When we reflect on the recent events around the world; the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown period, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement also comes to mind. It seems the world was forced to become quiet and the voices of black people could finally be heard. People all over social media were having actual conversations about the things that have been happening for so long.
The #BlackLivesMatter protests around the world triggered a commitment among many individuals to educate themselves about Black history, heritage and culture – as part of understanding racism and standing in solidarity against it. If this commitment is to exceed social media and bring real change, everyone from all communities, need to embrace Black History Month as a starting point for discovering and celebrating Black history, heritage and culture – both past and present.
Black History Month is celebrated in the UK during the month of October and it is a time to look forward and celebrate the many achievements of Black people and the many possibilities that the future holds for our community. In previous years, October has been the only time of year when the UK talks about the achievements of Black people in Britain. Hopefully, the events of 2020 will be a catalyst for Black history to be shared much more widely – in museums, galleries, schools, universities, public spaces and communities.
Black people have always and will continue to make history, but it is very important that this same Black people take the lead on how that history is discovered, explored, researched, recorded, archived, curated, exhibited and shared. That means supporting Black-led heritage organisations and professionals; making national and local institutions much more accessible and representative; and empowering communities to define and share what Black history means to them.
Black history isn’t just a month to be ticked off a calendar dominated by a white-washed version of history. Black History Month 2020 is a time for people to come together and hopefully learn lessons for the present and the future. It’s a time to honour the commitment to learning and standing united against racism. It’s a time to reclaim history and restructure how our shared history will be told in the future. It is not just a time to celebrate Black people who have paved the way for us all to thrive, it is also a time to consider how we can create more justice in our daily lives and institutions. How can we create office environments in which the people sitting next to us from backgrounds that have historically been marginalized feel equal and valued?
During Black History Month, let us take a moment to reflect on our own biases, stereotypes, knowledge gaps, and relationships across racial difference so that we can play a role in creating a system in which inclusion, equity and social justice are at the forefront.