Black History Matters! Thanks for asking Metro Sverige

Adrianne George, our Founder, talking ever so briefly to Metro Sverige about Black History Month.

She is very grateful her colleagues Sigma Dolins and Alexander Lange – Vice Chair and Chair, respectively of Democrats Abroad Sweden sent them her way.

Black History Month

Here is the full interview from which the article above was written:

 

MS: How come the US celebrates black history month?

​AG: Good question! Black History Month in the US is a celebration of the achievements of African Americans and their importance to American History. It started as a week in 1926 as the brainchild of Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and Rev Jesse E. Moorland. They founded a national organization to study and document “negro” life and history. They choose the 2nd week of February because, that year, it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Makes sense seeing how President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, the predecessors of African Americans, and Frederick Douglass was a ferocious, tireless, and globally acclaimed abolitionist and himself a former slave.

MS: Why is it so important?

​AG: Black History Month is important because black history – African American history – is the history of the United States of America. You can’t talk, think about, study or appreciate the history of the USA without an honest look at how it was founded, how it participated in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade which leads to extreme riches and extreme horror, or gave birth to the first American Patriot to fall at the Boston Massacre, Crispus Attucks, which lead to the American Revolution. You have to remember the brutality of rape and lynching that lead to The Blues and Gospel music. 

You have to study America’s repressive segregationist laws to see how they lead to the Civil Rights movement and a woman like Rosa Parks and a leader like Malcolm X, Jazz, Bebop, Soul, Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues. You have to study how making amendments to the US Constitution, for example, to abolish slavery, and to end segregation in schools were civil right victories for all Americans. And even though Black History Month started as a week in 1926 the world is witnessing the Black Lives Matter movement in 2017-2018 which in itself explains why Black History Month is important.

MS: How do they celebrate it?

AG: Well, there is the political way:
In 1975, President Ford issued a Message on the Observance of Black History Week urging all Americans to “recognize the important contribution made to our nation’s life and culture by black citizens.”   As soon as the organization organizing the week extended the celebration to a month the following year, President Ford endorsed that too. Then in 1986, Congress passed Public Law 99-244 which designated February 1986 as “National Black (Afro-American) History Month.” President Reagan issued Presidential Proclamation 5443 which proclaimed that “the foremost purpose of Black History Month is to make all Americans aware of this struggle for freedom and equal opportunity.” In January 1996, President Clinton issued Presidential Proclamation 6863 for “National African American History Month.” The proclamation emphasized the theme for that year, the achievements of black women from Sojourner Truth to Mary McLeod Bethune and Toni Morrison. In February 1996 the Senate passed Senate Resolution 229 commemorating Black History Month and the contributions of African American U.S. Senators. Since 1996, Presidents have issued annual proclamations for National African American History Month. On February 1, 2011, President Obama issued a Proclamation reflecting on the theme of “African Americans and the Civil War”. In 2017 President Trump proclaimed African American History Month calls upon us to reflect on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans. This year the President said, ” This year’s theme, “African Americans in Times of War,” calls our attention to the heroic contributions of African Americans during our Nation’s military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to present-day operations”.

And the community way:

This varies by city and State but in my experience includes museum and art exhibitions, concerts and dance performances, school projects across disciplines from social studies to history and art, on all levels from elementary to University. There are business expos and Buy Black fairs and a celebration of food and everything that makes African Americans unique from hairstyles to wardrobe choices. It’s a time to look in the mirror and like what you see, which isn’t always easy for African Americans to do when you’re worried that you could become a poster child for Black Lives Matter if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

MS: Are there any controversies around the celebration? If so, what are they?

AG: I can’t think of any but then again there was pushback from some constituencies in the US about creating a national holiday to remember the life and death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m waiting for the release of the new $20 bill with the face of a slave, Underground Railroad conductor, Union Army spy, Abolitionist and defacto feminist, Harriet Tubman.  The $20 bill would retire Andrew Jackson. Bold, no doubt, and I can proudly say an Obama Administration initiative. Let’s not forget that America is a country whose Presidents owned slaves. Andrew Jackson was one of those. He was also no friend of 1st Nationals in the Southeast of the US. Having Harriet Tubman on a paper bill in US currency would be a first for an African American and the first for a woman in 100 years.

MS: Any specific reason Sweden doesn’t celebrate it?

AG: In Europe, Black History Month is celebrated in the UK. And for good reason. The British colonized many African and Caribbean countries and even though slavery wasn’t legal in the UK her business community profited greatly from the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Certainly, other countries in Europe could recognize a month to celebrate the contribution of blacks in their societies based on their colonial pasts. In 2011 there was a demonstration by Afro-Swedes in Stockholm for Sweden to recognize its role in the slave trade too (https://afroeurope.blogspot.se/2011/05/black-people-in-sweden-demonstrated-for.html).  Afrophobic hate crime rose in Sweden between 2008 and 2012 as reported in The Local, in parallel or because of a vibrant and important black community in Sweden. This community has produced high achieving cabinet ministers, artists, athletes, etc.

But then again I have been to Black History Month celebrations in Stockholm in the past. One was arranged by the US Embassy’s Cultural Department and featured my beloved Alma matter  Howard University’s Gospel Choir. Another event organized by a US Fulbright student from Boston University doing research in Sweden. She arranged an evening with former child prodigy James Bradley, Jr who is a professional drummer in Stockholm.

 

BBC salutes Black Women during Black History Month

Black History Month in The United Kingdom

In the US some black joke that our Black History month is in February because it is the shortest month of the year. In Britain, Black History Month is celebrated in October which has 31 days.

And while the British Broadcasting Corporation affectionately known as the BBC didn’t shine a light on 31 fabulous Black Women this month they did highlight 12. And they wrote it for a young audience. In a time when many adult Brits deny the existence of racism in the UK, this history lesson is huge in my opinion. Here the chosen 12.

BBC Black History Month
Photo credit: Various

Source: BBC

Black History Month has been marked in the UK for more than 30 years. It takes place during the month of October.

It is held to highlight and celebrate the achievements and contributions of the black community in the UK.

Throughout history, black people have made huge contributions to society in the fields of art, music, science, literature and many more areas.

But in the past, these contributions have often been ignored or played down because black people weren’t treated the same way as other people because of the colour of their skin.

BBC Black History Month
GETTY IMAGES This picture from the 1960s shows people protesting for equal rights

Black History Month aims to address this unfairness by celebrating these achievements and contributions.

Read on to find out about the incredible things that 12 women, in particular, have done for Britain.

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Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)

BBC Black History Month
Image BLACKHISTORYMONTH.ORG.UK

Phillis Wheatley was born in West Africa.

When she was a young girl, she was put on board a ship and sent to the US, where she was sold as a slave to a family called the Wheatleys. She was named after that ship – the Phillis.

While Phillis was a slave, she was taught to read and write, which was unusual at the time.

She wrote her first poem at the age of 14. At the age of 20, she moved to England with her son and within a year, published her first book.

This made her the first African-American poet to be published, with her first volume of poetry in 1773.

The fact that her writing was so brilliant proved that women who were slaves could have amazing intellectual ideas, when people hadn’t thought that they could, and this contributed towards the anti-slavery movement.

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Mary Seacole (1805-1881)

BBC Black History Month
IMAGE National Geographical Society

Mary Seacole was born and grew up in Jamaica, but came over to England in 1854.

She asked the War Office if she could go to help wounded soldiers who were fighting in the Crimean War (1853-1856), but she wasn’t allowed.

So she raised the money herself and travelled to Balaclava, Ukraine. Here, she looked after British soldiers who had been injured.

Despite all that she did, not many people knew who she was or the amazing work that she had done after she died. Most people remember Florence Nightingale, who helped many people too.

However, people have campaigned to make sure that people remember everything that Mary Seacole did.

In 2016, a statue of her was built outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Ayshah went to find out more about it ahead of it being built.

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Fanny Eaton (1835-unknown)

BBC Black History Month
Image BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

You can see Fanny Eaton featured in a lot of artwork by Pre-Raphaelite artists (a period of art which started in the mid-1880s).

That’s because she worked as a model for several well-known artists.

She moved to London from Jamaica and worked at the Royal Academy. The Royal Academy is an extremely famous place in London for art – especially painting, sculpture and architecture – which started in 1768.

One of the artists that she modelled for called Dante Gabriel Rossetti praised how beautiful Fanny was. This was significant because, at the time, many people did not see black people as beautiful, so black women were not featured very much in Western art.

But Fanny Eaton challenged this and is an important figure in the history of art.

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Evelyn Dove (1902-1987)

BBC Black History Month
Image BBC

Evelyn was the daughter of a lawyer from Sierra Leone in Africa and his English wife.

She was a student at the Royal Academy of Music, which is a bit like the Royal Academy where Fanny Eaton modelled, but for music.

While she was there, she performed with some of the world’s top black entertainers and went on to become a singing and acting star of the 1920s.

She became famous all over the world, at a time when black female performers would struggle to get the same recognition as white entertainers because of racial prejudices.

 

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Lilian Bader (1918-2015)

BBC Black History Month
Image IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM VIA BLACKHISTORYMONTH.ORG.UK

Lilian Bader was born in 1918 in Liverpool and went on to become one of the very first black women to join the British Armed Forces.

Starting out as a canteen assistant at an army base in Yorkshire, she eventually trained as an instrument repairer, before becoming a leading aircraftwoman and soon afterwards earning herself the rank of Corporal.

Three generations of her family served in the armed forces.

When she left the army to have children of her own, she retrained and got a degree from the University of London to become a teacher.

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Joan Armatrading (1950-today)

BBC Black History Month
Image BBC

Back to music and Joan Armatrading is a name that if you are into blues you may already know.

This is because she was the first ever female UK artist to be nominated for a Grammy in the blues category. She went on to be nominated three times.

She arrived in the UK at the age of seven, from the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts. She started writing songs at the age of 14. She also taught herself to play the guitar.

In the 1970s, she became the first black British singer songwriter to enjoy great success abroad.

Then, in 2007, she became the first female UK artist to debut at number 1 in the Billboards blues chart (which is like the top 40 chart for blues music in America).

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Olive Morris (1952-1979)

BBC Black History Month
IMAGE Nyansapo – The Pan African Drum

Olive Morris was an important figure in terms of civil rights.

Black people didn’t used to have the same rights as other people, simply because of the colour of their skin – and Olive was one of many people who worked tirelessly to change that.

She campaigned for the rights of black people in South London and Manchester and was a founding member of groups like the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group.

She passed away at the age of just 27, but even by this age she had contributed an enormous amount to black communities across the country.

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Margaret Busby (1944-today)

BBC Black History Month
Image GETTY IMAGES

Margaret is an extremely influential name in the world of publishing.

That’s because she was Britain’s youngest and first black female book publisher, when she co-founded the publishing company Allison & Busby in 1967, alongside a man called Clive Allison.

The company didn’t only publish work by black writers, but it did help to make the names of many black writers more well-known.

Talking about writing today, Margaret says: “Technology permits you to be your own publisher and editor, which should encourage a lot of us – especially young people – to write and express themselves.”

“Write because you really enjoy it and learn to be a good reader because the best writers read voraciously. Get to know the best books out there.”

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Diane Abbott (1953-today)

BBC Black History Month
Image GETTY IMAGES

In 1987, Diane Abbott made history by becoming the first black woman ever to be elected to Parliament.

Her career in politics began in 1982, when she was elected to Westminster City Council, before being voted into the House of Commons five years later.

It made her part of the first group of black and Asian people to sit in Parliament for almost a century – but back then, only men got the jobs.

She also started the London Schools and the Black Child programme, which aims to help black children to do well in school.

She still serves in Parliament to this day as one of the main politicians in the Labour party.

Editor’s note: Dianne Abbott is on our 2010 Power List.

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Malorie Blackman (1962-today)

BBC Black History Month
Image GETTY IMAGES

Another author that you may well have heard of is the best-selling author of the Noughts & Crosses series – Malorie Blackman.

When she was chosen to become the eighth Children’s Laureate, she became the first black person to take on the role.

She got the job in 2013, before passing on the baton to British illustrator and writer Chris Riddell in 2015.

Malorie says she wanted to “make reading irresistible” for children, by encouraging them to explore a range of literature, from short stories to graphic novels.

Editor’s note: Malorie Blackman in on our 2011 Power List.

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Dr. Shirley Thompson

BBC Black History Month
Image WINSTON SILL

Only recently, Dr. Shirley Thomson was named as “one of the most inspirational Black British women” by the newspaper Metro.

In 2004, she became the first woman in Europe to conduct and compose a symphony within the last 40 years. It was called New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony.

The piece of music celebrated London’s history and was composed to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

She has also written pieces to be used in films, on television, by dancers and on stage.

Because of her work, she was named on the Evening Standard’s Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential Black People in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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Zadie Smith (1975-today)

BBC Black History Month
Image GETTY IMAGES

If you go into a book shop, you would be very likely to spot one of Zadie Smith’s books on the shelves.

She is an extremely successful author, having published her first book at the age of just 24.

Her books, which are inspired by her experience of issues around race and what society is like, have received many prizes.

She has also written essays and short stories, and now teaches at New York University.

Editor’s note: Zadie Smith is on our 2010 Power List.

Artwell’s Contribution to Oxford’s African History Month 2015

Date: Saturday 24 October 2015

Time: 17.00 – 21.00

Place: United Reform Church Hall, Oxford Road, Cowley 0X4 2ES (near Temple Cowley Library)

Email EOCC@redjel.co.uk for more information or text 0775 78 12 449

Ancient Africa’s Gift to: Law, Architecture, Mathematics, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

  • This is a 45 minute slide introduction to Africa’s Gifts

Books that have shaped the perception of people of African Peoples: Charles Darwin, Francis Galton, The Bible, Black Athena.

  • This 30 minute presentation is based on slides and will be a brief introduction.

Magna Carta, is Ancient Africa’s Gift to the English.

  • A brief introduction to Africa’s contribution to Magna Carta and looking at the legal protection granted to the English by Magna Carta. We will ask the question. In this New World Ordered planet, should we be concerned at the loss of Magna Carta protection today? We will ask for a response to this question from the Labour Party, Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Democratic Party, Communist Party and UKIP Party.

Oxford African History Remembers, Honours and Salutes:

  • Ms Sandra Blank – the voice of the Black Lives Matter campaign in the United States
  • Mr Jimmy Mubenga – devoted father of 5 killed by G4S
  • Mr Mark Duggan – killed while being unarmed in Tottenham

2015 Oxford African History Campaign: Don’t Bite the Apple

  • As of this year, Apple is not the richest corporation on planet Earth. We love it’s Apple I phone and so on. But, Apple’s profits would not be possible without the labour of children in the Congo who damage their lungs mining the precious metal without which our phones and computers would not work. Join in writing to Apple asking them to stop using children as miners; use some of Apple’s vast profits to create infrastructure in the Congo and ensure that the miners of the Congo receive market values for the precious metals which Apple needs.

On sale: Delightful Caribbean food and drinks

Entry free: 5 pounds donation suggested to contribute toward future Afrikan (Black) History Season events.

Telling it like it was – Dr. Hakim Adi

Pembroke College

Yesterday’s Black History Month Lecture organized at Pembroke College by Black Minority Ethnic Staff Network, Oxford University was inspiring as well as interesting.

Pembroke College

The Pichette Auditorium was filled with a healthy mix of students, staff and community to listen to Dr. Hakim Adi, Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at Chichester University, talk about The 70th Anniversary of the Manchester Pan-African Congress and its significance today.

Pembroke College

My biggest take away is the Manchester Pan-African Congress was a congress for working people and not intended to be a gathering of academics, intellectuals and doctors and lawyers.