October marked the beginning of British Black History Month. The month is a celebration and promotion of Black contributions to British society, and it encourages our understanding of Black history in the UK and all over the world.
Catherine Ross, founder of the National Caribbean Heritage Museum, said that The Black Lives Matter 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.’
Explaining a celebration such as Black History Month to a child or young person when you don’t know a lot about it yourself can be tricky. Our history in the UK can sometimes be difficult to navigate as not everyone was taught certain aspects of our past in school or at home, and even in the media.
That’s why Black History Month is so important- to uphold, understand and acknowledge our history in the UK! This includes celebrating the contributions and rich heritage of Africans and their descendants in the UK and across the globe.
We’ve put together some information for explaining Black History Month to kids below. At the end of the article we’ve included lists with helpful resources for young people and parents and carers for you to take a look at.
Black History Month’s origin
The month’s origins go back to the 1920s and the formation of ‘Negro History Week’ in the United States and Canada. It was a week to focus on black history and culture, as it wasn’t included in the school curriculum.
Lots of people wanted to learn more about black history, so the week eventually evolved into a whole Black History Month and was marked every February. This month was chosen because of the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass, the African American social reformer and Abraham Lincoln, the president who ‘freed the slaves.’
When is Black History Month in the UK?
Black History Month was first celebrated in the UK in London in 1987, being organised by Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. He worked as a coordinator of special projects for Greater London Council and started a collaboration to get it up and running.
Akyaaba chose the month of October to acknowledge Black history as traditionally, October is when African chiefs gather to settle any differences they might have. He chose this month to reconnect with African roots. Lots of people also thought that as it was near the beginning of the new school year, October would give Black children a sense of pride and identity.
Why is Black History Month important?
It’s vital to talk about our amazing parts of history along with our less-amazing parts. In our past, black people have always been present but not had their own deserved representation in history books. It’s important to remember the people who have been removed from history who helped to shape the UK.
Throughout history black people all over the world have produced incredibly significant contributions to our society. This is in our arts culture, human rights, music, food, science, literature and so much more.
One interesting way to start a conversation is to see what your children are learning about in school. Newsround have some brilliant articles about the important black women and black men in history. Take a look through these articles and see who they have learnt about in school, and research together any they haven’t!
What we’re doing this BHM
This years’ high-profile events relating to Black Lives Matter has not gone unnoticed within our Compass Community.
In response to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and the in-humane incidents from May, Compass Community issued the following statement both internally and publicly:
Following the statement’s release, we wanted to do more, and our staff, carers and children echoed this sentiment. We decided to act & are mobilising to re-address racial inequality within Compass with the aim of making purposeful change within the organisation.
We have since formed a group of fantastic Compass staff, carers and leaders to discuss issues of race equality, and how we at Compass can embed our anti-racist strategy into everything we do. We are so excited to launch our group with introductions internally very soon, and then to the wider public!
Resources for children
- Newsround: have some interesting videos and articles written for young people and often by young people.
- TheBlackCurriculum: is a social enterprise that is focussed on supporting the teaching of Black history all year round inclusively in British and World history curriculum. It has some fantastic informative animations for children and young people.
- CBBC: have informative and entertaining videos, poems and interesting articles
- From the team that brought us Horrible Histories, these podcasts are on a range of historical figures and events, around 45 mins long and very funny!
- Cbeebies created some touching videos of fathers talking to their daughters about black history month, their heritage, and their identity.
- TheBookTrust: have put together a list of books that can help children and young people discover more about Black history
Resources for parents and carers
- BlackHistoryMonth.Org: For national listings of online and physical events across the UK on a wide range of topics at public spaces and private organisations. This site also has pages devoted to news, features, education and training.
- WalesOnline: have highlighted some resources and books to support anti-racism and wider civil rights such as LGBTQ+ and the environment
- TheGuardian: have an interactive timeline webpage explaining Black History Month
- BBCiPlayer: Have a collection of programmes exploring black history and culture.