Majestic scenes of inspiring dances, soulful music and jocular comedy ensure that we are already immersed in the rich cultural celebration of Black History Month. With events having started on the 7th September and concluding at the end of October, Southampton Council has ensured a variety of events are scheduled, providing the community with the opportunity and accessibility to get involved.
Black History Month originated in America where historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History declared a “Negro History Week”. With the recognition of interest and growth in popularity, the period of a week was extended to a month, which was eventually recognised by the US government in 1976 and began being celebrated in the UK in 1987. After the creation phase, societies in America began to change, developing more interest from an educational aspect as well as assisting to break down remaining personal ethnic stigma and persuasions that individuals developed through socialisation.
Southampton has been heavily involved with Black History Month since its introduction in 2005, with popularity soaring over the last five years, the event has become an integral part of Jayanti Shah’s event calendar. The Event Coordinator for Southampton Council explains that[quote align=”left” name=”Jayanti Shah” role=”Council Event Coordinator”]The event is about unwritten history, it is about clearly enlarging and increasing self-esteem, especially young people, but all our population.[/quote]
The history of Afro-Caribbean heritage in Southampton can be dated as far back as the 16th century and has helped provide a strong staple of multicultural diversity that the city is proud of today. Southampton Council hope the event will continue to promote knowledge of black history, providing any necessary information and ensuring black cultural heritage is cemented as a part of our local community and national culture.
The University of Southampton are staging a lot of events on their campus’, providing lecture rooms and concert halls in order to accommodate the events, utilising an effective platform for people to come and enjoy the experience. Without the help from the university and the universities cultural society ACS (Afro-Caribbean Society) the events would have proved more costly and difficult to organise.
Last year, the Black History Month activities that were celebrated at the University of Southampton took place at Avenue campus and were hosted by the Faculty of Humanities. They were organized in partnership with Dr. Godfrey Brandt, Executive Director of Diverse Arts and Artists Community Association and Dr. William May and were immensely successful.[quote align=”left” name=”Dr Howells” role=””]Perhaps they haven’t done enough and that’s an issue we are seeking to address.[/quote]
SUSU is, as ever, excited about the progression of diversity and the opportunities and experiences that BHM can offer to students in the local area. Within a great atmosphere, the inspiration of both Chloe Green (SUSU VP Communities and Welfare) and the desires of ACS, as well as the shared aspirations of the University of Southampton for diversity – it is clear to see that things will only get better, especially with the incrementation of the Valuing Diversity Policy that was updated in 2011. However it is important not to focus on this event in its singularity as Chloe explains:[quote align=”left” name=”Chloe Green” role=”VP Welfare and Communities”]Black History Month is such an excellent celebration of culture and a reminder of the long way we still have to go. I think people who claim that BHM continues to ostracise Black or ethnic minority experience do have some legitimacy; we shouldn’t need one month, every month should be BHM. Of course this is true. Unfortunately, as a society, we’re not there yet and extra effort is required to spark debate and get this issue on peoples’ radars. Let’s remember, learn and look to the future.[/quote]
There are always bound to be adamant arguments concluding that more needs to be done in order to provide a greater appreciation for the event, however BHM is more than just an event that constitutes a month of remembrance, but a month of reminding people to consider the culture, heritage, sacrifice and contributions that have been made up to this point. Rather than focus on the stagnant dramatisation of an event, we would be better suiting joining together in unity, appreciating each other, rather than fixating on negative connotations.
It is easy to think of the usually great men and woman who have contributed, even to the point of giving their lives, in order to incorporate equality and diversity. However it is imperative to remember that we are always progressing towards a common goal – something that the university and the union truly believe in. This event, or rather the premises for the event that permeate throughout, are widely acknowledged on an international scale and yet we still feel the impact on a county level – something that should be admired.[quote align=”right” name=”Don John” role=”Black History Coordinator”]We need to recognise that the acknowledgement of Black History is not just an ideological quest or a fashion statement but an important means by which we achieve a greater understanding and appreciation of who we are and our place in the world. [/quote]
If you would like to learn more about Black History Month and the events that are happening in Southampton please check out: https://www.southampton.gov.uk/news-events/events/allevents/black-history-month.asp