In the UK, October is Black History Month, a month to reflect on and celebrate Black history. Established in the mid-1980s, it was initially created as an annual celebration of the contributions of Africa and people of African descent to world civilization.
Black history is rich and should not just be limited to the transatlantic slave trade – it predates and extends beyond that. Especially as the UK becomes increasingly diverse, the contributions of black people to Britain in terms of sport, music, literature, our NHS, the arts and politics is something to admire and celebrate.
Sections of the Labour Party have played pivotal roles in establishing a UK Black History Month, with figures such as Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, the late Bernie Grant, Linda Bellos and Akyaaba Addai-Sebo all contributing. This is not surprising as the Labour Party historically has been an intersectional movement of solidarity between the working class and ethnic minorities.
My personal key takeaway from this year’s Black history Month is the pertinence of black people being able to have a voice and to be heard. For black people to be able to narrate their own stories; of joy and also pain, of triumph and not only struggle, and for our varied stories not to be repackaged into commodified trauma porn.
Over the month there has been a series of events across Lewisham, ranging from children’s reading and art workshops at the Migration Museum; to the interactive installation ‘A Caribbean Couturier’ in Lewisham, exploring the textile legacies of Windrush Generation women who made couture clothes at Lewisham shopping centre; to a talk held by Dr Julius Garvey, son of legendary human rights activist Marcus Garvey. Lewisham Council has also allocated almost £3,500 in grants funding to 11 community groups for the celebrations.
These events are part of Black History Lewisham 365, shifting towards a more comprehensive approach to black history. I’m glad that in the Borough of Lewisham, we are uplifting black voices and learning about black experiences throughout the year and not limiting learning to one month.
As Black History Month 2022 comes to an end, I hope that we all move towards this comprehensive approach and to continue to listen, learn and actively champion black voices over the next 12 months and beyond.
Cllr Yemisi Anifowose is a Labour Councillor in the Hither Green Ward