An image with a yellow background and a deep red square taking up a large amount of space. On top of the red square is the text, 'How should we celebrate Black History Month?'. Next to the text is a collection of silhouettes of different faces, in alternating colours of green, red, yellow, and black.

How should we celebrate Black History Month?

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Black History Month in the UK is a time for celebrating Black culture, and we love to take part. But we also have complicated feelings about confining that celebration to just one month in the year. In this post, WODIN founder Julie Syl Kalungi weighs up the pros and cons.

October is Black History Month, and we’re grateful to have been invited to a host of different events celebrating and discussing Black culture.

Yet we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the idea of “Black History Month” — both the wonderful opportunities it brings and the potential downsides of confining celebration of Black history to a single month.

I’m of two minds. But let’s start with the positives, of course.

Black History Month is an important time to learn more about Black history, which is all too often erased from mainstream, media, history books, classes, and curriculums.

It’s vital that all members of our society understand the struggles that Black communities have faced historically and continue to face today, as well as the stories of great Black leaders, activists, artists, academics, scientists, etc, whose stories may have gone untold.

Working towards ending racism and engendering social equity is something that we at WODIN commit to all year round. That said, we also choose to take the opportunity this month to celebrate some of our Black-led partners, and share what they are doing to celebrate Black History Month this year: SAWN, MBS for BAME, COC, Black Initiative Alliance, Liverpool Commonwealth Association, and so many more.

On the other hand…

My view of Black History Month prior to the last three years was that it is a UK construct based on American Negro History Week. It sounded more like a band-aid for Caucasian leaders’, like a bone they throw to Black people to celebrate Black achievements one month out of the year.

Today, I look at it only marginally differently. I appreciate that Black History Month arose out of activism against racism. But I still find it a bit condescending that we are given just one month in a whole year to recognize and celebrate people of African descent and their contribution to British history. Meanwhile, we are continually undermined during every other month.

I also know that we are NOT Black. In Africa, you will not find a single human referred to as Black. We are simply human. It would be more appropriate to refer to us as People of African Descent. Irrespective of whether a person is American, European, or Caribbean… the origin is Africa. I would love if it was called African Peoples History Month. Africans do not celebrate one month of being African, because we celebrate being African every day of our lives. 

Happy Black History Month everybody! This celebratory month is a fraught and complicated concept, but while we have it, WODIN plans to use the month as productively as possible by celebrating the Black migrant women in our community. Then again… we do that every month 😉

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