Saturday, 1 October 2011

Black History Month

Today is the start of Black History Month. Like other history months the idea isn’t to exclude everyone else but to encourage people to join in and celebrate the contributions the community has made to the world. It also encourages and inspires black people to discover new information about their own heritage.

Some critics say it is wrong to relegate one section of society to one month. Actor Morgan Freeman has been very critical in the past. But these critics miss the point. It’s like saying why should we have a weekend when you can work or take time off any day of the week? The joy of being part of a society like ours is its variety. You don’t get variety by making every day and month the same. That would be dull, like people who stop celebrating their own birthday.

The celebration of black history actually goes back further than you might think. It began in February 1926 in the USA. Carter G. Woodson, who worked at the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History and edited the “Journal of Negro History”, created the first small-scale event that is now held annually. He chose February because it was the month in which the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (the president who introduced the freedom of slaves) and Frederick Douglass (black social reformer) fell. For various reasons we in the UK reserve February for LGBT History month, which the Americans are celebrating this month – it’s a simple theme swap.

But you can still celebrate it at any other time of year because, like LGBT History Month, it carries on the celebrations all year round on its website.

Undoubtedly, the main emphasis in the early days of rediscovering black heritage was around slavery. Issues of sexuality were largely ignored. But today the black lgbt community, both here and in other countries where it is celebrated, have the opportunity to display their own unique contribution to history.

On a more local point, a friend of mine, Laura, has just helped to set up a new project called the Nottingham Black Archive. She hopes to produce displays by this time next year and perhaps set up a museum (just like my own wish to see an lgbt museum here).

This month I’ll be joining the celebrations and bring you some information on lgbt black history alongside other general history.

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