Black History Month 2020 UK: Leading Black women are reimaging its pride and power


 ‘We’ve got to Dig Deeper, Look Closer, Think Bigger’
By Thomas L Blair, 6 October 2020 © On a mission for Black Britain and the Diaspora in a time of crisis
Founded and edited since 1997

Bold and unflappable, women like Catherine Ross of Black History Month 2020 and the National Caribbean Museum are revolutionising our views of the annual event. They are convinced every Black History Month is a time to decolonise and reclaim our history and pass it on to future generations.

The disastrous year Twenty Twenty has forced many to see the reality of racism in its variant forms. The pandemic’s disproportionate Black deaths raised alarm bells. The clarion call from the streets ‘Black Lives Matter’. Police violence required a robust response.

Significantly, the argument for reimaging the traditional hoopla has never been stronger. Leading British African, Caribbean and Asian women are writing, tweeting and zooming “We’ve got to Dig Deeper, Look Closer. Think Bigger.

No idle thought if the month’s own chequered history is examined.

Take a moment to consider this. Black History Month was born of the Greater London Council’s celebrations for the African Jubilee Year 1987-88. Policymakers aimed to dampen the fires of rebellious Black youth in 1981. The founder, GLC special projects coordinator Ghanaian Akyaaba Addai-Sebo aimed to calm public fears. He hoped the month’s festivities would bring progress in race relations, education and public affairs.*

But, as Ross says “Black culture isn’t just a commodity to be appropriated, managed and monetised. Black history isn’t just a month to be ticked off a calendar dominated by a white-washed version of history”. She concludes, Ii’s time to reclaim our history and re-imagine how it will be told in the future.

The hard truth is that the founder’s dream of pride and acceptance in a welcoming society needs a drastic overhaul. We’ve researched the internetworks, social media and press. Here are the key issues and new themes leading historians, professionals and cultural activists propose.

Black Nurses go online

Prominent women of the Royal College of Nursing and the NHS are making history and shaping it, too. Leading figures include Estephanie Dunn, RCN North West Regional Director and Yvonne Coghill CBE, head of the NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard programme.

Their webinar salutes the pioneer NHS nurses, midwives and health visitors that shaped healthcare. And applaud the Black, Asian and ethnic minorities who make up 20 per cent of the workforce as the pandemic continues.

“Grow stronger together. To empower, equip and excel” is the IT slogan that marks this era.

Tech-savvy women have revolutionised gender equality in IT. They are building internet-works for Women in Technology Summit Europe 2020. They include Maxine Nwaneri, Founder, The Future is Greater and Cherron Inko-Tariah, Founder & Consultant, The Power of Staff Networks

Historians are in the vanguard   

Trendsetting Laura Sangha heads the University of Exeter’s Decolonising Black British History, a new teaching resource.  The expert on ‘Black Lives in Early Modern England’ says her work can be adapted for school children as well as university students.

Gurminder K Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, is online with new historical perspectives.

She says African and Asian peoples of the British Empire were the main creators of the nation’s wealth.  This “systematic exclusion” from the nation’s history must be redressed.


Head teachers, educators and consultants agree

The list of women reimaging Black History Month for schools and universities is growing. They say the “systematic exclusion” of the Black Experience from the nation’s history must be redressed.

Funmilola Stewart, head of history, Dixons Trinity academy, Bradford, calls for new perspectives, too. We should also be teaching about all the positive aspects of Black history, from the early African kingdoms to modern Black Britain, she says.

Emily Folorunsho, head of history, Barking Abbey School, Barking agrees. Black history creates a bridge that eradicates difference and enables understanding, she says.

Sonia Thompson, head of St Matthew’s C of E primary in Birmingham supports this view. Schools should audit their curriculum so they can harness the ‘rich repository children and their parents bring’.

Allana Gay, head teacher of Vita et Pax preparatory school in north London and founding member of a Black, Asian and minority ethnic network agrees. She says school leaders should challenge the alienating nature of the British value of “tolerance” in their school.

 Towards a new view of Black History Month

Leading women re-imaging Black History Month are on the rise. With celebrants and organisations they are changing the month’s outlook, content and significance. This assists the continuous development of Black self-identification. Moreover, it marks their contributions to the nation’s cultural patrimony. As poet Linton Kwesi Johnson said: “It is noh mistri / Wi mekkin histri.”


*Please Note: Concurrent to the early 1980’s period of Black History Month, Black activists — among them Linda Bellos and Ansel Wong — forged a new wave of cultural, political and educational initiatives. See E James West, The Radical and Transnational Roots of Black History Month in Britain, Black Perspectives,

Sources used for names and events are available on your browser, for example:

Photo of Catherine Ross/ Black History Month 2020

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By Thomas L Blair — copyright © reserved 31 October 2010

The author supports the enduring capacity for cultural self-renewal of Black British communities, especially at times of disaster. Every thought-provoking topic weaves the immediate desperate present with recent history and its must-be-planned future.

They are: Explore Black culture and identity in the citadel of urbanism, Link the talents of parents, elders and youth, Affirm Black Culture’s link between tradition and modernity, Transform intellectuals, artists and writers into vanguard activists for Black people, Mobilise new cultural policy leaders, Cyber-organise for culture and development and commit to a positive future.