Reflections on Black History Month
12th November 2020
Our last post was all about our Black History Month activities, so I thought I’d share some reflections on how the month went.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it has been an exceptional year for everyone. Yet in the face of unprecedented and unique challenges, the University delivered more activities during October than in previous years. We strengthened existing partnerships and developed new ones. The establishment of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic + Network certainly encouraged and facilitated this.
The University has a long-standing partnership with Lives of Colour and the local Historical Association to bring speakers for Black History Month. The impressive list of previous speakers includes Gary Younge, Bonnie Greer, Seyi Rhodes, David Olusoga and Louisa Adoja Parker. This year we were lucky to get Yvonne Battle-Felton.
Yvonne is the author of ‘Remembered’, an historical novel set in Philadelphia in 1910. It tells the story of Spring, a formerly enslaved woman forced into a reckoning with her past to help her dying son. Her talk, ‘Writing as Advocacy: Why I Write’ was inspiring. I hadn’t read her book before she came but went out and bought it after the event!
Our second event, organised by the Network, was a talk by Neomi Bennett. Neomi is a Registered Nurse Practitioner and a recipient of the British Empire Medal for her contribution to Health Care. In July 2020, she established a grass roots organisation ‘Equality 4 Black Nurses’. The organisation supports black nurses experiencing systemic racism or discrimination, as well as lobby Government and employers for change. She talked about her organisation and shared openly, her own experience of being racially profiled and wrongly arrested by police for “having too dark windows” in her car. It was a powerful evening. A reminder that whilst change has been made, there is still a long way to go.
This year we also presented some of our own research and practice with Dai Jones. Dai’s lecture was delivered in partnership with our Network as part of the University’s Living Room Lecture series. The Network is supporting the work on decolonising learning led by a Learning Innovation For Tomorrow ( LiFT) Project team. Dai’s lecture created a space to have conversations around the racialised discourses used to justify slavery, colonialism and discrimination.
As an objector, Dai reviewed the history of psychology’s dealings with race and IQ, to demonstrate that claims of scientific “fact” can’t be disentangled from political beliefs. He also evaluated contemporary claims about, and arguments for, race and IQ, to show that this entanglement is ongoing. It was fascinating.
Our final event was more of a celebration and a look to the future. A Panel discussion, ‘breaking down racial barriers in the music industry’ and a showcase of current and upcoming talent in black music; a LIVE event, quite a rarity in the current climate! It was a collaboration between the Network, Out The Box Productions and a new partner, The Music Works.
According to their website, Out The Box Productions is “an events company made up of an enthusiastic team “(including a large number of our students from our School of Media). The Music Works, a local charity, is a key partner in ‘Make Music Gloucestershire’, the county’s music education hub.
Working together we attracted well regarded, inspirational industry insiders to participate in the panel: Host, Dread MC, navigated a lively conversation between Rider Shafique, Hannah Shogbola, Jamz Supernova and Vincent Darby. As a white ally, I found it a really interesting, thought provoking discussion. It provided good insight into the role that I can continue to play and develop.
As for the performers – Keanan, Natalie Oaks, Griz-O and our headliner for the evening, Vincent Darby – well they were all amazing, fabulous, terrific. What more can I say? A thoroughly enjoyable evening, which really doesn’t do it justice.
If you managed to attend one of these events, I’m sure you’ll agree that combined, they made for a great Black History Month. Roll on next October!
The Network’s planning more live events during 2021, so keep a look out!
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