October 2020: Black History Month is a time for celebration and reflection

Charmaine Murray, who works at LGA and is a member of our BAME staff network, tells us why Black History Month is important to her.

Photo of local piano tutor and students 1962 Ladbroke Grove, West London
Local piano tutor and students 1962 (Ladbroke Grove, West London) ©

I’ve never written a blog before, but I thought Black History Month (BHM) would be as good a time as any to make my first attempt. I recently asked a few friends what BHM meant to them.

They told me:

I would say Black history month is really important to the black community and not just for us but for everyone really because it lets people know all the great things that African Caribbean people have done in the past, the present and it's great to highlight that.”  - Jamila

“It is a focal month in which to highlight the richness of Black Culture, history, achievements and general contribution to the world. It gives Black people recognition and acknowledgement and the opportunity to share and teach our history, culture etc...” - Andrea (1)

“I sit on the fence as it was not about when I was at school, however it stands as a reminder to acknowledge your history, take the greatness out of it and not hold on tightly to slavery days.” – Jacks

“A chance for the Black British voice, to stand alone proud in our achievements…. Black history month in the UK, dispels that falsehood, yet at the same time reveals our connection to the wider diaspora…”  Andrea (2)

For me, during Black History Month the community becomes more vibrant. Councils, libraries, community centres, local radio stations, independent cinemas, and local businesses put on events for all to get involved with. 2020 will be different, but do joint in any virtual events that might be going ahead, if you can.

Black History Month is more than just about the slave trade, but through that history it has led me to discover important historical figures such as Charles Ignatius SanchoSarah Forbes Bonetta, Olaudah Equiano, Francis Barber and Dido Elizabeth Belle. All of these people lived very interesting lives and contributed a lot to our understanding of black history in Britain. This month is about sharing our experiences and passing knowledge on to the younger generations, and books such as Black and British by David Olusoga,100 Great Black Britons by Patrick Vernon/Angelina Osborne and Black Tudors  by Miranda Kaufman are great ways to do this.

The American experience is widely known, but not the UK’s. Black History Month in the UK sheds a light on the British experience and those who have influenced and are influencing: Malorie Blackman, Sam King, Stuart Hall, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Baroness Lawrence, and George the poet to name a few.

"Important", “richness”, “greatness” and “proud” are a few of the powerful words that my friends have used to describe Black History Month, and those words embrace how I feel.  

As a Black Briton of West Indian parents from the Windrush generation (my mum is in the photo above), Black History Month for me is a mixture of celebration and reflection. Celebration of the achievements and contribution of generations of Black people in the UK, and reflection on the changes that have come about and changes that still need to happen.