Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Black History Month: A Short Q&A

A researcher on a radio magazine show asked me some questions for a feature they were doing as a run up to Black History Month 2012. Copied below is the  Q&A

TAOBQ co-ordinator

Nosa Igbinedion's 'The Importance Of Black History?' documentary premieres Oct 23 2012 at King's Place. Click for more info. 25 Years On...is a Harrow African History Month event on Oct 30 2012, 6-9pm at Harrow Civic Centre, looking at the behind-the-scenes moves by the people who helped introduce Black History Month in Britain, and the selection and election of the first African British MPs, in 1987. Click for more info

1) Do you think that there is still a need for Black History Month?
Yes, but so long as it is about the HISTORY of people of African heritage, and not about just pure entertainment. Of course, we should learn about our history all year round and not wait for October. However, BHM is an opportunity to focus on our history as people African heritage within a set period and more importantly, and the whole community, not just Africans should be invited to attend events - after all, what's the point of learning about the pyramids, African scientists etc, and the wider community not being aware of African contributions, or that there have been and there are African scientists.

The whole point of Black History Month, which some us now prefer to call African History Month (AHM), came about as a way to highlight the contributions of people of African heritage to world civilisation and humanity, which is marginalised by mainstream education, and often undermined by the media, so that all, regardless of their ethnic background, would have a better understanding of the contributions of Africans. 

It was also to raise the self-esteem of African youths, and to empower them to reach their full potential with the knowledge of the achievements of their forefathers. So when  that's achieved will be when there is no longer a need for BHM. Check my post at http://newafricanperspective.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/open-letter-african-black-history-month.html.

2) Black History Month is 25 years old. How has it benefited the black community in that time?
I assume that by black, you mean Africans, or people of African heritage - I do not support the use of "black" to describe African people (for background, please check out www.TAOBQ.blogspot.com).

The African community should have benefited from a focus on its contribution to world development, rather than a focus on negative aspects.  This would have helped to instill pride, and also informed the wider community who are generally ignorant about Africa, Africans and their achievements and contributions beyond what is highlighted within sports, entertainment and the criminal justice system.

The lofty aims of BHM are seldom realised because many BHM events either focus on culture and/or entertainment, the enslavement period, or regurgitate the same world history centred around personalities mostly from outside Britain. Important as they are, we need to focus on history, and one that incorporates a British context.  Many people can name the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King of the US, or Mandela in South Africa - but how many notable Africans, barring entertainers and sports personalities, can we name from Britain?

We all seem to know about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956, but how many of us know of Paul Stephenson and the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963? Or Learie (later Lord) Constantine and his landmark ‘Color Bar’ legal case of 1943, after he had been refused accommodation by a London hotel. Do we know about the work of Dame Jocelyn Barrow^ in multicultural education and the efforts which led to the enactment of Britain’s Race Relations Acts, or the entrepreneurial flair of Dyke & Dryden, and the then teenaged Alexander Amosu, who developed multi-million businesses in hair and beauty, and ringtones?

3) Hillingdon Council scrapped Black History Month in the borough last year in favour of Hillingdon History Month, which is not black specific. Do you see this as proof that they do not respect the history of black people?
It's not that they do not respect the history of African people - it's that many of us have forgotten the reason why BHM was founded in this country. We don't seem to remember the tenets of the African Jubilee Year Declaration*,  which the Councils signed up to and  the way in which BHM was introduced through the Councils 25 years ago.

It would seem everyone, Africans and non-Africans alike, were happy with the jolly events that were put on as BHM. And not enough Africans engaged with local politics either as councillors or by attending community meetings to voice their opinions. So it was so easy to either cut, or divert funding for BHM to other things, like Hillingdon History Month. For this reason, I am facilitating the 25 Years On... event which will highlight 25 years since BHM was introduced to this country, and 25 years since the election of the first MPs of African heritage.

In a nutshell, the Declaration consisted of a number of commitments. These included the demonstration of anti-racist, anti-apartheid, and human rights policies. The Declaration also bound Councils to undertake to organise events that publicise, encourage and implement the tenets of the Declaration and to encourage other Councils and statutory bodies to do likewise. However although the Declaration did not have legal backing, it was underpinned by an important section in the 1976 Race Relations Act, which is extended in the post-Steve Lawrence Inquiry inspired 2000 Race Relations Amendment Act.

Hope that helps.

(c) 2012 Kwaku 

Our African History Month 2012 programme include:

25 Years On...
A Harrow African/Black History Month event marking the 25th anniversary of the introduction Black History Month in Britain and Labour Party’s Black Section’s success with the election of 4 African and Asian MPs in 1987. Panel includes Ansel Wong, Marc Wadsworth, Roger McKenzie. Chair: Kwaku. Presented by WHEAT MST in association with Akoben Awards
Tuesday Oct 30 2012, 6-9pm. Free.  wheatsmst@gmail.com, www.25yearson.eventbrite.com

Harrow Civic Centre, Station Road, Harrow, HA1 2XY

The First Grader
Screening a heart-warming film set in Kenya, though it has its heart-wrenching moments.  Kwaku leads a post-screening discussion on education and liberation struggles.
Friday Nov 9 2012, 6-8pm. Free. BTWSC in association with WSDG. To book: btwsc@hotmail.com, www.ahmfirstgrader.eventbrite.com
Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QP

Remembering Samuel Coleridge-Taylor  (15 Aug 1875 - 1 Sept 1912) - an African British musical genius & pan-Africanist also on:
Wednesday Oct 31 2012, 2.30-4pm. Streatham Library for Lambeth schools
Wednesday Oct 31 2012, 6.30-8.30pm. Putney Library, 5-7 Disraeli Road, SW15 2DR. 020 8871 7090
Thursday Nov 1 2012, 2.30-4pm. Brixton Library for Lambeth schools
For more information: Awula Serwah  btwsc@hotmail.com

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