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Black History celebrations continue despite funding cuts

MILESTONES: Communities will be paying homage to pioneers throughout black history this month

2017 WILL mark the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK, which was established to highlight and celebrate the achievements of black people and their contribution to life in Britain.

Concerns have been raised in recent years that funding cuts for Black History Month have cast a shadow over the event, leading some race equality campaigners to question whether the cuts were part of a deliberate move to erase acknowledgement of the black contribution to UK life and world history.

In 2010, then-London mayor Boris Johnson cut the budget for Black History Month events from £132,000 to a mere £10,000, making it difficult for local councils in the capital to fund events. Local councils across the UK faced similar pressures.

However, several local community and voluntary groups have been undeterred by the lack of money available and are hosting a diverse variety of events on their own or in partnership with local authorities that include special concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and festivals.

Birmingham saw the launch of its Black History Month programme on September 29 with an event at the Digbeth Campus of South and City College, just outside the city centre. Among the speakers was activist Lee Jasper who reflected on the importance of recognising one’s own heritage as a key to future direction.

SUPPORT: Councillor Sonia Winifred

There were also speeches from South and City College principal Mike Hopkins and Paulette Francis Green, from the Blackstory Partnership, who were responsible for producing the launch event.

Prestigious venues such as the Manchester Museum, Tate Britain, Black Cultural Archives and London’s October Gallery have all scheduled major exhibitions to mark Black History Month.

Black History Month 2017 will also see Lambeth libraries in a pioneering partnership with black-led organisations such as Pegasus Opera and Rhythm & Views Festival to deliver a series of events that will feature a selection of writers, artists and performers who will focus on the theme of black contributions to British life.

Councillor Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture at Lambeth Council, said:

“I am delighted to invite you to this year’s Black History Month celebrations, which will be running throughout October. Last year so many of you told us how inspiring and uplifting you found the events – and this year’s programme is equally as exciting.”

She added:

“This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about and celebrate African Caribbean heritage and culture, which influences and enriches all our lives.”


September saw a milestone for Black History Month celebrations in Scotland when Glasgow City Council hosted its official Black History Month launch on September 28. Its leader, Susan Aitken, spoke at the event and became the first council leader to do so. She told the assembled audience that

“Glasgow cannot deny its own historic links with slavery”.

It was then announced that the city will be looking at how this acknowledgement might be turned into action in the form of creating a special memorial or historical trail. Throughout Black History Month, Glasgow City Chambers will also host an exhibition by the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights, a Scottish anti-racist organisation which aims to advance work on social, economic and political issues from a race perspective.

Another special event that will mark the 30th anniversary of Black History Month is the re-launch of the 100 Great Black Britons poll. When it was launched in 2003, it prompted a national debate about the central role that black history plays in British history after Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole was voted Greatest Black Briton.

Black History Month editor in chief, Patrick Vernon, told The Voice:

“We believe the new campaign has the potential to further educate, inform and influence the contribution of black people in Britain and inspire a new generation of role models and achievers. It also provides an opportunity for re-assessment and reflection what makes a great black Briton and how we recognise unsung heroes who may not have the profile and the coverage about their impact and legacy.”

October will also see the launch of a special exhibition about The Voice newspaper at London’s City Hall as part of Black History Month and in celebration of The Voice’s 35th year. Founded in 1982 by Val McCalla at that year’s Notting Hill carnival, the newspaper has documented some of the key issues affecting Britain’s black community since that time such as deaths in police custody, creating employment opportunities for young black people and achieving greater representation in mainstream politics.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

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