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:
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.
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