Louise Thompson outlines why Black History Month, which has its thirtieth anniversary this year, matters.
During Black History Month people of African descent celebrate their achievements. I grew up in the UK of Jamaican parentage and history was a strong topic in my household from an early age. This ranged from reading Anansi stories, which have their origins in West Africa, to having discussions about the life and legacy of Malcolm X and other great figures.
As I grew older, I reflected on the hardship my ancestors endured and appreciated that their hard work enabled me go to university, study physiotherapy and enter a profession. My experiences allowed me to appreciate the progress we have made and how far we still need to go.
But I feel like that black history should be promoted all year round and be integrated into the educational system. As much as we learn about the Vikings and the Tudors, children also need to find out about the lives of people like Nelson Mandela. A key figure in the healthcare world is Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse who cared for British soldiers at the battlefront during the Crimean War.
Did you know that cancer cells from a black female are being used to this day for invaluable medical data? Benjamin Banneker was a black astronomer, mathematician and author who constructed the first functional clock in the US. The first blood bank was created by a black doctor, Charles R Drew.
More recent figures include Martin Luther King Jr, the single most instrumental force in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Claudette Colvin, at 15, was arrested and taken to an adult jail to be booked. This sparked Rosa Parks’ actions, the first lady of civil rights. The list, if your care to study the history, is unending.
Black history is about more than slavery. Yes, that was a fraction of our history but since slavery so many amazing, dedicated and influential people have graced this earth, making me proud to be black.
- Louise Thompson is a member of the CSP’s Black and Minority Ethnic network
AuthorLouise Thompson, member of the CSP’s Black and Minority Ethnic network
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