BHM: More Than A Month

For years I spent my time, during and after Black History Month (BHM), telling people that BHM “should be all year round”. It seemed like the right thing to say at the time. All the people who presented as smart seemed to be saying the same thing.

Viv Ahmun

I now admit that whilst sensible on the surface, my comments lacked purpose, and a plan, and therefore never translated into the meaningful action needed for something of substance to emerge from those words.

Fast track forward almost three decades to BHM October 1st 2015, when we called into existence a social action vehicle/collective called Blaksox (a reference to the need for black male elders to pull up their ‘black’ socks and provide leadership for their young). Blaksox was born out of the pain and frustration felt by those in our community least able to bring safety and financial stability into their homes. Its creation was witnessed by more than four hundred individuals who had come out to protest about the unnecessary death of yet another young black man in their community. We made sure it was not just another mass venting of anger and emotion directed at the attendant local authority officers, councillors and police who expect ranting, infighting and a complete lack of oversight regarding how best to affect change from those who attend such community meetings in response to violent murder within their midst.

In many respects, that sombre October 1st evening was very different and yet very much the same, as those mass outpourings that provide little more than Gestaltian therapy for those desperate to be heard.

So yes, initially there was the obligatory lashing out at the authorities, but then, we gave them-the authorities-a shock.  What at times seemed like a rabble, was mobilised into a cohesive community group that was able to agree the following principles, and in so doing breathe mandated life into Blaksox, ( a new breed of organisation.:

  • Everything we need as a community can be sourced from within the community; therefore our primary focus and intent must be to ‘do for self’, because that approach will make us individually and collectively stronger.
  • We all strive to practice ethical leadership in every aspect of our lives, by sharing what we have access to in terms of critical information and wealth. (Businesses and those making money within our communities in particular, need to adopt the principle of community tithing.)
  • We focus on collective working, rather than the fragmented, distrustful practices that we have witnessed in our communities for so many decades and more. When we work together things get done. When we work in isolation and see people who look like us as the enemy, we enable the real threat to our safety and prosperity to gain traction and further undermine our resilience.

The Harlem Children’s Zone offers one example of how a truly comprehensive ‘cradle to grave’ approach can be developed and sustained within communities impacted by poverty and violence –  but again, we would have to take on and adapt those examples of best practice ourselves and not allow the state to attempt to do so for us. Otherwise, great approaches atrophy when adopted by the state.

Blaksox celebrates its second anniversary on October 1st 2017 at the beginning of the 30th year celebration of Black History month. Just the fact that our anniversary is on October 1st is powerful, because it reinforces our commitment to using such spiritual and symbolic points of remembrance as an opportunity to sow new seeds, even as we remember and celebrate that which came before.

We continue to evolve our network of individuals, companies, groups and other groups both in the UK and internationally. We are not interested in delivering services in the traditional sense; we are focused on ensuring quality services exist in our community that work ethically to ensure wealth is generated, safety is achieved and wellbeing is a reality.

In Blaksox, we have ‘sponsors’, rather than members, because we want all those who come into contact with us to know that we ‘chop’ our own food. In reflecting on Blaksox’s second year, we are proud of how we managed the Sarah Reed Campaign over nearly 2 years with no state support; the work we have done on the drugs and black community agenda, which is on-going, and the creation of the Legacy Gala, which is an annual event aimed at black people with a wealth mind-se. Last but not least, our work as part of the BMELAWYERS4GRENFELL coalition, which has been working hard to ensure that the victims, survivors, and local community around Grenfell, get justice.

Put simply, BHM makes sense if we use the month as an opportunity to bring new things that are of economic and social value to our young, into existence – as well as the traditional acknowledgement of our ancestors and our traditions, and thereafter use the month as a period for reflection, assessment and celebration of what has been achieved and what is yet to come.

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