By Victoria Olawoyin

In the UK, October marks Black History Month (BHM), an annual celebration of the history, achievements, and contributions of Black people in the UK.

BHM in the UK was first celebrated in October 1987, through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway.

Given the tragic and traumatic events over the last 18 months, it is important now more than ever that we promote Black History, culture, and heritage, as well as the positive contributions of Black Britons.

BHM means a lot to me because it’s a time of celebration. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate our achievements and contributions to the UK. While it is important that we never forget the very real realities of antiblack racism, that isn’t the whole story, it also isn’t what defines us as a community. From politics, film, popular culture, music and of course, food, our influence is far and wide.

People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries, however sadly UK history is dominated by those of Anglo descent. Notable Black figures throughout history are often overlooked, ignored, and erased from history.

BHM ensures that their contributions are not forgotten or erased, so that generations to come understand the contributions and impact of Black people to society and wider culture – only with a fuller and more accurate picture can we fully understand British history.

Cundall, like many other organisations, have made public pledges to be an anti-racist organisation, and while this is a month of celebration, BHM should always include three very key components:

  1. The celebration and recognition of Black history, notable figures, and recognition of Black colleagues  
  2. Recognising marginalised narratives
  3. Addressing antiblack narratives and cultures within your organisation

All three are essential for any real impact because credibility and trust are earnt over time, not just by words, but by actions. Black History and recognising the lived experiences of your Black colleagues should not just be shoehorned into the month of October, never to be seen or heard from again. Continued conversation, collaboration, and action beyond October is the only way that tangible and long-term change will be implemented within our industry.

My hope is that amongst all the celebrations and events, we will be ready as a society for overdue conversations in which we can really examine inequality in all its forms. I am also hopeful that we will move away from the performative allyship often seen during BHM and embrace true allyship that doesn’t need a label and means we all work together to confront the evils of racial injustice.

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diversity and inclusion, Victoria Olawoyin

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