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Black History Month

Black History Month at Blue Sky Fostering

October is Black History Month.  This is an opportunity for us to recognise the significant, and often historically overlooked, ignored or distorted, contributions that Black people have made throughout history and today.  People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries. However, campaigners believe their value and contribution to society is often overlooked, ignored or distorted.

Most schools still teach a history curriculum which focuses on traditional events and the achievements of white figures. Black History Month gives everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture.

More recently, greater attention has been paid to the importance of the Windrush generation and the Black Lives Matter movement, especially since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, making this incredibly current and important to think about with all of our young people. 

We would like to share a few resources with you to start conversation with your young people, to consider your own thinking and reflect on what action we can all take.

 

Here are some resources to help in your discussions

Laurel, one of our Individual Workers from Dorset, has been speaking to two important men in her life about their experiences as Black men and why Black history month is important.  I have attached their stories, alongside stories of two historical Black figures of a similar age. 

Black History Month - Interview with Alex

Alex is 25 years old and was born and raised in Bournemouth, from a working-class background with his Spanish mum and African dad. He has worked extremely hard to get to where he is today, being a semi-professional golfer after attending University in Florida and now works for JP Morgan in Dorset.

What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?

From my perspective it’s hard to understand how this isn’t the case because of my culture and in terms of my background. For me it means taking into account everyones differences

To you, what is the difference between Black Lives Matter and all lives matter?

If you saw a house on fire and one that wasn’t on fire, you wouldn’t say all houses matter. There’s a clear inequality and racial divide, and if we understand that everyone’s life has an equal value, there shouldn’t be any neglect because of race but there currently is.

As a young British mixed-race man, how does that effect you from a young British white man?

You are always aware when you are being raised with a Black parent that you have to be aware of racism. My mum was very overprotective which she told me a lot.  She was concerned for my safety and wellbeing because of my race growing up. People struggle to comprehend how little that makes you feel that because of who you are and how you look, which isn’t something you can change (it should be celebrated).  This means that you are not welcome in certain areas or environments. White people fit in with the common stereotype of work environments.

Did you lose out on a opportunity because of the colour of your skin?

I feel fortunate enough that I don’t feel that way. However, going to University in America, there were so many comments thrown around about me because it was a predominantly wealthy, white University. They threw around offensive words so much and that made me so mad because they don’t understand where those words come from and why they aren’t acceptable for them to say.

Tell us more about the experience of people singing along to music with racially insensitive words

They don’t understand that word was a derogatory word derived from slavery, used to undermine, and abuse. That word was taken back by Black culture to ‘own it’, it’s like a middle finger to way back when it was used as a derogatory term and Black people from generations have earned the right to say it. My dad’s parents and their parents and so on were alive during slavery, they would have been called that in a disgusting way by white people that ‘owned’ them.

What would you say to a young white person to help them understand any mixed, Black, or diverse friends?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do research, you will find the information wherever you look.

How prominent is racial abuse in the UK compared to USA?

The same!!!! UK just don’t have as many guns. The USA is a huge country, so of course there is more media coverage. The UK was founded on racist roots, all the most famous leaders of the UK are all built on elements of racism. People don’t get jobs because of their colour, as simple as their name on a cv, ‘oh that name sounds like he’s a thug’, that happens today, that’s real. It happens so much more than people think.

What would you say to a white carer with a mixed, Black, or diverse child?

Research, understand the things as little as how to look after their hair, their skin, shea butter! But education, don’t be afraid to ask. Their responsibility as carers is to educate that child too, they have to be prepared for things they might face because of their colour. The worst thing you can do is ignore it and raise them without the knowledge of how to grow up Black.

What obstacles do you think Black people in the UK face?

Discrimination, being misunderstood, job losses, not being served at a bar, Police discrimination, not allowed in to certain events or venues, not being given the same opportunities, there’s always going to be an obstacle whether its underlying or obvious.

Phillis Wheatley Peters (1753 – 1784)

Phillis was an American author who is considered the first African-American author of a published book of poetry.  Born in West Africa, she was kidnapped and subsequently sold into enslavement at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America, where she was bought by the Wheatley family of Boston. After she learned to read and write, they encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

On a 1773 trip to London with her enslaver’s son, seeking publication of her work, Wheatley met prominent people who became patrons. The publication in London of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral on September 1, 1773, brought her fame both in England and the American colonies. Figures such as George Washington praised her work. A few years later, African-American poet Jupiter Hammon praised her work in a poem of his own.

Wheatley was emancipated by her enslavers shortly after the publication of her book.[5] They soon died, and she married John Peters, a poor grocer. They lost three children, who died young. Wheatley-Peters died in poverty and obscurity at the age of 31.

Black History Interview with Fran

Fran is 61 years old and was born in St Lucia in the Caribbean. Fran grew up in Hertfordshire from the age of 9 then moved to Bournemouth when he was in his late 20’s. He has 5 children (including Laurel) and 10 grandchildren all born and raised in the UK. He has worked extremely hard for what he has, and is currently self-employed property maintenance.

What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?

Poor treatment, especially for me growing up here in the 70s, from the locals and authorities which hasn’t changed. People still join the Police force thinking they can do whatever they want to whoever they want, unfortunately a lot of them are still racist and homophobic.

How does being a Black man affect you?

It doesn’t affect me as much as it did when I was growing up because I turned my life around and decided to show people that I can do better than what they expect. But I have lost out on so many jobs as a youngster. Although I have to work a lot harder every day for people to choose me even now, especially being self-employed . Most people I quote have more than one person visit so I know I must make myself more likeable than the next person coming.

How prominent is racial abuse in the UK compared to USA?

It happens the same but behind closed doors. In America they shoot and kill people on the street, here it’s the other way round, the mental and physical abuse which is hidden very well.

What happened to you growing up as a Black teen?

I was stopped by the Police every time I got in the car, I could be walking the other side of the road to white people, but they stop me, search me, question me. School was the worst, teachers were so racist, I got the cane but white kids didn’t. All the time they saw the black kids and thought ‘it must be his fault’. Parents didn’t want their kids to play with black children so I didn’t have many white friends.

 

Tell me about the Windrush

Other races and cultures were brought over here to improve the country after the war, but many were made homeless, spat on and not accepted. We had to work hard, harder than British people, even though we were invited here, we were still invited on slave pretences. Over the past 7 years, the government treated me like a third-class citizen, my driving license was taken away, employment was taken away. Even though I have been here since 9 years old, my 5 kids born here, 10 grandchildren. Immigration tried to rip me away from my home, told me I wasn’t welcome, I wasn’t a citizen, tried to take my life away and return me to somewhere I haven’t lived since I was a child. I have paid taxes from 18 years of age, never sought benefits or anything from the state. Please watch Sitting in Limbo on BBC iPlayer to see what me and hundreds of others went through so recently.

Do you have any advice for carers with a Black or mixed child

Teach them their culture, don’t ignore it. Teach them about the slaves, about the different islands, as well as British culture. They need to learn their roots, or they’ll be confused when they enter the big wide world. They must be aware of the discrimination they might face, they might not but they have to be aware. Do research, go to specialists about afro hair and skin, ask people!

What obstacles do you think black people in the UK still face?

This starts as small as housing, if you go to the council or look around estates, people are segregated, whites, blacks, Asians etc. People still don’t think that black children are as smart and can’t take in information as well but look at how many lawyers and powerful people are Black but they have to work so much harder. There are too many to list

James Baldwin – (1924 – 1987)

James Arthur Baldwin was an American writer. He garnered acclaim across various mediums, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. His first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, was published in 1953; decades later, Time magazine included the novel on its list of the 100 best English-language novels released from 1923 to 2005.  His first essay collection, Notes of a Native Son, was published in 1955.

Baldwin’s work fictionalizes fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures. Themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and class intertwine to create intricate narratives that run parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement. Baldwin’s protagonists are often but not exclusively African American, and gay and bisexual men frequently feature prominently in his literature. These characters often face internal and external obstacles in their search for social and self-acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, which was written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.

His reputation has endured since his death and his work has been adapted for the screen to great acclaim. An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the documentary film I Am Not Your Negro (2016), which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards.  One of his novels, If Beale Street Could Talk, was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film of the same name in 2018, directed and produced by Barry Jenkins.

In addition to writing, Baldwin was also a well-known, and controversial, public figure and orator, especially during the civil rights movement in the United States.