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05 October 2020 08:38

It is important that we reflect on this as we engage with Black History Month this year.

Why we need to make Black History Month last all year

Caller fears Black History Month will segregate people and 'makes racism worse' Stewart phoned in to Natasha Devon and as the conversation revolved around Black History Month, and argued that October doesn't need to be dedicated to this cause. "They are remembered and they are respected," he insisted, going on to note the British education system also contributes to a strong knowledge of black history. Black History Month is an American import, a concept brought to Britain in the 1980s. In the 1980s, everyone in Britain, including black people themselves, knew less about black British history than we do today. Back then, Black History Month events were more likely to remember Rosa Parks and the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott than they were to shine a light on the Bristol bus boycott and the British colour bar.

But while Black History Month was establishing itself as a new tradition, a parallel tradition was also developing. It has long been obligatory, it seems, for Black History Month to be dismissed and denounced in ways that would be utterly unimaginable for, say, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each year, it is labelled "politically correct" and in 2018 there were calls for it to be made into a broader celebration of wider diversity, effectively BAME History Month. The issue is that any proper debate about black history inevitably entails discussions of parts of the British past – slavery, imperialism, the development of racial thinking – that have long been brushed under the historical carpet. This means that once a year black Britons become the delivery system for parts of British history that many people are deeply uncomfortable discussing. Show Founded by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, the first Black History Month in the UK was celebrated in October 1987.

One of the key reasons for starting Black History Month in the UK was the under-representation of Black people in the mainstream British history taught in schools, and to ensure that the history and heritage of the African diaspora was preserved and celebrated. The same government that officially supports Black History Month has warned schools not to teach what it characterises as "victim narratives" that are supposedly "harmful to British society". Black History Month 2020 feels more confident and celebratory than those of previous years; the celebrations of 2018 and 2019 were muted affairs, coming as they did in middle of the Windrush scandal and its aftermath. After the summer of Black Lives Matter, it seems as if every institution and every company is determined to express its support for Black History Month. The scale of Black History Month, the fact that political leaders and huge corporations feel compelled to play a part and list their initiatives, is in itself an achievement, one that would have been unimaginable to the pioneers who put together the first programmes of talks and gatherings back in the 1980s.

Despite the gaffes and the sniping, Black History Month 2020 is infused with the spirit of this remarkable year, one in which millions of people have engaged with ideas of race and racism as never before. A year in which books on race and black British history have been in the bestseller lists and the concept of "anti-racism" has caught the imagination of the young. 2020 might therefore be the year in which Black History Month truly comes of age. The trail will introduce visitors to historic and modern day black people inspired by the exhibitions and displays across the galleries Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements and The Black History Month Trail introduces visitors to historic and modern day "With people and societies becoming more aware of the issue of the racial inequalities that exist, this year's Black History Month is a chance to promote education on this very important matter." The Bedford community celebrate diversity and its rich multicultural history and Black History Month is a time to turn the spotlight to the achievements of Black people and celebrate their contribution to the Borough. Dozens of people attended a symbolic ceremony at the 36m-long artwork on the first day of Britain's Black History Month on Thursday (October 1).

Annette Levy, Aspire spokesperson, said: "The move to have the Black History Mural listed is the latest in a history of our struggle: it was the Black Diaspora of Reading that came together in a series of meetings to raise awareness and organise; the Black Diaspora that marched on the council; the Black Diaspora organised petitions; the Black Diaspora that submitted the Asset of Community Value (ACV) application; and it is the Black Diaspora that now leads with the push for National Listing." "I am delighted that on the first day of Black History Month we can announce that Heritage England is already in the process of considering the mural for listing to give it a national level layer of protection. Reading Borough Council leader Jason Brock said: "The council fully supports this application made to Historic England to list our town's historic, unique and much-loved black history mural. The social climate in which we approach Black History Month this year is different from previous years'. The Black Lives Matter protests have thrown a spotlight on the systemic racism and racial inequality that blights the opportunities of black people. It is important that we reflect on this as we engage with Black History Month this year.

Over the years, having this designated month has ensured that many of us acknowledge, learn and celebrate black history. Black people and white Britons were interacting long before colonialism, before race was a concept and stories of Africans as "uncivilised" peoples were circulated to justify the slave trade. In fact, black people have been living in Britain for more than 1,700 years – before the Germanic tribes the Angles and the Saxons, from whom the English were originally descended, arrived. While we continue to celebrate Black History Month to ensure that black voices are not silenced and achievements are not ignored – reducing the risk of these stories being forgotten – we can simultaneously find ways to embed black history into our curriculum throughout the year. This means considering where the curriculum can be enriched by including the contributions of black people, as well as reflecting on how colonisation and our telling of it has continued to sideline and negate the black experience.