Black History Month 2020
The roots of Black History Month stretch back to 1926, when Carter Woodson, an African American historian, and educator announced the second week of February to be ‘Negro History Week’. The teaching of the history of Black Americans in the nation’s public schools was emphasised, as Woodson contended that the teaching of black history was essential to “ensure the survival of the race within broader society”.
It grew from an initially lukewarm response, finally being recognised formally by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The first celebration in the UK was in October 1987 in London and has become in many ways an embedded part of our calendar, with the focus shifting away from stories of African American history towards Britain’s own history. Black History Month remains to this day, a time to celebrate black excellence and to recognise and pay tribute to black people throughout history who have paved the way for others to make a difference. One such example of this is Paul Stephenson, who led the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963, a story far less known than the Montgomery bus boycott, led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr in Alabama in 1955.
Greater Manchester Higher and Black Lives Matter
It has been impossible to ignore the resurgent global Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. Race and racism are on the agenda, whether that be in education, law, sport, or any other facet of our culture and society.
As a result of this resurgence, a group of colleagues from the Greater Manchester Higher partnership gathered over the summer, concerned by events both nationally and internationally. We looked at where we could make our contribution to understanding and dismantling structural racism, and set up a working group to investigate opportunities with different stakeholders; young people, their teachers, and advisers, and higher education outreach professionals.
Collectively, our working group is in the process of creating a BLM toolkit to equip teachers, advisers, and young people with the skills, knowledge, and vocabulary to challenge racism when they encounter or witness it. The tool kit, which will be available shortly, and will include, links to resources, workshops, and impartial information, advice, and guidance on raising awareness and understanding the impact of racial bias within education and signposts to other sources of information and support.
We have to be the change we want to see in the world. It is not enough to just be not racist, we must be anti-racist.
Article by Sam Kalubowila, Head of Greater Manchester Higher & Kimoni Bell, Graduate Advisor, on behalf of the BLM Working Group.