October is Black History Month in the UK. It’s a month that highlights and celebrates black history, something that isn’t commonplace. It is a time for black people to take pride in their blackness, a time to celebrate our successes despite the odds. As a marginalised group, black people in the Global West have been subject to some of the harshest forms of discrimination and violence, a history that we aren’t able to forget. During my school years, the only topics where I learned about my race were 1. Racism, 2. Slavery and 3. Poverty, only in history and geography, but never in language or science classes. The only time I saw myself on TV was for charity appeals – constant reminders of ‘The State of Black Africa’. A constant reminder of “Oh how lucky, could’ve been you” and “Hey, isn’t that your country? Must be nice that you get to live here”. For me, Black History Month is about educating ourselves on the broad and rich Black History that our schools never mentioned. Even though I see Black History Month as a time of celebration, it is also a time to acknowledge that racism still thrives in today’s society. Even in countries where black is the standard, the ugly remnants of colonialism, slavery and persecution affect the lives of black people in their ethnic countries.
Black History Month was launched in 1987 as part of a local community effort to teach children about Black History. Since then Black History Month has become a widely celebrated month across the UK. However, after an attempt by Wandsworth council to ‘rebrand’ Black History Month as Diversity Month last year, it is clear that some people are still uncomfortable with the idea of celebrating Black culture. It is therefore important to engage in BHM and make an active effort to get involved, whether that be going to events, reading or even watching films.
As a result, QMSU have a variety of different events being held this Black History Month, which you can check out on the Students Union website at: https://www.qmsu.org/bhm/. They range from open-mic nights and pub quizzes to fashion shows and lectures exploring different themes surrounding blackness. The former president and current Creative Director of Black Girl Book Club (one of my favourite societies on campus), Hannah Idil, is one of the BHM representatives for QM this year. As part of BHM they’ve come up with a reading list (and plays) that will be available on the ground floor of the Mile End campus library.
- Warsan Shire – Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth
Warsan Shire is one of my favourite poets, who is a British Somali who’s work has had critical acclaim and has been featured on Beyoncé’s album Lemonade. ‘Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth’ is a collection of poems that draw on Shires’ experiences being black, a woman and a Muslim.
- Kamau Braithwaite – Born to Slow Horses
- Toni Morrison – Sula
Any book by Toni Morrison is a guaranteed good read, and Sula is no different. The story explores many themes including race, sexism, and class in America. If you aren’t familiar with Morrison, ‘Beloved’ is also another great BHM read.
- Njulo Ndemble – The Cry of Winnie Mandela
- Akala – Natives
Books about racism and classism seldom come as highly recommended as ‘Natives’. Published in 2018, ‘Natives’ by rapper Akala is an in-depth analysis of race in the current British socio-environment. Using his past experience to humanise race theory, Akala takes readers through the different ways racism and classism are demonstrated today.
- Chelsea Kwayke and Ore Ojunbiyi – Taking Up Space
- Lorraine Hansberry – A Raisin in the Sun
- Inua Ellams – Barber Shop Chronicles
Another BHM read is Black Girl Book Clubs’ anthology ‘Hive Mind’, written by students on the theme of blackness, which was published last year. Although the physical copy isn’t available, a PDF version is available which you can download https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-AXrZIzIi8IEOa0cyndcE7UPCiCrM3eD/view
But why stick to campus when there are a whole plethora of events being held around London? Check out some more London events here:https://londonist.com/london/things-to-do/black-history-month-2019-london-events and here: https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/listings/region/greater-london/.