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Black History…

October is ‘Black History Month’, an annual observation and celebration of the history and culture of important people and events within the African Diaspora. However, despite the fact it’s widely celebrated in the UK, as well as in the USA and Canada, it remains an event that many people are aware of but actually know very little about. Mayhem! investigates further…

WHY WAS ‘BLACK HISTORY MONTH’ INTRODUCED?

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone summed up the importance and purpose of Black History Month by stating the importance of African influences on so many things held dear and ‘owned’ by traditional Western society. For example, medieval and renaissance music in Europe is something that has long been seen as typical of European, especially British origin. But this is not so and Livingstone, rightly, wanted to change this, stating that Africa’s contribution to many historical traditions have been, “omitted or distorted in most history books.”

SO KEN LIVINGSTONE LAUNCHED IT?

No, but he was, and remains, a big supporter of Black History Month. The person widely credited as having set up Black History Month in the UK is Akyaaba Addai Sebbo who was the co-ordinator of Special Projects at the old GLC in London. He consequently worked alongside and got to know Livingstone who, via the GLC held the first event on 1st October 1987 when Dr Maulana Karenga visited from the US – an African-American professor of Africana Studies, activist and author.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

Addai established the long term project of recognising not only the contributions of African people to history and the economic and cultural life of London and the UK, but those from Asia and the Caribbean. October was thus formally ‘adopted’ as the Black History Month in the UK. It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

WHO CELEBRATES IT?

Everyone! This is very much an inclusive celebration and is open to participation by everyone, one managed and delivered as an educational and historical awareness experience by those with an African, Asian and Caribbean heritage but celebrated by everyone as part of world history.

SO IT’S QUITE SIGNIFICANT THEN?

Last year there were very nearly 4,700 separate Black History Month events across the UK – with that figure likely to be exceeded this year. Get out there and find one for yourself.

www.blackhistorymonthuk.co.uk

Written by Edward Couzens-Lake