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Black Britons have their own unique story to tell

TRUE PIONEER: Claudia Jones, founder of Britain's first black weekly newspaper

BLACK HISTORY Month is upon us once again with a theme this year celebrating aspiration and social mobility since Windrush.

Though there has been a black presence in Britain dating back centuries pre-dating slavery – in past 65 years since the famous ship docked at Tilbury, in Essex, the country has been in a period of adjustment as it adapts to its new multicultural identity.

There have been highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies such as the New Cross Fires in 1981, which all help make the black experience in the UK a very special story to tell.

Until black history – which at The Voice we consider to simply be grossly overlooked part of world history – is effectively told in history books and school curriculums, this is the moment to hear it.

It is vital that the new generation realise they are standing on the shoulder of giants, the elders who faced visceral discrimination when they first arrived in Britain but rose above it with determination and self-organisation to make better lives for the generations that followed.

These are people like civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson OBE who led a boycott in 1963 against the Bristol Omnibus Company for their refusal to employ black or Asian bus drivers and political activist Claudia Jones (1915 – 1964), who founded the West Indian Gazzette – Britain’s first black weekly newspaper – above a barber shop in Brixton.

Jones – named on a list of 100 Great Black Britons – is also credited with being the ‘mother’ of the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the most visible cultural contributions Caribbean people have made and continue to make with no external financial support.

It is heartening to see the children and grandchildren of the carnival veterans taking up the mantle of keeping the true spirit of carnival alive.

There are men like Liverpool-born Wally Brown CBE, who was the liaison between the Toxteth community and the authorities during the race riots of 1981, acting as mediator in an attempt to bring peace.

He went on to become the first black principal of Liverpool Community College.

We do not need to look to the US to find heroes when there are so many right here on our doorstep and in living memory.

And as we are not yet living in a post-racial society free from prejudice, the lessons of the past can help make sense of present-day challenges.

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