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Black History Month – A Retrospect

Ruth Atkinson

As October comes to a close, it is a poignant time to reflect on Black History Month. As a celebration of Black history, achievement and scholarship, the annual event has been instigated by many communities and organisations across the UK Since 1987.  Inspiring the nation with otherwise fairly inaccessible information about Black role models, BHM has served as a platform for consciousness-raising and identity awareness. Over the past month Brighton has seen a variety of events taking place across the city, from photography exhibitions and writing workshops to family days, lectures and debates. A personal highlight was the showing of Restless City at the Duke of Yorks, a film put on as part of a series by Legacy Film Festival. Restless City is a gripping and thought-provoking insight into the life of a young Senegalese immigrant living in New York. Filmed with beautiful cinematography, I would highly recommend a viewing.

Aside from the cultural treats at hand, every year Black History Month provokes debate. Some argue that in modern Britain Black History Month is no longer important, while others criticise the ‘title’ or the fact that it only spans over a month. As part of BHM, Sussex politics society put on an inspirational talk ‘Do we still need black history’ by activist and ex- politician Linda Bellos. Bellos explained that ‘Black’ is a political term without a physical place or root; inclusive of Asian, African and African- Caribbean peoples. Acknowledging the problematic title, Bellos asserted that ‘Black’ and ‘Asian’ are terms imposed for divisional reasons, while the very notion of ‘race’ is ambiguous, meaningless, and scientifically futile. The event’s name, however, is not the important part of the month. It is the motivations and achievements that are the vital.

We- meaning everyone in the UK- need Black History Month because it deals with a part of British History overlooked by educational curriculums and excluded from media. There remains a convenient reluctance to include the very people that Britain has interacted with, exploited and invited over for labour purposes: an issue that BHM challenges. Yes, the aims of BHM should be inherent and integrated all year round, but until there are some serious changes, BHM remains a necessity. This October, as with every year of BHM, has offered an informative reflection of the real people living in Britain, acknowledging the sacrifices that have been made and celebrating diversity.

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