Black History Month is recognised each October and represents those who have been forgotten, ignored, discriminated against, or not rightfully celebrated throughout our history.

In this #YesSheCan blog, we’re going to be talking about the people behind BHM in the UK and Black Lives Matter, this year’s theme of ‘celebrating our sisters’ and how you can take action this month and beyond!

Who Began Black History Month Began In The UK

To understand how Black History Month began in the UK, we need to look at the brilliant people behind the work.

Akyaaba Addai-Sebo

Akyaaba Addai-Sebo kickstarted the first official celebration and teaching of Black History Month in the UK in 1987.

He chose October to be the dedicated month because of the UK school timetable and to connect the month with his African roots.

October is traditionally when ‘African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences.’

Betty Campbell

Betty Campbell was the first black Head Teacher in Wales.
She was the driving force to put Black History into the education curriculum in Wales. 
She made huge efforts to teach children about racism, black history, slavery, and apartheid.
This was something that wasn’t being taught in other schools in Wales at the time.

Black Lives Matter

“We believe in a world where everyone belongs and we reject racism that stands in the way.”
Black Lives Matter – is an unowned global collection consisting of ideas, grassroots initiatives and shared interest of many concerns calling out anti-black racism, inequalities and social injustices.
The movement officially started in 2013 as a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer in Florida, USA.
2020 saw the movement taking a stand worldwide after the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Activists and protestors took to the streets across the UK to spread awareness and combat injustice and prejudice.
The movement in the UK saw numerous statues of historical figures tied to racist history. As a result of the hard work and efforts of BLM UK, as of 2021, the Bank of England has removed ten paintings and busts of seven governors and directors with known connections to the slave trade.

Celebrating Our Sisters

This is the theme of this year’s celebration for BHM. It’s all about empowering, supporting and recognising black women -all year around. Whether that’s your colleagues, friends, local business owners, charities, TV show writers, authors – etc!
However, it does go beyond support – it’s all about taking action to make positive change in our societies and communities. Think about:

Our Privilege & Bias

In a nutshell, we are all born with ‘boxes’. These boxes can be down to our families, our wealth, race, gender, sexuality and our identity. Some of us are born with less boxes than others, which means we might not have the same privilege or help as others might.
Bias can be affected by this privilege too and our life experiences. Overall, bias is there to help us get out of scary or negative situations but it can hinder us for example when we’re recruiting, picking people for our teams, who we watch on TV, etc.
We have a more extensive blog on privilege and bias, so make sure to check those out.
So, what we need to ask ourselves is: how can we use privilege to help others? Do our biases cause us to be discriminative? Recognise it when it happens and overcome it.

Speak Up & Stand Up For Women of Colour

Have you witnessed an injustice? Speak up, report it and help those affected if they need/want it.
This doesn’t mean being a spokesperson for black women, but being an ally, supporting their work and breaking down barriers.
It can be as easy as sharing your friend’s post on social media and diversifying your TV watchlist. All of these steps add up and can shape your actions positively when speaking up for injustices against women of colour.

Watch, Listen And Read Media From Black Women

This can be through TV, Radio, Podcasts or Books. As we said before, the first step can be to diversify our feeds on social media. Follow someone who has the same hobby as you but doesn’t look like you.
We often get stuck in a cycle of only following or listening to those who look like us or have the same shared experiences. We need to shift this behaviour and open ourselves to more people.
Also, educate yourself! If you’re not sure about a certain subject on black history or wondering why people get treated differently, don’t instantly find a black person close to you and ask.
It’s important to not lean on black people to explain injustices they face as this can be traumatic and patronising. We need to be able to learn about these events and behaviours on our own accord.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ask full stop, but it’s understanding how you word your questions and how you open that conversation.

Take action

As we’ve just mentioned, taking accountability on learning about black history is important and so is taking action.
We recommend joining and supporting a protest, helping a local movement, supporting local black businesses and uplifting black women!
This doesn’t mean being the spokesperson for these causes but helping to shape that vision for others.
Educating ourselves, recognising our bias and privilege, diversifying who we see on a regular basis on our screens and meeting new people are all positive actions.

Black History Is Everyone’s History!

If you want to learn more about inspirational black women and Black History Month, you can read our list of inspirational black women across the world and black women who helped shape British history.
You can also read our Role Models stories such as Sinead Rose who set up the Afro Google Network and Etienne Hodge, a Graduate Site Engineer at Galliford Try.

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