To kick off Black History Month, here’s a look ahead to what our liberation campaigns have planned during October to celebrate black history, culture and heritage.
Black History Month in the UK started in 1987 when Akyaaba ‘Addai’ Sebbo, who worked for the then-Greater London Council and is widely regarded as the instigator of Black History Month UK, began thinking about celebrations of Black history, and drew up a plan to recognise the contributions of African, Asian, Caribbean and Arab people to the economic, cultural and political life in London and the UK.
In an ideal world, Black History Month would not be necessary because educational establishments and the national curriculum would fully recognise and appreciate the contribution of Black people throughout history. Sadly, that is not the case. The Black community uses this history month as an opportunity to share with the world its vast contributions: a time to demonstrate pride in its creativity, respect for its intellectual prowess and a celebration of its cultural identity which is far too often misrepresented, when it is not being ignored, in the mainstream.
While it is important to take time out to celebrate we cannot ignore there is much more to do to break down the barriers that Black communities continue to face in the UK. Here is a look at what we have planned over October to honour the enormous achievements of Black people and amplify our calls for freedom from oppression.
NUS’ Black Students’ Campaign has a busy month ahead as committee members will be organising and speaking at events across the country in order to raise awareness and organise around issues that affect Black students and Black communities. As institutions start work on tackling the black attainment gap the Black Students’ Campaign will be pushing to ensure the voices of students are being centred in that by supporting the launch of Decolonise Chapters across the country and convening a group of activists and academics seeking to dismantle the racist structures in which we learn.
Later in the month Black Students’ Campaign will be mobilising for the United Friends and Family Campaign rally on Saturday 27 October led by the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones to state violence. This marks the 20th anniversary of this incredible campaign and the procession will be preceded by the Interrogating State Violence on Friday 26 October.
NUS’ Women’s Campaign will also be marking Black History Month with a series of panel events focusing on the experiences of Black women in academia. These discussions will highlight the work, research and experiences of Black women academics in the UK and we will hear their own reflections on what drove them into academia, asking how their research has been affected by their positionality. This series will provide an opportunity for students and staff to reflect on the current higher education landscape and how we make, protect and extend the radical research done by the most marginalised. Black women in academia events are set to take place at Sheffield Hallam University on Friday 12 October, Leeds University on Thursday 18 October, and King's College London Thursday 25 October. Keep an eye out for a few extra surprises from NUS Women’s Campaign this month as well!
NUS’ Disabled Student’s Campaign will be releasing a series of blogs during Black History Month, commissioned and organised by the Committee’s Black Rep, Feisal Haji. These will look at different experiences of Black disabled people, as well as a blog that will tie together the black attainment gap and the disabled attainment gap in our institutions. The series will set the scene for work that the Disabled Students’ Campaign is undertaking later in the year focusing the experiences of disabled people of colour in accessing and participating in disabled spaces, how we can improve our structures to make them more inclusive of disabled people of colour and students of faith, as well as their needs and demands being better integrated into our campaigns.
In the year of the Windrush Scandal, Donald Trump’s UK visit and the increasing normalisation of fascism it has never been more important for us to look into the rich past of Black activism in the UK and abroad and continue the work the elders began.
Please join us at one of our events and check back soon for more Black History Month news!
Ilyas Nagdee, NUS Black Students’ Officer
Sarah Lasoye, NUS Women’s Officer
Rachel O’Brien, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer