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Blog Posts (57)
- Celebrating Global Black History Month(s) and UK Pride Month
The first of February marks the start of Black History Month in several countries including the USA, Canada, and Germany. And the start of Pride month in the UK too! This February, we want you to join us in exploring the history behind the country that started Black History Month and learn about the Black Britons who have led the way in LGBT+ history in the UK. Remember, you can explore Black British History beyond a designated month and we’re committed to helping you on your journey of learning more about UK Black History throughout the year. Start your journey now by checking our any of the Bio Short articles below or reading our features our features. Alternatively, why not play our Global Black History quiz with your friends too! Check out our social media accounts or subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter for regular updates!
- Justin Fashanu – the first openly gay male professional footballer
Justinus Soni ‘Justin’ Fashanu was born on the 19 February 1961 and was the son of a Nigerian barrister living in the UK and a Guyanese nurse called Pearl. He and his younger brother John Fashanu were placed into a Barnardo’s children’s home when their parents split up. When Justin was six, he and his brother were fostered by a couple called Alf and Betty Jackson and were brought up in Shopham, Norfolk. Justin excelled at boxing as a youth and for a time considered becoming a boxer before turning his attention to footballing. He was spotted by a Norwich City football club scout whilst playing in a school football match in 1974. Soon after, Fashanu joined the Norwich City football academy and turned professional in December 1978. He made his league debut on 13 January 1979, against West Bromwich Albion, and became a regular fixture of the team. In 1980, he won the BBC Goal of the Season award, for a spectacular goal against Liverpool that has been described by football pundits as one of the greatest goals ever scored at Norwich City. He managed a total of 103 senior appearances for Norwich, scoring 40 goals. While at the club Fashanu was capped six times for the under-21 England team, scoring five goals in eleven games. In August 1981, he signed for Nottingham Forest, becoming Britain’s first £1 million Black footballer. But he struggled to replicate his form at the club, partly because of the strained relationship with Nottingham Forest manager Brian Cough over his sexuality and lifestyle. Clough barred him from training with his teammates after learning of Justin’s homosexuality. Fashanu was frozen out of the first team and sent on loan to Southampton. He was eventually sold to Nottingham Forest’s rivals Notts County for just £100,000. Justin went on to play for a variety of clubs until retiring from the game in 1997. In October 1990, fearing that he was about to be outed by a national newspaper, Justin Fashanu came out as gay via an interview with the tabloid newspaper The Sun. In doing so, he became the first openly gay professional footballer in the UK until Jake Daniels in 2022 (yes, that long!). Although Fashanu claimed that he was generally well accepted by his fellow players, he freely admitted that they would often joke maliciously about his sexual orientation, and he also became the target of constant crowd abuse because of it. Justin committed suicide in May 1998. In 2017, Netflix released a film about him called ‘Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story’ and was inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2020. His legacy lives on through the work of LGBT+ campaigners, the Justin Campaign and The Justin Fashanu Foundation, founded by his niece Amal Fashanu. Sources: https://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/halloffame/justin-fashanu/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Fashanu
- Pearl Alcock - the outsider artist who provided a queer safe space for London’s Black gay community
Pearl Alcock was born Pearlina Smith in 1935, in the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Little is known about her life before she came to England, but it’s thought that she grew up in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, and that she was married to a French-Canadian man. At the age of 25, she migrated to Leeds as part of the Windrush generation with just five pounds in her pocket. She initially worked as a maid and then found factory work until she saved up £1000 to be able to open her own shop in London. Sometime in the early 1970s, she launched a bridal shop on Railton Road in Brixton, London. Within a few years, she had opened a sheeben – an unlicensed bar – in the shop’s basement. Pearl’s sheeben became the only queer safe space for London’s Black gay community in the 1970s. At the time when the community experienced racism within the predominately white gay scene. In a Gal-Dem article on Pearl Alcock: “Longtime friend of Pearl, Dirg Arab Richard, described her as ‘kind and generous’ person, always ‘full of laughs.’ When Dirg knew her, she was very much out and proud – he remembers her proudly proclaiming “I’m bisexual ya know!” to a straight friend of his. She was forced to close her sheeban after the police started targeting them following the election of the Thatcher government in 1979. By 1981, Pearl’s shop had ceased trading because of the reduced number of customers due to the first Brixton Uprising. Undeterred, Alcock opened a café next door at 105 Railton Road in a building owned by relatives of hers. “The cafe wasn’t particularly grand or fancy, but that was part of its charm; it was a “safe haven”, according to Dirg Aab Richards. You’d be there, packed in like sardines with a bunch of other people from the local community who were mostly West Indian.” The 1985 Brixton uprising brought more financial hardship culminating to a period of the cafe running by candlelight as the electricity was shut off. The café eventually shut down at the end of that year. Pearl’s journey with art began that same year when she was unable to afford a birthday card for a friend, so she drew one, using crayons and packaging from women’s tights. Spurred on the positive reaction from her friend, she started making bookmarks and selling them for a pound each using any free materials she could find. In an interview with Mark Kurlansky in 1991, she told him that: “Everything I [got], I was scribbling on. The receipts at the cafe. Everything… I couldn’t stop working.” Alcock started to gain recognition from the art world in the late 1980s with the support of her friends, who brought her art materials and purchased some of her early work. “As Pearl’s work got more attention, she moved onto bigger pieces. She flitted between the abstract style of her paintings that were beginning to be shown in galleries, and a more commercial aesthetic, like making postcards to sell under railway arches.” By the late 1980s, her art was being exhibited in the 198 Gallery, the Almeida Theatre and the Bloomsbury Theatre. Then in 1990 her work was included in the London Fire Brigade calendar. But it wasn’t until a year before her death in 2006 that Pearl’s work started to gain mainstream recognition, being shown in the Tate Britain as part of their ‘Outsider Art’ exhibition in 2005. Monika Kinley, one of the country's leading advocates of Outsider Art, describes her as "a visual poet". In 2019, she was the subject of a year-long retrospective at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Pearl Alcock is an important figure in both Black British art and Britain’s Black LGBTQ+ community. A fearless, pioneer who provided a safe haven to queer Black Britons in the 1970s. Pearl kept making work until she died aged 72, on 7 May 2006 in St George’s Residence Housing Co-op – coincidently not too far away from where her infamous sheeben was. Sources: https://gal-dem.com/remembering-pearl-alcock-black-bisexual-shebeen-queen-of-brixton/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_Alcock#cite_note-Kurlansky1992-4 https://www.whitworth.manchester.ac.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/pastexhibitions/pearlalcock/
Other Pages (28)
- Black History Month UK 2022 Theme - SHARING JOURNEYS
- Black History Month UK 2022 - About Us
About Us Our Mission To become the leading independent body documenting and celebrating Black British achievements in the UK by encouraging African and Caribbean heritage peoples, to learn together about their shared history and to share this with each other and the widen UK population. Our Mission Who are we? The International Black History Month UK (IBHM-UK) organisation was created in June 2020 by a group of Black Britons with a passion for investigating and curating the hidden and forgotten stories of Britain’s black past. We're committed to raising the profile of Black History Month UK amongst the Black British community and the wider UK population. Our mission is to lead the direction of Black History Month UK and ensure that it exists as a vibrant starting point that educates people on the achievements and contributions African and Caribbean heritage peoples have made to the UK’s history and culture. We are a local community group, and all monies raised are used to support the administration of the organisation and delivery of our projects. We champion Black British voices and are one of the main custodians of documenting Black British history. Why we do it? 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. International Black History Month is also recognised in Ireland, Italy, Germany and Netherlands in October and Canada in February. For regular updates follow us on or subscribe to our newsletter add email address We Need Your Support Today! Volunteer
- Black History Month UK - Black British Firsts
Black British Firsts H to M Ivory Bangle Lady 350-400A Steve McQueen John London 1905-1966 Claudia Jones 1915-1964 Bobby Joseph Olive Morris 1952-1979 Bill Morris Ivory Bangle Lady 350-400A Jimmy Peters 1879-1954 Mo Ibrahim Stuart Hall 1932-2014 Una Marson 1905-1965 Dr Harold Moody 1882-1947 Jessica Huntley 1927-2013 John La Rose 1927-2006 Back to Black British Firsts page We Need Your Support Today! Volunteer