Proud to be

Black History Month was first launched in the UK in 1980 in an event that was pioneered by Ghanian-born Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. It happens each October from the 1st to the 31st. The aim is to challenge racism and educate people about Black History. It is an opportunity to understand black history from stories of slavery and racism to those of great achievements.

Black History Month is celebrated in October in the UK for two reasons. Firstly, it was where African chiefs and leaders would come together to settle differences and secondly, October is often the start of the academic year giving black children a sense of pride and identity.

Black History Month 2021 is home to the new campaign ‘Proud to Be’ which is being pioneered by Black History Magazine. This campaign has been inspired by the 2020 movement ‘Black Lives Matter’ and encourages black and brown people to share what they are proud to be.

Me Myself and I

By Kelechi Chioba

Derby City Life Links Volunteer

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In line with the celebration of Black History Month, the theme for this year is PROUD TO BE BLACK (ME).

As a black, disabled, bisexual woman I am super proud to be me, though society wants me to think otherwise. I was born with poliomyelitis in Nigeria. Coming from a political family, it was a stain to their reputation. I endured abuse from my family, colleagues at work, and was labelled a curse and cross. I persevered with my smiles, ignoring the damage that was behind my eyes.

Escaping my perpetrators by coming to the UK was the best thing that has happened to me. You can call it crazy, stupid with my disability but I call it BRAVENESS.

Yet still I was stigmatised by society, who labelled me an outsider instead of valuing what I can accomplish. Realisation of diversities is a talent I possess, to achieve goals despite the challenges that are in front of me.

Coming to the black community, I’m judged for being fat, saying no man can find me attractive.
Judged as a bisexual stating that ‘Queer’ is a white man’s diseases.
Judged as disabled stating I’m a curse from the gods.

Our lifestyle is expected to follow a specific norm set by traditions and culture found in the community. These challenges can lead to low self-esteem, depression, social isolation, self harm and suicide attempts. Being alive and strong and believing in who I am proves society wrong. As Ru Paul said ‘No matter who or what you are, you have a place in this world’, and I can contribute to this world.

Activism has been my bedrock in creating change. Being a part of the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) group in Derby City Life Links, has given me the platform to achieve this. My advice to others is this: In as much we cannot see a massive change, believe that little droplets of water can make an ocean. Accept who you  are and what you are because you have place in this world. My advice to society is to give us one moment in time.

Black People who Inspire Us

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784): Became a slave when she was a young girl and was sent to America from West Africa. It was unusual but she was taught to read and write when she was a slave. She wrote her first poem aged 14 and at the age of 20 moved to England with her son and published her first book. Her writing proved that women who were slaves could be well written and intelligent which contributed to the anti-slavery movement.

Sir Learie Constantine (1901-1971): Became England’s first black peer for the work he carried out for politics and racial equality. He was able to attend the House of Lords and partake in political debates. He was also a famous cricketer who played in the West Indies in 1928.

Dr Shirley Thompson: In 2004, she became the first woman in Europe to conduct and compose a symphony within the last 40 years. It was called New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony. The piece of music celebrated London’s history and was composed to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. She has also written pieces to be used in films, on television, by dancers and on stage. Because of her work, she was named on the Evening Standard’s Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential Black People in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

John Edmonstone (1793-1822): John was a significant figure in scientific research. After gaining his freedom from slavery, he became a teacher at Edinburgh University where he taught Charles Darwin.

Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797): Wrote one of the earliest accounts of what it was like to be a slave. He was a slave but bought his freedom and moved to London. He then became involved in the anti-slavery movement. He released his autobiography ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African’ which became an important piece of writing for those trying to abolish slavery.

Lilian Bader (1918-2015): Born in 1918 in Liverpool, Lilian became the first black woman to join the British Armed Forces. She trained as an Instrument, then becoming a lead aircraftwoman and from this earned the rank of Corporal.

Which Black people inspire you?

Tell us below and we’ll publish them all in an October blog!

5 + 1 = ?

What does it mean to be an ally?

The 7 A’s of Allyship

Allyship is act of solidarity. It can be defined as “The lifelong process in which people with privilege and power work to develop empathy towards another marginalised group’s challenges or issues. The goal of allyship is to create a culture in which the marginalised group feels valued, supported and heard”. Below are 5 ways you can work towards being a better ally!

  • Action – Take steps to  establish equality and be accountable
  • Appetite – Do you have the appetite to immerse yourself in the complex, emotive world of race equality?
  • Ask – Ask questions about race, be curious, read, learn and educate yourself.
  • Accept – Accept there really is a problem. More data isn’t needed.
  • Acknowledge – Openly acknowledge that the problem needs to be dealt with.
  • Apologise – Express sympathy that racism is affecting people of certain races
  • Assume – Don’t. Instead develop informed views by seeking to understand individuals

What’s happening in Leicester for Black History Month? Find out here !