It's Black History Month here in the UK. Being of mixed heritage (Black Caribbean and white British) I always find the month empowering. But at 51 years old, I still occasionally question my identity – it’s been going on since childhood, when I first realised I was “different”.
A few weeks of celebration of my community gives me a real boost and reminds me of 50% of my ancestry and heritage.
Before Black Lives Matter (BLM) 2020, I remember seeing the odd piece of Black History Month content online and in the press. But since BLM, there's been a huge boom in the quantity of content out there. So, acknowledging the contribution made by the Black community to the UK – even in a small way – is very easy to do.
But how can you do it correctly? Believe me, there are so many ways to get it wrong. And it happens all of the time.
Below is a list of appropriate activities for Black History Month, however, it's really important that your activity continues throughout the year.
Why? Because by just relying on one month of the year, you won't be able to influence the changes society needs to see.
Also, the theme is all about Black women - take time to explore their stories. The theme Saluting our Sisters pays homage to Black women who had contributions ignored, ideas appropriated, and voices silenced.
1. Educate yourself in achievements of Black British women
Take the time to learn about the history, contributions, and struggles of Black women in our country. Use sources such as books, documentaries, academic articles and the press.
2. Celebrate achievements
Recognise the accomplishments of Black women leaders, inventors, artists and activists throughout history. Highlight their positive impact on society.
3. Support Black-owned businesses
Actively seek out and support Black-owned businesses in your community. This helps to promote economic empowerment within the Black community. Here's a list of Black women-owned businesses.
4. Attend cultural events
Participate in or attend cultural events, exhibitions, and performances that celebrate Black history, art and culture. This can include museum exhibitions, film festivals and live performances. Here are listings for the East of England which is my area of the UK.
5. Amplify Black voices
Share and amplify the voices of Black writers, artists, and activists on social media and in your personal and professional circles. Here are just a few incredible Black female authors. I've also had the pleasure of meeting writers at Primadonna Festival in Suffolk, including Leone Ross, Stephanie Lawrence and Shola Mos-Shogbamimu. Also, while we're at it, read about Juliet Gilkes Romero, an award-winning and esteemed Black playwright.
6. Have meaningful conversations
Engage in meaningful and respectful conversations about race, inequality and diversity with friends, family and colleagues. Always be aware of the welfare of your Black friends, relatives and colleagues while having these chats, and never assume they're happy to be part of it. Always ask politely if they're happy to have a conversation.
7. Engage in diversity in the media
Support films, TV shows, and books that feature diverse casts and storylines. Advocate for accurate and positive representations of Black characters. If you work in the industry and suspect production staff are not representative, ask the company what they're doing to recruit more diversely.
8. Call out appropriation
A clear example of appropriation is when white people with dreadlocks haven't done research into the heritage of hair, or wearing afro wigs at parties. Appropriation can be subtle too – and still deeply hurtful. Call it out and if a Black person tells you something is appropriated, believe them.
9. Advocate for change
Support policies and initiatives that aim to address racial disparities and promote equality in your community, workplace and society.
Get involved in local organisations or initiatives that work towards racial justice, equality and community development. Ask in a sensitive way whether your help is required.
11. Honour activists
Recognise and pay tribute to Black activists and leaders who have played a significant role in fighting for civil rights and social justice.
12. Reflect and self-examine
Take time to reflect on your own biases, assumptions, and actions. Work towards being more inclusive and understanding. This can be uncomfortable, but if it's not challenging (at least a little bit), you're probably not doing it right!
13. Learn from history's mistakes
Understand the historical context of racial discrimination and injustice, and work towards preventing similar occurrences in the future.
14. Support Black art and culture
Attend exhibitions, concerts and performances that showcase the artistic talents of Black individuals and communities. What a great reason to get out to local events.
15. Teach Black history
Advocate for the inclusion of Black history in the educational curriculum and encourage schools to teach a well-rounded view of history. Elimu is a free digital education book by the female directors of Aspire Black Suffolk CIC (the company I founded) is a great resource.
16. Be an ally
Actively support and stand in solidarity with Black individuals and communities in their fight against racism and discrimination.
17. Advocate for representation
Encourage diverse representation in all areas of society, including politics, business, education and media. Ensure representation is authentic, and not tokenistic.
18. Celebrate diversity within the Black community
Recognise that the Black community is diverse in terms of culture, nationality and experiences. Avoid making sweeping generalisations.
19. Acknowledge ongoing struggles
Understand that the fight for racial equality is ongoing, and there is still generations' worth of work to be done. There's a lot of problems in society to undo and rebuild.
20. Never stop listening and learning
Be open to listening to the experiences and perspectives of Black individuals. This helps foster empathy and understanding.
Black History Month isn't just for October; keep up the activity all year round to be a better ally and to ensure society becomes a kinder place, which will benefit us all.
Elma Glasgow is an engagement consultant and storyteller for social change, speaker, researcher, exhibition producer, trainer, and inclusive comms expert.
For support on engaging with communities and understanding how to create more inclusive marketing content and exhibitions, see her website www.elmaglasgowconsulting.com (where this blog was originally published) or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.