I was born and raised in the inner-city of Manchester until I left primary school, Moss Side to be exact…which was right around the corner from Maine Road.
It was the hub of Manchester’s Afro-Caribbean community and a place where Black culture thrived and was celebrated.
Although I grew up in this environment as a young child, it wasn’t until I became a teenager and young adult that I was able to do my own exploration around Black History Month where I could learn more about our history and the positive impact and contributions Black people have made to society…not just those at the front and centre such as entertainers or activists but the inventors...everyday people within the science and technology industries for example.
Celebrating Black History Month is important to me because it allows us to go beyond the ‘slave’ narrative that is associated with being Black. My earliest memories of being taught Black history, would have been in secondary school but the sad thing is, all I can remember are the injustices and bloodshed because it was so skewed towards the history of the slave trade.
That’s not to say this isn’t important, it most definitely is because we must learn about the past to avoid the same mistakes happening. But as a young person (and at this point, my family had moved us out to the suburbs of Manchester where I was one of four Black people in my school year), learning about these awful and heart-breaking times in class made you become very aware you’re different to the people in your class and with no balancing act of bringing through the positive parts from our history, you start to feel like people may start viewing you as a victim or inferior to them.
So for me it’s important for BHM to continue, especially in schools, but it must be shaped differently to how it was when I was growing up to show young Black children who they can become. But not only that, showing non-Black children what Black people can become too so they can see us as inspiring figures.
2020 has of course been a strange year, but for me it’s been a time where, in my lifetime at least, it feels like society has had a wake-up call to the reality of racism and how it’s much more than just hurling derogatory terms at someone.
It’s deep rooted in society and affects us at an unconscious level from years of conditioning. From the moment of George Floyd’s murder which was covered worldwide, it’s felt like individuals’ and organisations’ consciences came together in solidarity to take a moment to pause and reflect, educate themselves on Black history and the injustices and try and drive change.
It’s been truly inspiring and heart-felt to see friends and colleagues take time out to learn about our history and come together.
I think it’s important to reflect on Black History Month and its significance because it allows another opportunity to create a catalyst for change. It provides us with a dedicated month each year to pause and reflect on where we are as a society and celebrate the contributions of Black people, but I also think it can be used an anchor for individuals and organisations to look forward as well as celebrating the here and now.
I’ve seen so many Black businesses blossom and young Black people be given their much-needed breaks in their respective industries in the past few months and take the opportunities with both hands and thrive.
We still have a way to go, but I think now more than ever, it is such an important time to remind people of the importance of Black History Month, learn about the contributions made and why we do it to keep the momentum going in order to create a level playing field for Black people in society.