Black History Month is a time for us all to reflect on how society has changed, and the progress that still needs to be made. It’s easy to think that we live in a post-racial society where phrases like “but I have black friends” immune people from racism, but this ain’t the case, mate.
By Fez Sibanda
Having black friends actually doesn’t exempt you from anything, nor does a black partner or family member. Now, this isn’t a rant, but just a reflection of what it’s like being young, black and living in the UK. Unlike our cousins across the pond, black Brits experience injustice that’s more subtle, less World Star, but just as real.
As it’s Black History Month this month, allow us to plan our race-based content as timely as the likes of BBC and ITV do for this one-twelfth of the year. Here are 5 things to remember during Black History Month.
Black history is British history…
When you think of British history you might think of a fat bloke with six wives, but not a lot of people think about Olive Morris (a black British activist) or Lilian Bader (the first black woman in the armed forces).
That’s because their stories are rarely told outside of October (BHM). Unlike traditional British history which is taught at school, Black history is more like an extracurricular activity. Like D of E without the hiking boots.
What’s considered British history and what’s considered Black history is important to think about. You could say we enjoy the fruits of Black British culture without acknowledging its origins. Pirate radio, garage music and Notting Hill Carnival are just a few obvious examples.
So, next time ya clutching a Red Stripe bopping your head to UKG, think about how it all came about and the parts of black British culture that are celebrated and ignored.
Language is important
In a world where being called problematic is a major insult, language is important.
It’s difficult to know how to talk about race and there needs to be some kind of conversation to move forward. Asking questions is the right thing to do, but do they always have to be about my hair?
Acknowledging when you’ve offended someone is equally important. The fear of these conversations is why we are still trying to deconstruct racism.
Be an ally
Being an ally involves more than knowing every word to Talking Da Hardest. It means more than having MoC (Mates of Colour). It even means more than slicking down your edges and going Morley’s. It means standing up for people of colour and standing against racism.
Trying your best to live an anti-racist life takes more effort than you think. Boycott a racist venue. Challenge people’s prejudice. Read a book.
Go to BHM events
As you scroll through your phone in October it’s a weird mix of Halloween themed club nights and Black History Month events. Choose wisely and plan your time or you could end up at a Windrush writing workshop in a vampire costume.
Going to events is a great way to learn more about Black history and meet like-minded people. Have an FB search and go. Gal-dem, Sweet Thang zine and meta meta are all examples of modern media outlets that will guide you in the right direction. They centre the voices of People of Colour and not just in October.
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Support LGBTQ+ People of Colour
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer People of Colour are very much marginalised in conversations of black British history.
It’s important to centre and remember that black British history also includes LGBTQ+ people who are People of Colour, celebrating their contribution to the arts and advocacy. Check out Pussy Palace, an online platform that hosts events centred around Queer womxn, Trans, NB & Intersex POC.