Written by Nadjah Osman and Diontre Davis
Nadjah Osman UK Chair and Diontre Davis US Chair of the advisory board, share their reflections of UK Black History month.
What does Black History Month mean for the USA?
Diontre: Just like in the UK, Black History month in the UK is centered on being proud to be Black. Black History Month is a means to honor the achievements of key Black figures and celebrate the impact African-Americans have had in the USA’s history beyond the legacy of slavery.
What do young people in the UK and the USA really want during this month?
Diontre: Young people both in the US and UK desire to have Black History seen and acknowledged outside of the realm of trauma. Black History Month inspires Black youths to have pride in their culture and themselves. Pride to express themselves and accomplish whatever goals they possess.
Nadjah: Personally, I would like a greater reflection of the richness of the Black experience continentally and internationally. To delve more deeper into the global black history for example the examination of African leaders such as Thomas Sankhara President of Burkina Faso, who spearheaded women’s rights in all part of society, Julius Nyerere and what he achieved for Tanzania and Kwame Nkrumah role in inspiring other African nations to seek independence and pursue pan-Africanism. Black history is incredibly rich and I would prefer a representative of this richness in what is presented as Black History and how it is taught.
Should there be a Black History Month?
Diontre: Absolutely! There are many historical facts, figures, and unsung heroes that are mis-represented or are not even mentioned at all in the education system of both the US and the UK. Of course, it is necessary to reveal each of these items throughout the year, Black History Month in particular should be treated as a space for people to actively learn more about the Black Diaspora and recognize the impact of those within the Diaspora have had not only on the US and the UK, but on the world.
Nadjah: Definitely, the purpose and role of Black History Month in the UK and USA highlights our histories in ways that are not highlighted in other months of the year. The sole focus on our history enables us to draw the connections between the past and today and appreciate the strength, foresight and ambition of the generations prior. Enabling all of us to understand the role of trailblazers in shaping the world and the freedoms we enjoy today.
What is its relevance to the youth?
Diontre: Black youths in the US and the UK are constantly reminded of the trauma and hardships of the legacy slavery. While this is important to continuously acknowledge, only focusing on this aspect of the Black experience can expose Black youths to constant forms of microaggressions and “lead to depression, hypervigilance, chronic stress and fatigue, bodily inflammation and symptoms similar to post traumatic stress disorder.” This can also cause feelings of inferiority to other racial groups and even a lack of self-worth as a human being. Focusing on positive aspects of Black History is just as important, if not more, than the impact of trauma because it can empower youth to have a strong sense of identity and the confidence to leave a legacy of their own.
Nadjah: The relevance of Black History Month to young people is immense. As a Dutch Londoner with multiple cultural influences within my family, this month reinstates pride in being Black and the rich history within the global Black community. The societal focus on the month always illuminates new individuals and their contribution to economic, social, political, creative and sports spheres/ fields in ways we would not find out otherwise. However, the North American and Caribbean focus on Black British History overlooks rich Black History that spans across Europe, Africa. Middle East, Asia, South America. As a Dutch young person in London, black histories similar to mine are overlooked. The role of Black Europeans in European continent has been immense and understanding this history will enrich the understandings and perceptions of Black history. For folks who have multiple cultural influences in their background Black History month overlooks this richness in the Black experience in the UK.
Should Black History Month be used to celebrate Black History or recognize Black people and their continued fight for equity and social justice?
Diontre: Both actions are necessary to fully convey the significance of Black History Month. Black History month is necessary to look back into and acknowledge the continued fight for equity and social justice all across the Black Diaspora. It is also a time to highlight Black leaders and their accomplishments.
Nadjah: Black History month can be used to celebrate both Black History and Black people’s continued fight for equity and social justice as both are inherently intertwined. The role of trailblazers and their efforts cannot be understood with the historical understanding of previous generations’ fight for equity and social justice.