service, which is gradually being repositioned into the historical narrative. This is long overdue. The historical assumption that the First World War was a ‘white man’s war’ is no longer a sustainable one. Recent historical research has shown that Britain relied heavily on colonial manpower in its campaigns against German aggression in both world wars. The centenary commemorations have provided an opportunity to begin a more comprehensive exploration into a history that has been under researched and underexplored: that of the African and Caribbean colonial troops, and the Black British men who served in British regiments. The exclusion of this narrative was a consequence of Britain’s obsession with racial hierarchies; consequently, the idea of black and brown soldiers marching down Pall Mall in the victory parades was
66 BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017
regarded as problematic by the officials who organised it. In 2015, Churches Together in England, an ecumenical organisation that unites the diverse Christian denominations, secured funding to lead a project that would explore the experiences of African and Caribbean servicemen in the Great War, and share those findings with the church communities in the Midlands. I was employed to research this history and manage the project over 18 months. I was ably supported by Dr Joe Aldred, responsible for Pentecostal and multicultural affairs at CTE, who was also the project’s champion.
'Black soldiers fought on the side of the British and the American rebels during the American Revolutionary War, in exchange for their freedom.' My historical area of interest is the politics of slavery in the Atlantic world and emancipation. However, I was struck by the historical parallels I had found in my work relating to the utilisation of black soldiers in the 18th century. Black military service for imperial and later colonial powers was nothing new. Black soldiers fought on the side of the British and the American rebels during the American Revolutionary War, in exchange for their freedom. Black pioneers were attached to the militia in each Caribbean colony in the 18th and 19th centuries to help keep order and quell slave rebellions. And in 1795, 12 regiments of enslaved soldiers were established during the wars between the French and the British in the Caribbean. What I set out to do in this project was to raise awareness about African and Caribbean service, and to create tangible outputs that would exist beyond the project. I travelled throughout the Midlands, from Dudley to Wolverhampton to Handsworth to Edgbaston, giving presentations on colonial and Black British soldiers. I learned
that these men were so courageous and had a great spirit of adventure. As citizens of empire, many of them believed it was their duty to serve. They endured long voyages, discriminatory treatment and low pay, in the hope that their sacrifice would be rewarded by greater autonomy at home. I spoke to two women, whose father and grandfather served in the British West Indies Regiment, and I included their stories in the commemorative booklet I wrote. In addition, I developed a portable exhibition that is currently touring at different venues in Birmingham, before it tours around the greater Midlands area. It was important for me to use the voices of the men where possible. Using the biographies and oral histories I discovered during my research, I produced a short DVD using newsreel of the period and photographs of the soldiers in action, and used diary excerpts, oral histories and poems that recounted their experiences. To end the project, we had an Evening of Remembrance at New Testament Church of God in Handsworth, where we remembered the fallen with prayers, song, dance and poetry, and featured Reverend Rose Hudson Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, as the keynote speaker. It was a wonderful evening that was streamed live to Jamaica, reaching beyond our British audience and making the event a truly international affair. In this way, we honoured these men for their sacrifices. We must always remember them. Angelina Osborne is an independent researcher and heritage consultant. She received her PhD in History from the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull in 2014. Her interests focus on Caribbean enslavement and plantation economy, planter interests and the study of proslavery discourses and rhetoric. She recently completed a project exploring the experiences of African and Caribbean soldiers who served in the First World War for Churches Together in England.
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