Does Black History Month do enough to celebrate our culture?

Saturday 10th October sees African On The Square kick off in Trafalgar Square, right the heart of London. Roll the clock back just 30 years and the only African-related event in London was the permanent protest against apartheid in South Africa. 2015 also sees the UK celebrating the 50th anniversary of the race relations act, a landmark piece of legislation that made it illegal to discriminate on colour. With so many positives, African fashion takes a small step back to consider whether black culture is being celebrated enough in the 21st century.

Carter G Woodson was the editor of the Journal of Negro History for 30 years. In 1926, he established African Caribbean celebrations in America – and that tradition continues to this day as Black History Month each February. Here in the UK, Black History Month was initiated by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo in 1987. He was coordinator of special projects for the former Greater London Council and now Black History Month is celebrated in the UK every October, with over 6,000 events taking place across the country.

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Globally, these celebrations are termed ‘Kwanzaa‘, a name whose roots come from the Swahili term ‘matunda ya kwanza’ or ‘fruit of the harvest’ – and it’s a time to celebrate seven key principals:-

  • Unity: For ones family, community, nation and race (Umoja)
  • Self-Determination: To name, define and speak for ourselves (Kujichagulia)
  • Collective Work and Responsibility: Building our community together, supporting one another and helping to solve each other’s problems (Ujima)
  • Cooperative Economics: To build our own businesses and to profit from them together (Ujamaa)
  • Purpose: Working together to re-build our people’s greatness (Nia)
  • Creativity: To find ways to enhance out culture and world, to make it more beautiful for the next generation (Kuumba)
  • Faith: To believe with all our hearts in our people as well as the righteousness of our struggle (Imani)

Here in the UK, the aim of Black History Month is to:-

  • Promote knowledge of the Black History, Culture and Heritage
  • Disseminate information on positive Black contributions to British Society
  • Heighten the confidence and awareness of Black people to their cultural heritage

While this effort has to be applauded, there are still quite a few criticisms levelled at Black History Month – the key one being ‘Why should the focus on black figures of historical significance be confined to one month of the year, a single month of hero worship?’.

David Olusoga is a British-Nigerian historian and broadcaster who says, “Black British history needs to be more than just the history of the black experience. It is the history of a relationship between Britain and people of African descent. It is a centuries-long epic of trade, mutual fascination, inter-marriage, exploitation, exoticism, eroticism, confusion, misunderstanding and tragedy; a history that takes place on three continents, and which has permanently reshaped the demography of Britain and much of the world. Black British history is our joint history and it should be much more than the search for and the defence of black heroes”.

It’s easy to see where that kind of academic analysis comes from, but youngsters like Samuel King have absolutely nailed the feelings of many young black people when he asks, ‘What wasn’t I taught in school‘. It’s a 6 minute spoken word film in which Samuel puts a powerful argument to his teacher about the failings of Black History Month – as it stands today. The 6 minute short film starts slow, but Samuel builds to a strong flow by the end:-

Samuel names the likes of Patricia E. Bath, King Musa I of Mali, Mary Prince, Sir Trevor McDonald, Ella Baker, Septimius Severus, Fuse ODG, Jamal Edwards, Garrett Morgan and Kwame Nkrumah as individuals he could be taught about. His key argument centres on, “There seems to be a lot you haven’t told us, and you shut down and hold back on the bold ones who stand against the way you’re trying to mould us”.

Africa On The Square takes place on 10th October 2015 and, we hope, will become an ever larger part of the calendar – and a focal point for Black History Month.

There are a number of useful hashtags, which we encourage you to explore, including: #BlackHistory365, #UnspokenLegacy, #BlackUnity, #BlackHistoryMatters, #EachOneTeachOne and this link on Instagram to Adam Brooks – youth educator, mentor and coach, whose passion is empowering and raising the level of aspiration in children and young people.


Africa Fashion encourages everyone to seek out events in their local community. Local boroughs normally have their events listed online. To make your research easier, we’ve highlighted some of the events taking place during the course of Black History Month for you below.

For a comprehensive event listing please visit the Black History Month website for more information about how you can get involved.


Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar
9 October 2015 – 9 April 2016 at the Black Cultural Archives

This exhibition reveals the everyday lives of Black people during the Georgian period (1714-1830). It offers a rich array of historical evidence and archival materials that present a surprising, sometimes shocking, and inspiring picture of Georgian Britain.
Free admission.
Opening times: Tues-Sat, 10am – 6pm
Twitter: @bcaheritage #BlackGeorgians

Black-Georgians-Cultural_A_Africa Fashion


Africa In The Square: Trafalgar Square
10 October, 2015
Free admission

Africa on the Square is organised by the Mayor of London for Black History Month 2015. The event is sponsored by Lebara and Air France, with media partner support from The Voice. It is programmed by Open the Gate.
Starts:12 pm
Web: Open The Gate
Twitter: @LDN_gov @OpenTheGate #Africainthesquare #AfricaLDN

Africa Day_2015_spotlight_660x236

Ballet Black: A Tripple Bill, Millfield Theatre
14 – 15 October, 2015

Ballet Black has made a program in their image, one that not only showcases their dancers but frames their identity.  A Triple Bill at the Millfield Theatre, is a choice of exciting works put together like a musical concert, by Kit Holder (Birmingham Royal Ballet) and Will Tuckett (Royal Ballet). Mark Bruce makes the company’s newest narrative ballet, Second Coming; inspired by Yeats’ poem of the same name.
Starts: 7:45 pm
Twitter: @BalletBlack #SecondComing
Photo Credit:Bill Cooper

1:54, Contemporary African Art Fair, Somerset House
15-18 October, 2015
Day tickets are £15+bf

 1:54 will feature 38 exhibitors representing more than 150 contemporary artists from Africa and the African diaspora. The fair is an opportunity to enjoy African contemporary art no matter what mediums you’re into; painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation.
Opening times: Thursday, Friday & Saturday 12.00-20.00
Sunday, 12.00-18.00
Twitter: @Somersethouse #SomersetHouse


West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song
The British Library, at PACCAR Gallery
Fri 16 Oct 2015 – Tue 16 Feb 2016
Full Price: £10.00

An exhibition of literature and music – from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today. Beautiful manuscripts, historic film and sound recordings, books, photographs, and woven and printed textiles offer a unique insight into a profound and engaging literary culture with centuries-old written heritage existing alongside ancient oral traditions.
Opening times and Ticket info >
Twitter: @britishlibrary



We Are Parable: Present street-wear documentary Fresh Dressed 
The Rio Cinema
24th October 2:00-3:45pm
Full Price: £15.00

Directed by Mass Appeal’s Sacha Jenkins, executive produced by hip hop superstar Nas and featuring interviews with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Diddy and Pusha T, the documentary charts the meteoric rise of the relationship between hip hop and fashion. A panel discussion after the screening with speakers including: Wale Adeyemi MBE, founder of B-side, Marc Hare founder of Mr Hare, Rich Blk curator and designer (Fila, Sean John) and Claudine Rousseau, Head of Fashion Sportwear at the London College of Fashion.
Your film ticket gets you entry to an afterparty at London Fields Brewery, Warbuton Road, E8. An immersive night of music, fashion and film not to be missed.
Twitter: @riocinema



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