Black History Month is an annual celebration in October in the UK, in raising awareness of all the extraordinary talents, inventions, knowledge, power, strength, and dedication throughout African American and Afro-Caribbean history.
It is essential that young people are made aware of cultural importance. Knowing your history culture and those of others, helps build a sense of belonging, personal growth, and the capacity to empathize and associate with others.
‘A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots’ Marcus Garvey.
The more young people know about their culture and history the more confident they will feel about embracing different points of views and different ways of life.
Teaching children about other cultures helps them understand the world around them; it helps them to become more open minded and compassionate adults. It helps them realise how different cultures may approach things in different ways but we often share the same basic values and desires.
Black History and culture is all about a combination of the exquisite food, dance, arts, music, and inventions and much more, African art gives children the appreciation for shapes, colours and design.
African music is a form of communication and plays a functional role in African society. They use this to tell stories and for teaching about rhythm and patterns in music this is a key part in children’s development.
Here are a few Famous Black inventors of things that are essential to our everyday life:
- Lloyd Ray- Dust pan + Brush
- Lonnie Johnson- Water Gun
- Thomas Stewart- Mop
- John Standard- Fridge
- Alexander Miles- Automatic Elevator Doors
- Walter Sammons- Combs
- George Crum – Crisps / Potato chips
- George Carver- Peanut butter
- Lewis Latimer- Light Bulb and Telephone
- Sarah Boone- Iron Board
Let us not forget there are many Black musicians, notably Bob Marley, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and many more that have made a significant impact in that music industry and well respected throughout popular culture.
In terms of literature the most famous Black Author/ poet- Maya Angelou, Phillis Wheatley- published 1st book as a slave.
Nevertheless the most famous black people who have made a difference in the world are Oprah Winfrey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King.
Because of these pioneers/trailblazers, young black people can aspire to do anything they want without any stigma attached.
There is a feeling amongst the young black community that Black History Month is irrelevant as they believe that, “slavery and racism is over so it doesn’t matter anymore” or that they feel “uncomfortable and shame” about a black history narrative that only focuses on the painful parts of black history including slavery, segregation and the civil rights movements with few mentions of the empowering feats of our ancestors (both pre and post slavery).
With an ever-growing disaffected and disengaged youth, we need (more than ever) to give them a reason for them to feel proud, a reason for them to hold their heads up and actually feel that they have worth, this can only be achieved through educating the masses throughout the year and not just in a month.
There is an African Proverb states, “when an elder dies a library burns down with it,” the passing of many 1st Generation elders from the Windrush means that there are fewer opportunities to learn our history first hand.
Observing Black achievements as part of history will not only show young black people that we can be more than singers, performers and athletes but also hopefully show this to the nation, breaking down stereotypes that have for too long plagued our community.
Morgan Freeman once said “I don’t want Black History Month , black history is American History, I would go one step further and say that Black History is world history as there are countless contributions to Britain (and the world) made by black inventors, scholars and leaders that haven’t been duly acknowledged Black history has played a crucial role in British History from the times of the Romans, to Britain’s involvement in the slave trade, to the development of the “British Empire”, to the re-building of Britain after the Second World War. I believe it is time for black history to be enshrined within British history and not treated in isolation.”
It is time Black History took its place in history; no longer a topic studied in the month of October but embedded in the curriculum and given national heritage status.