An Open Letter to Wandsworth Council

Dear Wandsworth Council,

It has come to my attention that you are taking it upon yourselves to change a momentous occasion in Black British culture, to one that completely changes not only the appearance of what you are celebrating, but also what October supposedly signifies.

 

Your recent decision to change the month of October to celebrate ‘Diversity Month’ instead of ‘Black History Month’ does force me to raise questions towards your genuine feelings towards Diversity in your borough, since it not only highlights your lack of respect for the Black community, but a lack of insight you have given to your Mixed Ethnic, Asian and LGBT+ Communities also.

Firstly, as a young, Mixed Race British Citizen, I understand the need for teaching diversity in your community as it gives people like me a sense of belonging and self-awareness.
Secondly, I am a man who is aware of social issues, so I do understand that your public image is something you want to preserve. At the end of it all, you do have thousands of homes constantly being sold and rented in your area and you would like to be a council that is seen as inclusive, to everyone of every race, religion, gender and sexuality.

Yet I have one burning question. Who exactly is your ‘Diversity Month’ catering to? According to your 2014 consensus, the demographic breakdown of your councils citizenship shows that 74.9% identify with some parts of them as white, whilst 54% outright claim a solely White British heritage.

This means that for 25.1% of your 312,145 Citizens, 78,349* of them must have their collective backgrounds crammed into 31 days, or roughly 8% of the Year.

Of course, the notion that recognition for historical achievements should be shown over a numbers of days proportional to the population percentage a community occupies is preposterous.
It’s preposterous because despite these 31 days being once nationally accepted as Black History Month, it actually turns out to be less than the 28 days dedicated to the LGBT+ Community for ‘Pride’ as several days are dedicated to religious- not ethnically inspired festivals, Diwali and Eid.

But how do you plan to equally share out ‘Diversity Month’?

 

Diversity covers a number of areas, from religious celebration to heritage, skin colour and sexual orientation. Do you plan to cover all of these things in 31 days?
You see, by recognising everyone and all things at the same time, you create two very silly mistakes.

Firstly, if you cram everyone into one month, you will inevitably run out of days to celebrate everyone as the individuals that they are. This means that you are going to have to either cut some people out, showing just how secular and elitist you can be- or you force people to share days, showing how narrow minded you have chosen to be, since you will recommend and even force people to choose who and what aspects they are most proud of or want to support.

This also means that you also inevitably end up showing that you don’t care enough to spread these out over the course of a year and again, show your lack of depth when it comes to the issue of promoting diversity.

 

In truth, it doesn’t matter how you organise your newly titled ‘Diversity Month’ because simply retitling the highly important event and deeply emotional event of Black History Month exposes your ignorant stance and lack of time dedicated to learning about diverse events.

Firstly, ‘Black History Month’ has always, since its conception in 1987, been a celebration for both Black and Asian history. This is because plans for a British Asian month have been repeatedly rejected. Personally, I believe this is a great shame because two communities are forced into what is essentially a shouting contest, because neither community is given the time to share their historic efforts to the next generation, or people who desire to learn more about these minority communities.

‘Diversity Month’ does not rectify this issue. Instead it adds more voices to this cauldron of confusion and forces more bodies into what is already an overcrowded pool.

This also leaves the question as to what you are doing for the LGBT+ Community. Are you scrapping the plans in which the LGBT+ community are recognised in February, to instead bundle the LGBT+ community with Diversity Month? If your answer is yes, I can assure you that your ivory tower is not tall enough to drown out the cries of Homophobia. If your answer is no, do you exclude LGBT+ achievements from the Diversity Month celebrations and let those cries ring true, or do you priorities the LGBT+ community over your Black and Asian community and accept the calls that the move is instead racist?

As I said earlier, I am a British citizen of Mixed Ethnic heritage and the importance of Black History Month being called and recognised as Black History Month is important me. It’s important to myself and thousands of other Black British Citizens because not only do we feel that History being taught in our Schools, Collages and Universities excludes us, we also feel that when we do have an opportunity, like Black History Month to teach and learn about our history, people always find another reason to make it about someone else. See example; “What about White History Month?” or “Why does it have to be in October?”
Lastly however, Black History Month also serves to recognise our role in the development of the British Empire.
As the month of harvest is traditionally in October, Black History Month does more than simply coincide with the fact that October was the hardest and most fatal month a slave could survive. It is through these collective efforts that the British Empire was funded and essentially began to rely on the sheer wealth slavery produced.

So changing October from Black History Month, to anything else only serves to show that you are ignoring both Britain’s colonial and slave driven history, or you are choosing to gloss over the fact that slavery even existed at all.

In Britain, Black History Month is more than just a celebration for Black people, it also serves as the only time descendants of colonial citizens have their histories uncovered and taught. The biggest supporter of Black History Month has been the Asian community because initial plans to have a separate month solely dedicated to the Asian community have been repeatedly rejected.

So if you thought changing Black History Month to ‘Diversity Month’ was an attempt to recognise the efforts and heritage of your 10.9% Asian community, you once again show your ignorance as to what ‘Black History Month’ actually stands for.

Black History Month is the title celebration for the African, Caribbean and Asian communities who have links to Britain through Slavery, colonial rule or more recently, migration.

Accept that your ignorance has been made abundantly clear, Wandsworth Council and understand that the Black and Asian community is already aware that when May was proposed for Asian History Month, only America accepted the offer. So yes, we are aware that your efforts to care have only gone so far as to mark our four calendar weeks to share between two very large communities and now you attempt to silence our History and our achievements once again.

 

 

Comments

As an estate agent serving the communities of Battersea and Brixton, I support both the need to promote diversity in our neighbourhoods and Black History Month. We think there is room for both in not just Wandsworth but the whole of London and beyond. In particular, I support Dr Wanda Wyporska’s message that Equality Begins at Home.


I want to thank Omar for his wisdom his courage to talk back to those in positions of power which they abuse. They do not represent us as Black people nor did we expect any other because we are acutely aware of how this system operates.

Who are you as a Council, paid for by our taxes to attempt to tell us what we can do and when to do so? In whose name? I reiterate Omar’s words, thoughts and deeply felt interpretation of what we aim to achieve. Who gives the Council permission to state this new premise on which we should organise our communities?

We understand your agenda, however, we have our own and a totally different perspective outlined by Omar, eloquently.

May I offer you Omar, any support I can give to further our agenda for the future generations!

Munira Folayan-Folami


    Thank you very much for your kind words and offer of support.
    We do have to show the larger community that the Black Community is one worthy of support like all the others.
    -Omar.


I worked for Wandsworth for 12 years and I am disappointed to read this letter from Omar as I was just updating the events section on our new free website.

I cannot agree with what Wandsworth have done but I hope Omar you will be consoled by this new free 24 hours, 7 days a week , history resource


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