Black History Month blog

The Importance of Black History Month

Celebrating people of African and Caribbean backgrounds is a big part of Black History Month, a celebration that is usually commemorated in the month of October in Europe. Following the increased attention of movements such as Black Lives Matter sparked by the death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become quite clear that black people’s value and contribution to society is merely overlooked or altered by the media.

Black History Month dates all the way back to the 1920s, motivated by historian Carter G. Woodson, who ambitiously wanted to challenge assumptions at the time whilst preserving African-American history in the US. The UK adapted Black History Month a long time after in the 80s, which focused more on challenging racism and educating the Black community and others about aspects of British history that were not taught in schools.

It is great to see how Black History Month is starting to be more widely celebrated in various communities, with the movement becoming more prominent in the UK after the past couple decades. The Department for Education states that black history is an important topic and schools have the freedom to teach it, but is this enough? Is this freedom of teaching such a large portion of modern history doing something actually progressive, or should it be made compulsory? These are some of the outstanding questions a lot of people of colour in the UK are asking the Department of Education, and is it valid criticism? I believe so.

Speaking as someone of mixed Caribbean ethnicity, a lot of black and mixed race people in the UK find it difficult establishing or embracing their identity due to lack of representation in the UK, even if it is finally starting to progressively get better. I grew up in a middle-class secondary school where I remember a very small percentage of pupils were people of colour, making the process of integrating with people of different cultures a challenge for some students. Sometimes I dwell on what an impact learning more about black history in my school might have done for us, maybe making it easier for white students to identify cultural differences and when they are contributing to covert racism. Nonetheless, I’m glad to see changes starting to be implemented in the workplace and in schools.

Although in this post I am primarily talking about schools that do not actively include a healthy amount of promoting learning black history in their curriculum, it is truly appreciated from black communities to the schools that do. If you are a teacher that is advocating or promoting an inclusive environment for all your students wherever they come from, you are appreciated. Shortly after the outcry following the death of George Floyd, many communities in the UK were appealing and petitioning to change the curriculum to include black history in the UK, however all were rejected fairly quickly. This fantastic article is a great insight into how a lack of representation in British history lessons can contribute to identity crisis for many young black people in the UK.

It is important to reflect on the achievements and contributions to the social, political, cultural and economic developments of the UK to help empower black communities in this country, and remember, being pro-black doesn’t equate to being anti-white. Although I’ve only focused on one minority group in this blog, there are several that also need to be given the limelight, such as people of Chinese descent and the exploitation of workers in China. We here at 1decision try and consistently teach young people that we are unique individuals, regardless of what history shows us.

If you are a teacher reading this, we hope this little piece of text might motivate you to make a difference within your school.

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