Black History Month - Time for Change: Action Not Words

10th October 2022

This October is Black History Month, a time for reflection and positive changes for the future. It’s important for celebrating the lives, achievements and contributions of people to the UK and around the world.

Ben Harrison is a Programme Manager for Morrison Water Services, a part of M Group Services’ Water Division. He is also Chair of the M Group Services’ Water Division Race, Equality and Celebrating Heritage (REACH) Network. The network aims to provide a platform for individuals from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to share ideas and make recommendations for changes to policies, recruitment and awareness training. REACH also provides a support network for all colleagues.

Here, Ben reflects on the history and importance of Black History Month, why it is celebrated in October and what events, webinars and films are available to inspire and involve everyone this month.

“Black History Month, dedicated to the celebration and promotion of black contributions to British society and creating awareness of black history in general, has been celebrated in the UK since 1987. It evolved out of community activism challenging racism in general British society and the Eurocentric version of history taught in schools.

“People of African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries. However, campaigners believe their value and contribution to society is often overlooked, ignored or distorted.

“Studying history helps us understand and grapple with complex questions and dilemmas by examining how the past has shaped, and continues to shape, global, national, and local relationships between societies and people. It enables us to develop a better understanding of the world in which we live, learning from past mistakes and emulating the successes. Studying history provides you with your identity and creates cultural awareness.

The origins

“The idea for Black History Month in the UK came from a Ghanaian analyst, Akyaaba Adai-Sebo. Well versed in the lecturing of the contribution of Africa to world civilisation in the US, Akyaaba was moved to action here in the UK following an incident with a colleague at the Greater London Council (GLC).

“When Akyaaba asked a colleague at work, who was looking extremely downcast and not herself, what was wrong she confided that, while putting her son to bed, he asked: “Mummy, why can’t I be white?”

“Already familiar with Black History Month in America, Akyaaba felt something similar had to be done in Britain to stop the erosion of Black identity and pride.

“The annual observance of Black History Month in the UK was actually brought about by the African jubilee year declaration which called on all London boroughs to recognise and promote the contributions of Africans to the cultural, economic and political life of London and the UK. The Declaration and subsequent celebrations were inspired by the centenary of the birth of renowned political activist Marcus Garvey and also the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean.

Why October?

“October was chosen as the month to celebrate Black History as it has particular significance in the African calendar as the time of the autumn equinox, harvest period and yam festivals.

“In the past at this time Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia in particular were considered the bread-basket and cradle of civilisation. October is close to the start of the new school year where children would be refreshed and their minds able to absorb the abundance of information.

“Today, Black History Month has become an important date in the cultural calendar of many schools, museums, galleries and local authorities in the UK.

“Black History Month is celebrated up and down the country with a multitude of events occurring both in person and virtually.

“On behalf of our Water Division REACH Network, here are our Black History Month

recommendations – join us for action to help make this a time for change.”

Please see a list of events and webinars coming up below:

Wednesday 12 October, 7pm to 8.30pm: The History of Carnival. An online talk for Black History Month. Please click here to attend. 

Wednesday 19 October, 7pm to 9:30pm: Black History Month Quiz 2022. Please click here to attend. 

Thursday 20 October, 5.30pm to 7pm: Virtual Black History Month Lecture. Please click here to attend. 


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