It’s October, which means it is Black History Month in the U.K., an annual commemoration of the achievements, history and contributions of black people.
For over 30 years, the month has been set aside for various functions to highlight the event, including talk shows and food festivals, but these activities may not see the light of day this year due to plans by several councils to scrap the name (Black History Month), and rather make it a month of celebration of all different ethnicities.
Centuries before slavery, the Windrush generation and the Second World War, black people and other minority groups have been a part of British history and it would not be out of place to set aside a month to celebrate these people.
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But a number of councils, according to campaigners of Black History Month, are refusing to recognize the month.
The Conservative-led London borough of Hillingdon, in west London, abandoned Black History month events in 2007 in favour of multi-ethnic events and has also thwarted all efforts to get it reinstated this month.
Likewise, the London borough of Wandsworth has reinvented the celebration as “Diversity Month”, and contracted it out to a company called Better which manages Wandsworth’s libraries, according to reports by the Guardian.
Better’s website states that Diversity Month is a time of “celebrating and learning together about the many and varied experiences and cultures within our borough”.
Activities feature not only African and Caribbean cultures but also Indian, Polish, Spanish, and Chinese as well.
This has been described as disappointing, considering boroughs such as Hillingdon and Wandsworth are highly diverse.
June Nelson, a Labour councillor in Hillingdon, in 2012 tried to get Black History Month reinstated in the borough but she failed.
She tabled another motion calling for it to be restored, but once again did not succeed.
“I feel terribly angry,” she was quoted by the Guardian. “This month should be set aside specifically for black history but there is nothing in there pertaining to the history of black people.
“When I became a councillor in 2010 and it was first brought to my attention they said they did not have the funds for it. I took my eye off the ball for a few years, then when I started making enquiries, I went to a few of the schools and they weren’t doing anything, apart from putting up a few pictures on their noticeboard.”
To make matters worse, the UK Black History Month website was on Tuesday brought down by hackers for a second time in 24 hours in what its editors described as a case of “cyber-racism”.
As at the time of filing this story, the site was back up but editors fear that it could be attacked again.
Attempts to dilute the significance of the month have shocked many people, largely blacks who feel that the celebration is more important than ever this year, especially in the wake of racism and white supremacy rising across the world.
Black History Month, which first originated in the U.S., found its way to the U.K. through Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer at the Greater London Council.
He founded the UK’s version of Black History Month in 1987.
In recent years, some people have argued that dedicating only a month to teach black history is not enough and have asked for it to be rather integrated into the mainstream education system.