“Black History Month affords the black community an opportunity to carve out safe spaces to not only have these uncomfortable conversations among themselves but also, importantly, keep the door open for allies—irrespective of race— to participate.

It is a time to show off and celebrate, too: the black community is not homogenous or one-dimensional and, all-too-often, outside of the confines of Black History Month diverse perspectives and nuanced arguments are conspicuously absent. This is one reason why Black History Month should be a misnomer and become a year-long occurrence.

“I haven’t always been enthused by Black History Month. If I’m honest, when I was younger, I cringed and was embarrassed at the very notion; borne out of humble beginnings, what was on offer appeared amateurish and put together on a shoestring.

Every year it seemed that it began and ended with one person: Mary Seacole. Fast forward several years: diehards, to their credit, persevered. Injections of cash from local authorities and charitable funding has greatly improved the substance and range of programmes.

Also, importantly, greater access to archives has enabled researchers to unearth what I coin “hidden histories; untold stories; and marginalized voices”. Whatever an individual’s interests—with hundreds of events crammed into the month of October—there is literally something for everybody.

“Now, a reconstructed advocate of Black History Month, I believe this year the event has taken on even greater significance. It is unfortunate, though, that George Floyd’s death has given Black History Month additional impetus.

Hopefully, the tragedy will be regarded as a teachable moment and medium through which different life experiences will no longer be dismissed as a group having ‘a chip on their shoulders’ but can broaden our understanding and ability to contextualise the complex, racially antagonist world in which we live.

“As a child of the Windrush Generation who faced immeasurable adversity as ‘immigrants’ it may be part of my genetic make-up to, perhaps subconsciously, choose not to take the path of least resistance. It necessitates drowning out noise generated by naysayers who, every year it seems, feel emboldened to display their resentment widely across social media platforms at the very existence of Black History Month and demand, ‘What about White History Month?’—as if one were needed.”

Sonia Grant, independent historian and author


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