The times that we live in are worrying. A wave of right-wing political parties across Europe are starting to see a surge in their popularity, the UK’s Brexit campaign nurtured and exposed levels of racism and prejudice that many thought were a thing of the past and the success of Donald Trump has given the KKK and other such organisations the attention and fuel they need to become mainstream again. We have also witnessed US congressman, Steven King, state that non-white groups have made no contribution to civilisation and London mayor, Sadiq Khan, being racial abused on Twitter because his team organises Africa on the Square, an annual event that celebrates African culture.
This month is Black History Month in the UK and with the current political and social climate, BHM is needed now more than ever before. Ideally what we need is on-going sustainable education of the ignorant; we need an education system that tells the truth and gives a balanced view of history. In the meantime, we have to take advantage of the opportunities that we currently have and BHM is one of those opportunities.
This year is the 30th anniversary of Black History Month in the UK and last year was the 90th anniversary of Black History Month in the US, which started as Negro History Week. Through both of these months much progress has been made over the years to address the fact that the contribution that people of African descent have made throughout history has been excluded from mainstream education, but clearly more needs to be done if we find ourselves in the situation that we are in right now. It may be that we became complacent believing that our work was done, but our work is far from being complete as lack of awareness of our contribution has led to an under-appreciation of our worth. We therefore have to take control of history’s narrative and correct it. Just read what Nelson Mandela had to say:
“It is important for African nationalists to be armed with evidence to dispute the fictitious claims that Africans are without a civilised past that compares with that of the West. In a single morning, I discovered that Egyptians were creating great works of art and architecture when whites were still living in caves.” – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
It is important for so many reasons to correct history’s narrative and probably the most important, from our point of view because of the work that we do, is to create a sense of pride in our children which will help build them into well-adjusted successful adults.
Having knowledge of the rich history of Africa and teaching children about our great ancient civilisations is life changing. Knowing that their ancestors weren’t just slaves but scholars who created a civilisation where the oldest medical text books originated and was home to one of the world’s first and oldest universities inspires children. Realising that Africans beat Columbus to the West Indies; that the oldest monarchy in human history was in Nubia (present day northern Sudan and part of modern day Egypt ); that Africans 90,000 years ago were conducting fishing expeditions (way before anyone else) and were mining 43,000 years ago, opens up a whole new world of possibilities for young people. They see their potential, they see their greatness and they have something to aspire to. Importantly, children from other races will grow up respecting our history and culture. This creates a balance in the world that allows us to work together for a common good rather than creating division and unrest.
To prevent our world slipping into an even darker place we ultimately need an education system that embraces everyone’s contribution to civilisation. At that point we won’t need Black History Month because our contribution will be recognised every day.