For countless generations people of African and Caribbean descent have been shaping our nation’s story, making a huge difference to our national and cultural life and helping to make Britain a better place to be.
It is this contribution of black British people that I am proud to be celebrating Black History Month this October.
That contribution is overwhelmingly apparent today in the energy, talent and dedication of business leaders, lawyers, academics, musicians, artists and many more. This year we have seen the heroic efforts of all the frontline workers and the doctors, nurses and medical professionals who have been tirelessly supporting our NHS throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, there is much more work to be done to ensure that every person of every skin colour, background and creed has the opportunity to succeed, and to stamp out discrimination and racism. I understand the force and depth of feeling that has been expressed following the death of George Floyd in the United States, and share the determination of all those seeking a more equal and just world. That’s why I have set up a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to make the progress so many have called for, and to bring about lasting change.
But I also believe that alongside tackling the substance of the problem, we should be giving due praise and recognition to all those who have played such an important role in helping to positively shape modern Britain and our modern Commonwealth.
Because it’s a great shame that more people do not know more about Paul Stephenson or Mary Prince. Or that they haven’t heard about the many brave black servicemen who served in the World Wars – from those grappling in the mud of the Western Front, to the valiant Caribbean pilots and aircrew in the Second World War, and the heroes who fought further afield, in places such as Burma. Or even that they know so little about the Windrush generation, from the nurses who were there at the very start of our NHS to all those who helped rebuild our country after the war.
A key part of the Commission’s work will be to look at how we ensure society is more aware of the significant role people from different ethnic backgrounds have played in our shared British history. Let’s use this Black History Month to celebrate not just the achievements of people today, but of all those who have shaped our nation. Let’s raise up those names. Let’s remember their acts. And let’s celebrate them – because black British history is all our history.
Boris Johnson Prime Minister