Thoughts. Ramblings. Heavy-hipped. Mango-obsessed.

My History, (Not) My Month...

Ask a lot of UK-based working black artists - 'Black History Month' is when they earn a significantly bigger chunk of money than most other months. I'm no exception. And I'm grateful for the opportunity.

However, as each 'Black History Month' has come and gone, I've grown increasingly dis-satisfied with the whole event. I don't think there should be a Black History Month at all because I beleive it should be spread out throughout the year. I've worked in schools - and as much as I appreciate their initiative to have a yearly BHM event at all (and some are really good events, doing the best they can with the budget they have), sometimes it all seems very 'tick the boxes so we can be seen to have done something for BHM' to me. Superficial.

There are a lot of students who don't see their faces reflected in their history textbooks and when they do, it's invariably about how their ancestors were slaves (and if you're gonna teach a black student about slavery, why not also teach them how strong & stubborn their ancestors were to have survived it, to have held doggedly to language and customs and rituals - and that that strong defiant gene exists in them, the student).

I don't think it's enough to bring a black artist in for one day in October. I also think it's quite ironic and unfortunate that some artists encounter ignorance, stereotypes & racist undertones (subtle or otherwise) in the very schools & organisations that have invited them to their BHM event in the first place. It's happened to me a few times and that's a few times too many.

I commend all schools and organisations that recognise that black history (any history for that matter) is much more than a month, than slavery, and do their best to address it on a deeper level.


Bloggrrl said...

I have always had a problem with Black History Month, because it implies that Black History is only worth a month's worth of time, while the rest of the time is what--White History? After hearing many of my Hispanic students in particular ask me, "Where were we?" while studying a particular period in American history, I have made a huge effort to get all of the angles.

Ebele said...

Hi bloggrrl! How are ya?!

Well, in the UK this year, we technically get 'black history' for a whole year as it's the commemoration of the slave trade act passed 200 years ago. The whole commemoration un-nerves me too as the slave trade becomes this massive focal point for a whole year.

Like I said before, your students are very lucky to have you as a teacher - maybe they could create a version of how they feel a history textbook ought to be.