Black (and white) history month

We could call it just history month, but it’s more than that. It’s about forgotten heroes and stories that we never get told at school.

October is Black History Month in Britain and has been since 1987. This year’s celebrations by  Africa Centre Scotland in Edinburgh are a reminder that when it comes to history there is no line between black and white.

One of the key speakers at the Africa Centre event in the City Council Chambers on Saturday was Dr Eric Grahame a maritime historian giving a talk titled “Villains and Heroes: Edinburgh’s early connections with Africa.” (Dr Grahame has also written about Scotland and black slavery). A different insight came from Evelyn Nicodemus, a writer and artist exploring black culture,  Alache Ode manager of the Diaspora Volunteering Partnership Manager and Nick Croft, the city council’s equalities manager.

The origins of Black History Month can be traced to London. Akyaaba Addai Sebbo, a co-ordinator of special projects at the General London Council, was saddened when a council worker told him her son wanted to know why he was not white.  That led to the first GLC event on 1 October 1987 celebrating the contribution of Africans to the economic, cultural and political life of London and Britain.

Now every year events continue across Britain with the aim of encouraging confidence, pride and awareness of Black Africans in their cultural heritage.  Not least in Edinburgh where the Africa Centre Scotland is actively involved all year round in cultural and social activities to bridge the gaps between black and white communities.


As Agnes Holmes, chair of AFS, told us earlier this year: “It is about reducing isolation, nourishing well-being, making friendships  and promoting African culture…”.  At that point she was talking about Zawadi, the African Women’s choir, (pictured here at their first Edinburgh performance this summer) but it seems a pretty good description of all their other work. And of course Zawadi were performing at the Black History Month celebration in the City Chambers too.

By the way, the quote at the beginning of this blog comes fromWilliam Wilberforce BBC 1Extra’s Deputy Head of Programmes. And he adds:

Black History Month is about those who made a difference not purely because of the colour of their skin, but their actions. From William Wilberforce (my name sake) to Eminem to Dizzie Rascal they are all a part of history and ultimately our Black Music legacy

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