Sunday, 4 October 2009

Welcome to Black History Month!

From: Introduction to Norfolk BHM 2009

Hard to believe that Black History Month is back with us already. It seems like only yesterday that Linda Bellos and our own Abraham Eshetu were waxing lyrical at the BHM launch at the Forum.

If you’re new to BHM in Norfolk then a special welcome to you as well as welcome back to the revisitors. BHM is celebrated in the UK in October (February in the USA) and aims to highlight the contribution black people have made to our societies historically and in the modern context, until we reach the point when these subjects are covered and given the prominence they deserve in our schools and throughout other institutions.

I’m really delighted with this year’s programme, which is packed full of events. Much of the great stuff from last year has continued and in many cases improved, including the Norfolk Black Film Festival, a great programme across the county’s libraries, the African Market and the Black Haircare workshops. We also have a great programme of lunchtime and evening lectures booked, covering some really fascinating and challenging topics.

It has been an honour to be Chairman of Norfolk’s Black History Month Steering Group, even if at times it’s felt like an unpaid, yet full time job. So the question you may ask is ‘why do it?’…

The simple and truthful answer is that BHM does a lot of good in Norfolk. It brings a diverse set of people together. It provides entertainment but, more importantly, great education for those of us involved as well as the young and the old across the county. It gives people across the board the opportunity and confidence to look into and appreciate their own, and also other people’s, history and heritage which does wonders to combat racism, bigotry and other societal ills. The startling truth is that there really is no such thing as black or white history. All our histories are inextricably linked and often in the most unexpected ways. Black History Month is testament to this.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of two major record labels – Tamla Motown and Island Records. None can deny the effects of Michael, Smokey, Bob and the rest on both black and white in this country and elsewhere. It’s also 30 years since the birth of hip-hop. Politically it’s been 50 years since Castro came to power in the Cuban Revolution and thirty years since a host of world leaders came to power under many varied and different circumstances in places such as Grenada, Uganda, Britain, Iran and elsewhere. These definitely shaped the views of a generation of black and white people everywhere and still effect us today. The King’s Lynn-based artist Peter Sek has tried to capture some of the people involved in these anniversaries in his wonderful painting used inside the brochure. I won’t spoil it for you by giving the game away just yet, but see how many of the figures you can name in the picture and their connection to the years 1959, 1979 and 2009, then enter the competition and win free tickets to the BHM Finale at the Norwich Arts Centre or some of the other prizes on offer.

Of course BHM would not be possible without the support of our sponsors and advertisers. These include Norfolk County Council, the County Cohesion Network and NHS Norfolk amongst others.

It goes without saying that those members of the Norfolk BHM Steering Group deserve more than just a mention for the work they’ve put in towards shaping the programme and giving support generally.

We’ve worked a little harder this year in offering support to smaller organisations to put on events and it is reflected in the programme.

For your part, the best thing you can do is make an effort to attend some of the great events, whether it be a lunchtime lecture, a childrens’ event at the local library, catch a film during the festival, attend a workshop, sing in the Motown karaoke or come and buy something at the African Market.

It’s all possible this October.

By (Hajj) Amal Abdalhakim-Douglas, Chairman, Norfolk Black History Month Steering Group

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