Black History Month 2017

Black History Month 2017 is now underway — it’s the fifth year that we have celebrated this event at the University of Nottingham.

During the last half-decade, Black History Month has become a powerful and thought-provoking tradition at the university — helping us to celebrate black history and black culture whilst encouraging thought and challenging perceptions.

What is Black History Month, and why do we celebrate it?

2017 marks the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK. The first ever BHM UK event took place in London on 1 October 1987.

Akyaaba Addai Sebbo is widely regarded as having set up Black History Month in the UK while working at the Greater London Council as co-ordinator of Special Projects — creating a programme to recognise the contributions of black people to British culture, economy and politics. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who worked with Sebbo, has commented, “Despite the significant role that Africa and its Diaspora have played in the world civilization since the beginning of time, Africa’s contribution has been omitted or distorted in most history books.”

Black History Month gives us an opportunity to highlight the value of black participation and lived experience throughout history, and this is valuable for both staff and students.

For the University of Nottingham, as a higher education institution, it is particularly notable that Black History Month in the UK is held in October. Some sources suggest that this time of year was chosen in response to ongoing concern about the experience of black students in the UK — held at the beginning of the academic calendar, Black History Month is an opportunity for universities to engage with our black communities. As the Higher Education sector works to address the attainment gap between black and white students, Black History Month is also an opportunity to challenge assumptions and provide a counterpoint to largely Eurocentric curricula.

Speaking about this year’s Black History Month celebrations, Val Watson, Chair of the University’s BME Staff Network, says:

“It is important to celebrate Black History Month because it provides a spotlight on the achievements of black people everywhere. However, black people achieve and make ‘history’ and positive contributions every day of the year. We have seen how quickly this can be forgotten, hidden or denied. So let’s stand proud and celebrate. To quote from others: Let us remember the past and continue to work at shaping the future.”

Vice Chair of the BME Staff Network, Lenford Vassell, added:

“The contributions of black people is self-evident throughout our society, from the humble traffic lights to the first heart surgery. Black History Month is and was supposed to act as a catalyst for year-round debate and recognition.”

Schedule of events

This year, highlights from our Black History Month programme include:

  • Historians Against Slavery Conference
    Saturday 7 October – Sunday 8 October
    Join Historians Against Slavery (HAS) as it holds its biennial conference outside of the United States for the first time, at the International Slavery Museum (ISM) in Liverpool. This two-day conference will mark the 10th Anniversary of the ISM as well as Black History Month 2017.
  • Dreadlocks Story: Film screening and discussion
    7:30pm, Monday 9 October
    Dreadlocks Story director Linda Aïnouche holds a film screening and discussion about the bonds of the survival of African and Indian culture in Jamaica in view of upfront anti-slavery and anti-imperialist struggles.
  • ‘How the south won the American Civil War…. and why the United States is still fighting it’
    6:00pm, Tuesday 10 October
    Professor John Stauffer, Harvard University, presents the Distinguished Annual American Studies lecture from the University of Nottingham’s Department of American and Canadian Studies during Black History Month 2017. This lecture outlines how the effects of the American civil war continued beyond 1865 – and still continue to affect race relations today.
  • Black History Month Celebration: A live music performance
    8:00pm, Saturday 14 October
    Live music and performances from three singer/songwriters — plus music from a DJ.
  • Digging deeper: unearthing narratives of black British coal miners
    12:00pm – 1.30pm, Tuesday 17 October
    Historian and author Norma Gregory presents an illustrated narrative on the struggles and experiences of African Caribbean coal miners from across the UK. A buffet lunch will be provided.
  • The Tempest (a Bilimankhwe International Theatre production)
    7:30pm, Friday 27 October
    A powerful, passionate production featuring stunning contemporary African choreography and an original soundtrack which samples traditional Malawian music. Taking place at Lakeside Arts. Tickets for this event are £15.00.

There will also be several other events taking place at the University as part of Black History Month 2017. For full listings, please visit the University’s Events page.

In addition to our Black History Month events we will also be hosting a Race Equality Conference in partnership with the University of Birmingham. Race Equality in Higher Education — what’s it got to do with you? aims to increase understanding about race inequality in Higher Education, spark debate and conversation about the impact on staff and students, and set out how the ECU’s Race Equality Charter can provide a framework for addressing these issues.

Don’t miss out

We hope that you enjoy Black History Month 2017 and continue to find it interesting, informative and stimulating.

To find out more about the University’s Black History Month programme and Race Equality Conference please email the People and Culture team.

For updates throughout October, please subscribe to the People and Culture blog and for further details of events taking place this month, please visit the University’s Event listings.

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