Its October again.

Black history month 2021 has come around even quicker this year, is it me or do the red skies at night the green grass and yellow leaves have a “red, gold and green feel?”

Nah it’s just me….

Working in education every academic year has a pattern, enrolment, orientation, UCAS forms, Christmas, (weight gain) Mock exams, Double bank holidays, Easter, (chocolate) Exams, finance review, (get in shape) summer, & enrolment.  The circle of life as Mufasa said to Simba.  (one for the kids)

So being black in October has now become a thing, in-between orientation of new students and some thinking about UCAS applications we must recognise the impact of black people across the world.  The degree of recognition of black people during black history month has varied from

“Jerk Chicken with Mango salsa and rice with (wait for it) garden peas*, Steel pans and Hawaiian shirts, to a formal discussion about the impact of black British sports men and women and the emergence of pop culture from the black community.

From those extremes you can tell that there are gaps in the level of what is acceptable over the month of October.

Why October?

Let’s start at the beginning Black history month was originated in America in 1926 by American historian Carter G Woodson to celebrate the contributions of black Americans. The month was February as this coincided with the birthdays Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas

In 1987 Ghanaian born Akyaaba Addai Sebo founded the UK version and chose the month of October for 2 reasons

  1. Traditionally African chiefs settled their differences in October
  2. The beginning of the new academic year, October would give Black children a sense of pride and identity.” (The Barnet Group, n.d.)

Let us all focus on the last point, “give black children a sense of pride and identity” Now I get if you have never tried the wonders of Jerk Chicken and have never joined the debate of who makes the best Jollof Rice  ( Ghana or Nigeria) Ghana,  every time( that’s just me)  then the food discovery theme has a place in October if the traditions of the food is respected* see garden peas* (kidney beans, black eye peas)

Pride and identity are so powerful for all people but resonates with young people as they navigate who they are in society and where they fit in.

If we can help inspire a young black person to have a greater sense of pride, that people that look like them and sound like them can contribute to shaping this country and the world that we live in, we have truly embraced black history month.

So, if I am new to delivering materials for black history month and want avoid the Civil Rights Movement theme (which is incredibly relevant and poignant) or Apartheid South Africa which again holds relevance today, and shapes the thinking of modern Britain

I need to acknowledge black British history as British history and the fabric of this country is woven with the impact of black people through Arts, Academia, Health and Science. (to name a few) We need to acknowledge Black excellence in all walks of life as so much as been done in the past which has shaped our future.

When we acknowledge these everyday local heroes, we plant a seed of pride inside every young person who then grow to share their fruit of knowledge to their peers and the wider community, A true harvest of pride and identity.

  Ahhhh now that’s why its October…

**materials for Black History month can be found at the education toolkit Inclusive Education Toolkit – Black Leaders

Written by Marvin Smith Marvin Smith | LinkedIn

Black Leaders Core Team Member