Why Black History Month is more important than ever this year?

Catherine Ross - Founder Director, Museumand - The National Caribbean Heritage Museum Editor of Black History Month 2020

2020 has held a mirror up to the world and forced many to see the reality of racism in all its guises. From Black people dying disproportionately in the pandemic, to the horrific murder of George Floyd and no justice for Breonna Taylor – the 26-year-old emergency medical worker killed by police in her own home.


In the UK, the scale and impact of institutionalised racism has been laid bare, with young Black men stopped and searched 20,000 times in London during the coronavirus lockdown (the equivalent of 1 in 4 young Black men), along with Black MPs, barristers, senior police officers, sportspeople and many more.

#BlackLivesMatter protests around the world sparked a commitment among many individuals and organisations to educate themselves about Black history, heritage and culture – as part of understanding racism and standing in solidarity against it.

If that commitment is to transcend beyond social media into real change, everyone, from all communities, needs to embrace Black History Month as a starting point for exploring, discovering and celebrating Black history, heritage and culture – both past and contemporary. From the incredible achievements and contributions, to the many untold stories and barriers to progress – the day-to-day reality of institutionalised racism.

Crucially, this year’s Black History Month is a time to shine a light on our shared British history and tell the whole story honestly and truthfully, to decolonise and reclaim history, and tell stories from the perspective of all people – not just the rich white men in power. The felling of contentious statues and monuments is just the start, now it’s time to ask communities how colonial objects and symbols are used to tell the true story of history.

Black History Month 2020 is also a time to look forward and celebrate the here and now – and the future possibilities. In years gone by, October has been the only time of year when the UK talks about the achievements of Black people in Britain. Hopefully, the events of 2020 will be a catalyst for Black history to be shared much more widely – in museums, galleries, schools, universities, public spaces and communities.

Black people have always made history and always will – but it’s equally important that Black people take the lead on how that history is discovered, explored, researched, recorded, archived, curated, exhibited and shared. That means supporting Black-led heritage organisations and professionals; making national and local institutions much more accessible and representative; and empowering communities to define and share what Black history means to them.

Black culture isn’t just a commodity to be appropriated and monetised, and Black history isn’t just a month to be ticked off a calendar dominated by a white-washed version of history.

Black History Month 2020 is a time for people to come together and hopefully learn lessons for the present and the future. It’s a time to honour the commitment to learning and standing united against racism. It’s a time to reclaim history and re-imagine how our shared history will be told in the future.


Very impressed with this work

Here we are again,as the offspring of Caribbean heritage, or should I say the Survivor of the seed to Atlantic slave trade.
One Months of being Black and the other 11th Months throw a dice, nice to read the above

I am so emotional about this because black people are the same as white just different skin and hair

The work by BHM to encourage everyone’s voice is excellent and therapautic for all, but to start on the first line with the words institutionalised racism and can only be reflected back to the whites who live in this country, is unfair. When to add “It is laid bare” can you see how divisive, and that unfair. This country and its government has done a significant amount of work to help everyone whether, Polish, Irish, Spanish, Chinese or BAME all have been given opportunity’s. Not all whites are driving posh cars and so, not all blacks. But many blacks live in very smart houses and drive very expensive cars and to hear this constant unbalance prejudice unnecessary.

Nice one, thank you.

Love this.

I hear you Lyn Griffiths, you make a good and valid point. However the piece written above by Catherine Ross wasn’t there to cast blame on all whites in this country it was a Voice to be heard by ALL. I for one have received help in my time in the UK…. but I for one have also been Victimised, Abused, looked over for Jobs, Ignored, followed by the police, stopped by the police, searched and spat at to name but a few. Blacks (BAME) whatever you wish to call us….we have VALUE and that value has helped Great Britain to become the Great country it is today. We all just want recognition of our VALUE and the recognition of our Ancestors great work to help build GB. For me it’s quite simple the STRONG took advantage of the WEAK by making promises regarding Citizenship, Living conditions, Prejudices, Pay etc. They (Slave Traders) made Hundreds and Thousands if not Millions each and still to today due to their wealth and nobility they underpin the TOP 5% of the UK’s wealth. They not only took advantage of us they rewrote History books to hide the fact that they were (can’t think of a nicer word for it) EVIL!! The saying goes Money goes to Money….and that Money approx £20m given out to the Slave Traders worth Billions in today’s money helped keep them at the Top of the food chain. Lessons need to be learned not only from the whites as you put it Lyn, in this country but the Blacks (BAME) who have taken this for far too many years. Ps Given opportunities is exactly what the Government has done but if you are Black (BAME) how many more hurdles do you need to jump to get to the same finishing line…..my guess is a whole lot more. I could go on…but I won’t. Peace be with us ALL in these Uncertain Times

I am proud to work alongside some of the amazing people from the BAME community. I don’t see colour, I instead see compassion, kindness, caring, love, professionalism, ambition, and know our ancestors would be proud of our many achievements and successes.

this post is so emotional. people talk about black people being different to white people but what do they have different about them apart from the colour of their skin. it is not like they are criminals or anything like that so why do they deserve this. it is time we step up and involve everyone as one community

Mia, that comment is wrong on so many levels….!

This generation and the generations to come need to be educated on history entwined with the history of black people and their heritage. The history of people of colour is a subject for us all 365 days of the year.

If the objective of Black history month is to serve as a reminder then I’m all for it to be part of the national curriculum!

However, being of South Asian descent I dont feel a sense of inclusion as its “Black” history month. What about all the others who have settled here and call the UK home? Should everyone have a month allocated to highlight their plight at the hands of the British empire?

Not to take anything away from my Black brothers and sisters, Indian subcontinent was enslaved and locals suffered. South East Asians were forced to enlist in the British army and fight a war thousands of miles away across the globe that had nothing to do with them. What about their contributions? Do they not deserve their own history month by the same definition?

Racism is a sad fact of life but I refuse to hold a single race accountable. Asians face the same issues as their black peers daily, but are determined to move on and overcome whatever hardships and challenges they face, be it educational attainment, stop and search, financial or otherwise.

Please leave the past where it belongs; in the past. It’s the only way society can live in harmony, forgive and forget.

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Thank you!

hELLO catherine Ross, it pains me to remind you: Black History month UK should remind everyone-including young children in schools-that it all began in Africa ( the Mother Land) and then, the colonial Caribbean via the trans-Atlantic slave trade before migrating to UK. I await your response

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