“After Black History Month – let’s make sure 2021 is the year that what we’ve learned really sticks”
I have seen Black History Month come and go through the years.
And although many things have changed since growing up as a mixed-race kid in Cardiff in the 80s, I feel there is a great deal to improve upon - and this is a job that we can all get involved in together.
This Black History Month, I interviewed five Black people from across Wales on what the event means to them, and what lessons they think Black history can teach the world about the future.
For this event with the Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, I spoke to Phillip, Jessica, Vernesta, Kimberley and Margaret and was honoured that they shared their stories with me.
Speaking with them gave me time to reflect on what Black History Month means to me, and now it’s come to a close, I wanted to share some of those reflections.
For me, history is history is history – it belongs to all of us.
I understand the meaning of Black History Month, but, personally, it’s garnered an almost mythological status, and figures such as Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Mary Seacole have become story-book characters to me.
What I saw was their words being ripe for picking by those who to wish to devalue Black people, shut down conversations about the structural inequalities in our society, yes, in Wales and the UK, too, and those who disengage with meaningful discussions on how we can really move forward and do so in solidarity.
That’s why I think the narrative of Black History Month needs to change.
Looking to a past depicts Black people as ‘other’, constantly fighting for recognition that our lives do indeed matter, just as much as everybody else’s.
We should look at the history we are creating now, in the moment. Every waking moment will be recorded as history at some point, and so we need to make the most of it.
That’s why I hope that as we move on from Black History Month, we don’t just pack up our beautiful resources, nice and tidy for next year, and move on to our other projects without a second thought of what was said and done in October.
We can make 2021 the year where it all sticks, where we’re all reflected, all heard, and all given the same opportunities.
With the inclusive teaching of diverse cultures and heritages being implemented in schools in Wales from September 2022, it’s exciting to think about the potential of our children here in Wales.
We’re a global community, and we’re lucky to have such richness here. The fact that children will see themselves reflected in what will be taught in their schools will make a huge difference to their sense of self-worth. It would have made a difference to mine.
It was refreshing to speak to the five brilliant Black people on their thoughts around Black History Month, its complications, its nuances and shortcomings.
It’s been an opportunity to grow and a catalyst for empowering conversations with my own children.
I’m grateful to have passed on the stories of Phillip, Jessica, Vernesta, Kimberley and Margaret.
Their stories have more to teach than those of celebrities who don’t speak to our experiences – rather distract us, instead of reflecting us or supporting us to grow. With that in mind, I think the biggest threat to future generations is the loss of the self.
We’re constantly being told to pick a side, what to do and how to think.
So it can be daunting to stand up and voice our own thoughts and feelings.
If we can step back and look at things with a more critical eye, and try to be a little mindful of what we consume, whether its material things or the media, we could see positive benefits for ourselves and our communities.
It’s vital that we begin to connect with the communities we belong to, because our communities are our home.
Vernesta was spot on when she said, ‘we are wonderful people – so much talent’, and she’s echoed by Kimberley when she says, ‘we could be celebrating each other any time with what we’re all achieving’ as individuals, in our own right.
And while we’re celebrating each other, we need to look in the mirror more often, and celebrate ourselves. It’s never too early to start.
Emma Evans is a writer based in Cardiff. You can follow her @EmmaJayneEvans1.