After a summer of traumatic events and the end of another black history month, what has changed? An online petition has been started to create a permanent monument to British black history.
In a year that saw the death of George Floyd, international BLM protests and disquiet around BAME populations and COVID-19, questions about the place of black people in society are at the forefront.
Each year in the UK there is 1 month dedicated to black history. For some, this is the only time they encounter the topic. The new museum plans to make real the history of black Britons all year round. The petition calls for a space in the capital where visitors can immerse in black history, be inspired by the stories and be a positive springboard for change.
Sitting in his daughter’s primary school assembly during Black History Month 6 years ago, the lack of a black history museum in the capital was keenly felt by Orall Cornelius. There were museums of natural history, science and war, but no museum of black history. A place was needed where young people could see the stories and be inspired to make things different.
Back in 2014 Orall wrote a letter to the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, calling for such a museum, but to no avail. Now in 2020, with the traumatic events of the summer etched into the world’s conscience, the proposed museum aims to promote positive change.
This black history month, Orall’s daughter reported that her sixth-form class could identify only 1 of 10 icons of British black history. Looking across the ocean to the NMAAHC (designed somewhat ironically by black British Architect David Adjaye), the need for a UK equivalent is clear.
Considering the Washington museum, the novelist and poet Ben Okri reflected, “it’s very helpful for black people and white people just to understand how the world got to where it is. It’s overdue in the UK and it’s important for the enlightenment of future generations”.
The petition can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/329371