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Black History Month


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Black History Month is celebrated in October in the United Kingdom unlike the U.S where the month of February has been set aside for this auspicious occasion.

It should be common knowledge that the commemoration of Black History came as a result of the great historian’s challenge; Carter G Woodson, that ‘the “Negro” has no history’. To rise against this illusive misconceptions, Woodson founded The Association for the Study of the Negro Life and History. After its inception in 1915, the institution began to attract scholars and historians across the Black spectrum in the United States and beyond; and served as a data bank for research and knowledge on Black history and the “Negro”, giving birth to the first Negro History Week celebration in 1926.

February was not randomly chosen as it is the birth month of the famous American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, antislavery writer, and statesman Frederick Douglass. Douglass who escaped from slavery in Maryland, later emerged to be a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. U.S President Abraham Lincoln who is considered as among the greatest American presidents, was a staunch abolitionist and was also born in February hence the reason for adopting February as the month to celebrate such an important event.

Of course one cannot celebrate Black history without paying homage to Frederick Douglass but contributions by civil rights activists for the emancipation of Black people in the US such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Rosa Park, Ella Baker, James Baldwin, Dorothy Height, Roy Wilkins among others, cannot go unmentioned. Barely a year after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, it was thought that a week was not long enough to celebrate the “Negro History Week”. In that regard, it was decided that an entire month should be dedicated to it and the name be changed to Black History Month. Then in February of 1969, at Kent State University in Ohio, The Black History Month was proposed nand the first Black History Month was celebrated in 1970.

As the U.K is host to many Black people from Africa and the Caribbean, the need to replicate such an important event was deemed necessary by the renowned Ghanaian-born British Akyaaba Addai Sebo who was a projects coordinator at the Greater London Council. Akyaaba Addai Sebo was a prominent rights activist who had been traveling to the US to attend the Black History Month celebration from its early days in the 1970s. He organised the first celebration of Black History Month in London October 1987. Addai Sebo chose to hold the event in October for two reasons; firstly, to reconnect with the African roots when most Kings and Queens, Chiefs and traditional leaders gather to settle issues, and secondly; since October is the start of the new academic year, it would avail Black children the opportunity to understand their pride and know their identity. Since 1987, the celebration has spread across the entire UK.

The Black History Month is aimed at celebrating the achievements and contributions of black people not just in the UK or US, but throughout the world and also to educate all on black history. Often times, Black History is misrepresented and construed in negative ways whereby most prominent of what is shown is slavery, war, hunger, disease and crime, when in actual fact Black history and culture is as old as mankind.

During this period, special classes and celebrations are organised in schools andAfrican and Caribbean societies at universities and other institutions, put on special events and lectures. Museums and art galleries hold special exhibitions while a wide range of activities are organised on TV, radio stations and other places to commemorate the event. In Nottingham, there were series of celebrations across the city attracting celebrants from the civil society, arts and culture, sports and other prominent sectors of society.

Read more in our New Mojatu Magazine.

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