HARROW BHM POSITION PAPER Oct. 2013 updated version
Harrow BHM Season events are organised by the Harrow BHM Steering Group, made up of members from community organizations – if you are interested, please attend the Forum meeting in the Civic Centre on December 10.
In Harrow, we focus on history – African history, be it local or global. Each year, the events are underscored by an over-arching theme. The 2013 theme is: African British Civil Rights Since The 1960s.
Also, we like working across a Season, rather than be confined to the month of October. We start the Season today, September 30, and end with our Forum meeting on December 10.
The start of BHM in Britain can be traced to a young African boy of African Caribbean heritage, who asked his mother: “Mum, why can’t I be white?”
Ironically he was named Marcus, in honour of the great pan-Africanist icon Marcus Garvey. That not withstanding, we can see how negative impressions or lack of positive images and achievement had impacted on the boy’s psyche, identity and self-worth, at such an early age.
A colleague of the boy’s mother, Addai Sebo, who was then working at the GLC, decided to do something to combat what was causing inferiority complexes in some of our African children.
Incidentally, when we use the term African in this forum, we mean anyone of African heritage whether from the African continent or its diaspora.
Sebo decided to use history – African history to empower Africans to improve their self-worth and knowledge, and indeed for the wider community to also learn more about the achievements of Africans, which are not often found in mainstream education or media.
Recently, there has been both confusion and a move to have everybody that can be mustered under the black banner for BHM. However it is worth pointing out that BHM is singularly about the African experience. Which is the reason some refer to it as African History Month or Season.
BHM was launched in London under the African Jubilee Year Declaration. The Jubilee year run from August 1987, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Marcus Garvey, who was born August 17 1887, right through to 1988, marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation Of African Unity on May 25, and the 150th anniversary of the end of chattel enslavement in the British Caribbean, which was on August 1.
For these reasons Harrow BHM is focused on African history, but with a British link, where possible, and is also driven by Africans, but for the whole of the Community to participate in. We also do things a little differently by expecting participants to leave with at least a couple of clearly definable learning outcomes – Don’t forget to fill in your evaluation sheets at the end of tonight’s event!
Back to the introduction of BHM to the UK – Statutory bodies such as Councils were persuaded to buy into the African Jubilee Declaration, which consisted of a number of commitments. These included the demonstration of anti-racist, anti-apartheid, and human rights policies.
There was also a commitment to promote positive imagery, achievements and contributions of Africans at home and abroad, plus naming buildings, parks or monuments or streets after notable Africans, such as the CLR James Library in Hackney, and Mandela Street in Camden.
The Declaration also bound Councils to undertake to organise events that publicise, encourage and implement the tenets of the Declaration and to encourage other Councils and statutory bodies to do likewise.
However although the Declaration did not have legal backing, it was underpinned by an important section in the 1976 Race Relations Act.
This demands of statutory bodies such as Councils, and educational bodies to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between people of different racial groups. BHM is certainly an important plank when it comes to the last point. Hopefully our Councillors and Council staff are aware of this.
Even without the legal requirement, BHM should be a catalyst for inspiring development of extra curricular activity – and we don’t mean face-painting or “African dance”, whatever that means.
We believe BHM programmes should be designed to a) educate the community, Africans and non-Africans, about African history and achievements, b) not focus solely on song and dance, except where its primary aim is to tell or underscore history, rather than purely to entertain and c) show that African History is much wider than enslavement. This is because although enslavement had devastating consequences, and its effects are still with us, it took place over a relatively short period of the African history time continuum.
Finally, do we need BHM? Certainly Yes, so long as the mainstream arena, be it education, media or other social outlets, do not adequately reflect the histories and achievements of Africans.
A community that’s better informed about each other should hopefully make for better community cohesion based on informed views, rather than prejudices. This is the aim of Harrow BHM’s events. Thank you.
Kwaku © 2010/2013
Harrow BHM Steering Group