October 1st to October 31st. Black History Month.
Every year, it is met with the same claim that it is somehow unfair that black history gets its own month, an argument almost as ignorant as the phrase "All Lives Matter". Perhaps what creates conflict around Black History Month in the UK is not the fact that we celebrate inspirational black figures, although this sometimes plays a part, but that the celebrations lead to conversations on topics that we, as a country, would rather not talk about - slavery, imperialism and the rest of Britain’s racist, white-washed history.
The existence of Black History Month in Britain is relatively recent, it was only in 1987 that local authorities in London began putting on events to celebrate black contributions to Britain. When people tell the story of the black presence in the UK, they often begin with the arrival of the Windrush but black people have been living here for centuries.
I recently learnt that when slavery ended, slave owners were reimbursed for their "loss of property" and that debt was so high it was still being paid off up until 2015 through our taxes. Until five years ago, many black people were still paying taxes for the freedom of their ancestors. They had to pay a tax for their own freedom. The fact that my parents, grandparents and their parents, in turn, may have been paying for a giant slave-owner compensation package from the 1830s, leaves me speechless. And after the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, I felt that I had to do something and take action.
I realised that we need to accept as a society that black history is history. Black beauty is beauty. Black culture is culture. Black people are people. We need to start from the beginning, rewriting and correcting as we go. We must learn about the stories of black people in the past to stop the oppression of black people today and in the future. In my opinion, Black Lives Matter means nothing without Black History Matters, Black Beauty Matters and Black Culture Matters behind it.
Taking small steps brings us closer to a better future. It shouldn’t be that black children have to educate their classmates about wearing cornrows, touching their afro hair or singing songs with the N-word in. These are really, really interesting videos/ articles and I would really recommend watching them if you want to learn about cultural appropriation, black strength and beauty, racial slurs and microaggressions. I would also recommend looking at Ms Green’s Black History reading list there are some very good reads on there.
Thank you for reading and Happy Black History Month!