Celebrating Black History Month

Anita, an Assessment and Reconnection Worker for St Mungo’s, explains the importance of Black History Month and how St Mungo’s is marking this for it’s employees and volunteers. Anita is part of our BAME Diversity Network, which champions diversity in all of our services and offices and seeks to make sure St Mungo’s is an inclusive environment for everyone.

October is Black History Month (BHM), an opportunity for everyone to learn about Black history and to celebrate the contributions that Black people have made to society. It was founded in America in 1976, but it was not until 1897 that BHM was first celebrated in the UK.

Black history was not taught in schools or promoted in the media when I was growing up; and the perception of self and my race was overshadowed by the negative media stereotype of the Black community such as poverty, substance us and lack of education. As Black History Month slowly grew in popularity so too has my understanding and my appreciation of Black history and the accomplishments of my people.

I wish I knew then what I know now because it would have made such a difference to how I viewed myself and the struggles I faced. To be Black and proud, to walk tall and believe I could accomplish anything in life. I didn’t believe that then but I do now.

Today I have seen the difference that celebrating Black History Month has made to Black people. My younger children know more about the late and greats of Black history than their older siblings who were born in the 80’s. My children will say “Mum did you know that the first open heart surgery was performed by a Black man?”. I did not know this at that time, but knowing this now makes me proud of who I am and hopeful for the future. My children believe they can be great because they see themselves represented in all walks of life.

The themes of this year’s Black History Month are “Black Health and Wellness” and “Time for Change – Action Not Words”. It is a call for long term action not short term gestures. What can we do as a community to make real change?

Black History Month is an opportunity for us all to step up and get involved, educate ourselves and educate others. A time to change the stereotypes and negative media narrative and honour our Black leaders and the positive contributions of Black culture to society. Let’s go one step further and break down the barriers of injustice, and inequalities that still exist in society today.

For me everyday is an opportunity to change the narrative, but Black History Month is a special time of year where we can go all out to remember the late and great people of Black history, but more importantly to keep fighting for change so our children have a better tomorrow.

In honour of Black History Month, St Mungo’s BAME Network is holding multiple events including Black Health and Wellness event, a Q&A with the BAME Network Executive, a Q&A session with activist Jason Jones, an discussion of authors with Shanice McBean and a Black Leaders Inspire Event with our Executive Director of Housing.