Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Angela M (CEO of IBHM-UK) explains the origins of Black History Month UK and how to celebrate it.
October 1st marks the start of Black History Month UK, observed since 1987, it is a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of African and Caribbean heritage peoples to UK culture and history.
What is Black History Month UK?
Black History Month UK was the brainchild of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council. He wanted to boost the self-esteem of Black British children and young adults by educating on them on the achievements of Black people living in the UK.
Taking inspiration from Black History Month (also known as African-American History Month) in the United States. The first official event took place on 1st October 1987 at County Hall. The keynote speaker was ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) deputy leader Bernard Wiltshire and presentations were made by American historian Dr Maulana Karenga and Kenyan women’s activist Wanjiru Kihoro.
It has since evolved into a national movement that is observed throughout the UK. It is also recognised in other parts of world during October in Ireland and the Netherlands. In the US, where Black History Month originated, the awareness month is held in February. It is also celebrated in Canada during the month of February, where it was officially recognised in 1995.
Why we celebrate Black History Month UK 2020?
Did you know that there has been a Black presence in the UK since Roman Times? Or that there were Black Tudors, Stuarts and Georgians? Black History Month is our chance to celebrate these unsung heroes of Black British history whose contributions have for too long been ignored and forgotten.
Black History Month provides you with the chance to find out more about Black Britain’s rich and varied long history dating back to antiquity times. It’s a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Britons who helped to shape the country amongst the Black British community and widen UK population.
It also provides us with a space to tackle racism heads-on by encouraging government, institutions and corporations to embrace and adopt equality and diversity policies.
What is the theme of Black History Month UK 2020?
2020 is the year the world finally started talking about race and anti-black racism. The brutal murder of George Floyd in the United States by police generated shock waves across the globe and lead to thousands of people taking to the streets to demand an end to racism.
Here in the UK, young activists took to the streets to demand an end to racial inequality in education, health and employment. Sparking important conversations over Britain’s colonial past and its role in the Atlantic Slave Trade within government, business and the media.
This October we’re going to take a look back at the Black British activists of the 1960s and 1980s who used ‘Non-Violent Civil Disobedience’ to help achieve racial equality in the UK. Shining a light on the Civil Rights activists behind the Bristol Bus Boycott and the Lewisham Mums against SUS laws who paved the way for today’s young Black British activists.
How will we commemorate it in 2020?
Black History Month is a great opportunity for people from all backgrounds to educate themselves on Black British history and the often-overlooked people who have made a difference to the country.
Check the www.ibhm-uk.org website for ideas on how you can celebrate UK’s Black History Month at home with friends and families.
Alternatively, check your local authority website for news on any exhibitions or events. Or the websites of your local museum or other local cultural institutions for any special events they may be running to mark the occasion.