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Birmingham plays host to 30th BHM

PASSIONATE: Civil rights campaigner Jasper Lee talks on stage

DESPITE THE closure of one of Birmingham's popular arts and cultural centres, The Drum earlier this year, venues across the 'second city' will be hosting a variety of Black History Month (BHM) events this month and into the middle of November.

With the likes of the Church of England set to become involved, BHM was launched at a special night at the South and City College in Digbeth. Taking to the stage civil rights campaigner Lee Jssper set the tone ahead of six weeks of theatre, film, musical perform dances poetry, debates, book launches, exhibitions and comedy events, which will honour present achievements in African, Caribbean and black British communities.

"Every year we go back to Mary Seacole. Why can’t we let her rest in peace and stop digging her up? She already fought the Crimean War! We respect her, but isn’t there anything fresh and new we can talk about?"

How also seemed to catch the appetite of the crowd in reflecting on his rise from troubled past to his current status in his length but inspiring - and some points, poignant - address. It covered the importance of recognising one's own heritage as a key to future direction and the black presence in Britain stretching back to before the building of Hadrian’s Wall, the second century division between England and Scotland.

PICTURED: Anglican Tutor Rev. Dr Carlton Turner


The launch also gave a chance to preview some of the artists who will feature in the celebrations, including the host, local comedy pioneer, and ex-Teletubby, John Simmitt, reggae vocalist Peter Spence, the Tru Street Dance collective, plus gospel, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll musical renditions by Lynette Walters, Phoenix, Khaliq and Dominic Smith paying tribute to Rosetta Tharpe, Bessie Smith, Chuck Berry and Cab Calloway respectively.

Local concerns that the month would pass unnoticed were allayed by launch producers, Mykal Wassifa Brown CIC and the Blackstory Partnership – Inspiring a New Generation and the PFG Consultancy. A spokesperson said: “Our aim is to respect the Black history narrative by way of celebrating and acknowledging the achievements, contributions and struggles of black people.

“The double-bill launch program aimed to empower, enthuse and motivate all.” The night also featured addresses from some programme sponsors, including The Voice, represented by sales executive Garfield Robinson, who spoke on the newspaper’s origins and accomplishments throughout its 35-year history. Branches of the Church of England in the north west of Birmingham will also host BHM events that have been compiled by a team at the church to celebrate and commemorate the contribution of black and ethnic minori- ties to the Church of England.

The Voice's Garfield Robinson

There will be a coffee morning and lecture from Rev. Dr Carlton Turner, BAME Anglican tutor at the Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham, with all proceeds going to OSCAR Birmingham – the charitable Organisation for Sickle Cell Anaemia Relief and Thalassaemia Support.

Rev Julian Sampson, Vicar of St Michael’s Church, said: “Many immigrants from the Windrush generation and more commonly in the 1960s, were practicing Anglicans back home and joined Church of England congregations to worship."

“The Church of England is indebted to them for their steadfastness, commitment, and work in laying the foundations for future generations. It is only right and fitting that we recognise their contributions, both to the UK and to the Church of England, at so many levels.”

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