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Black History Month: What is it and why is it important?

The History

Black History Month takes place every October in the UK, and its purpose is to recognise, remember and celebrate the contributions of Black individuals - sadly, people whose history has often been neglected, underrepresented or overlooked in the past, and still is today.

The first Black History Month took place in North America in the ’70s, and the UK later celebrated its first Black History Month in 1987 organised by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a member of the Greater London Council. We’ve celebrated Black History Month every year since - now for over 30 years.

It’s thought that we celebrate Black History Month in October for two main reasons: firstly, because it is traditionally when African chiefs and leaders gather to settle their differences, so it represents a connection to African heritage. Secondly, it lines up with the start of the academic year, and so it helps to give children a sense of pride for their heritage and a sense of identity.

Why It’s Important

As mentioned above, Black history hasn’t often been represented within mainstream history, and for many people, this means they don’t feel in touch with their own heritage. Black History Month is a way of discovering and celebrating that history, heritage and culture. For everyone across the UK, regardless of their race, it is an opportunity for education around the achievements of Black individuals and the impact they’ve had, as well as furthering our understanding around Black culture

Particularly in 2020 with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, where many people committed to understanding more about Black history as a way of understanding and combatting racism, Black History Month is as important as ever.

Also, as recently highlighted in gal-dem, October is also Domestic Abuse Awareness Month - an issue which often disproportionately affects Black individuals. For example, violence can be more normalised, different cultural norms or stereotypes can be exploited, or signs of physical abuse like bruising might be harder to spot on deeper skin tones. They might also be less likely to seek help following abuse, and don’t feel represented or understood when seeking support from organisations there to help. Domestic abuse is intersectional and impacted by race as well as discrimination and marginalisation, and this link further highlights the reasons why we need to bring racial issues to light and to help tackle racism.

Black History in Cardiff/South Wales

Cardiff has had an abundance of Black influence, with people from all over the world settling in Tiger Bay (now Cardiff Bay). Cardiff is one of the UK's oldest multi-ethnic communities.

At the start of the 20th Century, Cardiff Docks was a huge exporter of coal and was one of the busiest ports in the world, which brought in people from as far as Somalia, the Caribbean, Yemen and many other places. Many of these settled in and around Tiger Bay, marrying and having families with Welsh women, creating an area rich in diversity and culture.

The dockland is previously thought to have consisted of up to 50 different nationalities with just as many different languages. The influence can still be seen today, with communities like Butetown a vibrant and multi-cultural community.

Relations haven’t always been harmonious, with the race riots of 1919 taking place in Cardiff, Newport and Barry with many attacks and lootings against people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Sadly, racism has also continued to exist within our society over the last 100 years. This is why it’s so important to remember our local history, maintain relationships between different groups and to celebrate diversity.

Why Black History Month is Important to SVC

We’re proud to be based in Cardiff, a city rich in diversity and with a history of welcoming individuals from all over the world. However, we acknowledge that unfortunately, diversity is something that isn’t always celebrated and that society still has a long way to come. At SVC we aim to promote and embrace diversity within our work as a charity. We see diversity as a positive, and would like to celebrate it not only during Black History Month but all year round.

Through our equality, diversity and inclusion goals, we committed not only to educating ourselves about diversity and how this impacts our work, but also to reach out to more marginalised groups with the aim of involving more demographically diverse groups into our work.

We currently have a partnership with Ethnic Youth Support Team Wales (EYST) and we recruit volunteers for their tutoring project for people from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic backgrounds aged 11-25. EYST also released a statement for Black History Month in which it committed to promoting the contributions and achievements of Black Welsh people - for more information on this, read the article here

We also hope to continue to expand the support that we can provide for people from Black and minority ethnic communities in future.

Useful Resources:

Here are some resources that we have found useful in educating ourselves:

Black History Month Website - https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/

Black History Month Wales Website - https://bhmwales.org.uk/

Books - https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/section/books/

‘The Best Films Exploring Black British Lives’ - https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/oct/17/streaming-the-best-films-exploring-black-british-lives

Black History Month: Butetown's Vibrant Community With Deep Roots - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-wales-49924149

The story of the murder of Lynette White and the Cardiff Five, “one of the worst miscarriages of justice in our criminal justice system” - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/Lynette_White_Cardiff_Murder  

Murder in the Dock Podcast - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p071cll5/episodes/downloads 

The Black History Buff Podcast - https://www.blackhistorybuff.com/

Witness Black History Podcast - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01h9dl0/episodes/downloads

Black History Month Next Gen Trailblazers Article - https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/bhm-next-gen-trailblazers-full-list-a4560326.html

#YoungAndBlack Event 28th October - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/youngandblack-being-black-in-the-workplace-tickets-117740889169

Cardiff Bay Codebreakers - https://www.rugby-league.com/article/57145/rfl-offers-support-in-recognition-of-the-cardiff-bay-codebreakers-

Open Learn - https://www.open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/events/black-history-month?utm_source=REF&utm_campaign=ol&utm_medium=bhm