I direct like I DJ:
I was born by the river... Sam Cooke, ‘A change is gonna come’.
I like that opening line. We always know where we are with that song, in a sorrowful yet hopeful place, kinda exhausted but cool at the same time.
I was actually born by a river - the river Thames to be precise - at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, overlooking the Houses of Parliament. Outside this teaching hospital is very first public statue of a Black Woman in the United Kingdom. This woman is Mary Seacole. And these are the people who made that happen, after years of tirelessly campaigning. Mary Seacole Trust @Seacolestatue. Check out their good work.
According to a Guardian article written by broadcaster and barrister Afua Hirsch, back in 2002 Mary Seacole was missed off a list of 100 Great Britons, despite her heroic duties in the Crimean war serving British soldiers from 1854 to 1856. An alternative list of Great Black Britons was created to right this wrong and so Mary Seacole was honoured in this by way of topping the list! They have started a new campaign to review the list and share the findings of scholars, campaigners and activists over the years, including unsung heroes who have served our communities.
After Micheal Gove (the then Education Secretary) suggested she was no longer required, I recall a campaign to keep Mary Seacole on the Schools Curriculum - most people hadn’t even realised she was on it. We won that battle and she remains on the national curriculum, albeit optional.
I have noticed lately that when telling the story of the not-so-United Kingdom, institutions including museums and universities appear to be taking their responsibility more seriously and attempting to include as many voices and people to tell their own stories as possible. Which is a start, at least.
It was good to see the Wilberforce Institute here in Hull use language such as ‘Black Agency’ when referring to abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. He deserves a platform of continued recognition for his contribution to the campaign to end the Transatlantic Slave Trade, both using his lived experience as an enslaved and free man, right here on these shores.
I’m not going to lie, I had some reluctance in discussing Black History Month, as I’m firmly in the camp that Black History is to be celebrated every month and not marginalised to one month only; however I get it, it’s an opportunity for reflection, reminders and introductions to some amazing stories and philosophies.
These stories are part of my heritage and I’ve spent a number of years researching and sharing them in order for a better understanding of our current experiences and our collective history.
Black History Month UK is in its 30th year, with many events being held up and down the country.
As I have made friends and associates in my past year in Hull, please let me invite you to look at their work for Black History Month. Please also support them throughout the year, if you can.
Hull University for the first time as far as anyone can recall, have a programme of events for Black History:
We're celebrating Black History Month! Come see us in HUU reception. 🎉
Congratulations to Osaro Otobo the newly elected Hull University President
Hull AfroCaribbean Association have a Facebook page, they host events at their place every Tuesday at 6pm.
@CTKMedia has just released a podcast led by Kofi Smiles, joined by:
Gifty Burrows - Africans in Yorkshire
Osaro Otobo - Hull University Student Union President
Bax - Bud Sugar
Chiedu Oraka – Rap Artist
Worth a listen to gain insight on what it’s like to grow up as a Black person in East Yorkshire. This podcast discusses stereotypes, friendship and acceptable language.
That’s all from me for now.
Hope to see you on my travels.
Photo: Left to Right: Hannah Mason (Changemaker), Kofi Smiles (Face Of Hull), Suzanne Alleyne (Changemaker),
Amanda Huxtable. (Beautifully photo bombed by leading lady Masasa Mbangeni).