“CELEBRATING black British people that have been shaping our nation’s story, making Britain a better place.”
These were the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the first day of Black History Month.
But how many people in Sunderland are actually aware of this celebration, which runs through October?
Nathan Davie, a student of Professional Policing at the University of Sunderland (UoS), said: “I remember studying Black History at school, but the first thing that comes to my mind will be the slavery and the American Civil War … so nothing really related to British history.”
To help raise awareness about the heroes of black British history, the University’s Student Union (SU) has several activities planned throughout the month.
The first week will be dedicated to the historical impact, the second to activism, the third to contemporary issues and the final week to art and culture.
The programme includes Netflix parties and open mic evenings, all online to comply with Covid restrictions.
“The idea is to keep the activities related to black history running all year round and not just in October,” said Katherine Cooper, SU communications manager.
“We are also planning a video tour of local areas linked to black history, giving access not just to our students, but also to the entire community.”
The lack of knowledge often starts at school, where many students can go through their GCSEs without knowing anything about black British history.
Donna Chambers is Professor of Tourism at UoS and co-ordinator of a university project to celebrate Celestine Edwards, Britain’s first black magazine editor.
Prof Chambers said: “I think people in cultural/heritage organisations and people in universities and schools would know about BHM, but the people on the street would not necessarily know anything – because it does not really have any effect or impact on their daily lives”.
“Similar issues happen on International Women’s Day in March, LGBTQ+ month and Jewish celebrations. How many people would know when these occasions are commemorated, outside of those directly impacted or involved? This is, of course, regrettable and hence why it is so important to do all we can to raise awareness.”