Black History Month

Megan Rowe
October 6 2022
October marks Black History Month in the UK. Black history in the UK is often overlooked, particularly within the British education system, despite having played a fundamental part of British history for thousands of years. Black History Month gives us the opportunity to educate and celebrate the importance and impact of this heritage and culture that is so often overlooked. But why should we limit that to one specific month?
This year, Black History Month Magazine have launched the theme ‘Time for Change: Actions not Words’, and are calling on people across the UK to "tackle racism, reclaim Black history, and ensure Black history is represented and celebrated all year round”. A big focus of this theme is allyship, the idea of “moving beyond short-term or performative gestures and taking real, long-term action. In the workplace, in places of education and learning, and in the public sphere, this means having policies in place that achieve real outcomes.  As an individual, it means actually practising what you preach.”
In this week’s Red Talks podcast, Matt and Megan chatted to Asma Shah, founder of You Make It - a charity that works to empower young unemployed women from Black and Asian backgrounds with the confidence, skills, networks, knowledge, and experiences needed to realise their passions and pursue their goals. You Make It run and deliver a powerful anti-racism allyship programme. During the podcast, Asma explained how the programme is aimed at employers who want to become allies in the fight against racism, but that it’s unique in the fact that it takes a very human centred approach. Having in the past worked herself for companies that externally celebrate diversity, but behind the scenes are in fact the polar opposite, Asma wanted to tackle this attempt at virtue signalling in the workplace. Instead, her programme is “very much designed to change the hearts and minds of people who take part in it, when they consider race and white privilege”. In order to implement such change, Asma believes you have to “make sure that some of your employees go through some really uncomfortable work on themselves”.
We couldn’t agree more – and, as a purely white organisation (not by design) are keen to participate in the programme and help implement change ourselves. This takes us back to the theme for this Black History Month, ‘Time for Change: Actions not Words’, which Black History Month magazine used to call on people to “reset your mind and support us with actions, not words”.
In addition to calling on businesses and large corporate organisations to implement real change, we also want to look at our education and learning system. In 2013, former education secretary Michael Gove removed Britain’s history of colonialism and slavery from the national curriculum’s compulsory section. Such a decision, which essentially made teaching and educating on Black history optional, received widespread criticism and has since been reversed by the Welsh Government. However, few schools in the rest of the UK have made the move to incorporate it into the syllabus.
During the podcast, we discussed how early perceptions of oneself can have a strong impact later in life, and the need to see oneself represented and recognised within society. For young children, embedding Black history in the national curriculum is imperative to achieving this. Asma was quick to point out that: “Successive governments…have not wanted to teach the true history of British colonialism, the roots of racism, they’ve continuously wanted to leave that out of the curriculum”.
Earlier this week, on National Teacher’s Day, Sir Lenny Henry began backing a Daily Mirror campaign calling for the teaching of Black history to be made compulsory in our schools, stating that it’s time to “acknowledge that Black history is part of almost every part of British history” and that by omitting it from the national curriculum, we get a “distorted, inaccurate picture of Britain’s past." Certainly, few people know the stories of some of the Black Britons who shaped and impacted our history, as the school curriculum instead opts to focus on the events of white figures in both British and American history, leaving Black history underrepresented.
In the wake of 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, many organisations and individuals committed to tackling racism, but for how many was this simply virtue signalling or a token gesture? That’s what we want to stamp out this Black History Month. Instead, we call on fellow businesses and organisations to click on the link below and sign up to You Make It’s allyship programme. We call on teachers to implement real change within the education curriculum. Most importantly, we stand with and support ‘Time for Change: Actions not Words’: this isn’t a token gesture, it’s time for real action.



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