As part of series on Black History Month, Hannah Niblet takes a look at the resources available to research race at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre:
There are two big messages I always highlight to new visitors when I’m showing them around the Centre:
1 – Everything is in one place! I know this sounds obvious, but if you’re studying multiculturalism, in a bigger library you’d have to hike between the history, education, popular culture, and so on, sections to collect together your relevant resources. Here the history, education and culture sections are only steps apart, making cross-disciplinary research much easier and making browsing much more rewarding.
2 – Primary resources bring secondary resources to life! We have a great library, but we also have an extensive and growing collection of archival material, oral history and ephemera. These provide the colour – the voices of real people who have negotiated life in multicultural Manchester. If you like, they put flesh on the bones of the theory, policy and discussion you’ll find in the library.
People sometimes ask why we don’t use the standard Dewey library classification system. As a system it is very biased towards Western paradigms of knowledge, and simply wouldn’t work for a small, specialised collection like ours. So we just arrange books by topic (Arts, History, Welfare, etc) – much simpler and much friendlier, especially for those who aren’t used to using academic libraries.
Our journals and periodicals also collection is also growing, including academic as well as community, political and popular publications. We have an almost full run of Race Today, a monthly magazine that was a leading organ of Black politics in Britain during the 1970s and 80s – there’s a great research project for someone there, to chart the development of Black political thought in Britain through its print media. Anyone?
As an art lover my favourite section is Art, Media and Sport. I recently came across a little book of postcards ‘Early Black Photographers, 1840 – 1940’ full of really striking images that I haven’t seen in other histories of photography. I was strangely inspired by ’They Still Draw Pictures: Children’s Art in Wartime’ – these non-verbal attempts to communicate horror and hope definitely transcend language and culture.
If you would like to keep up to date with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, follow their blog here.
Earlier this month, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre welcomed author Anandi Ramamurthy to launch her new book 'Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements'. As part of the celebration of Black History Month, Hannah Niblett from the centre, provides an overview of the research in the book.
I didn't know anything about the Asian Youth Movements
(AYMs), and it turns out this is a really interesting bit of recent history.
And a lot of it happened right here in Manchester, as well as other cities and
towns around the UK.
During the 1970s and 80s young Asians, some as young
as 16, joined together to protest against the racism and inequality they experienced
in their communities and from the government. They held rallies and marches,
protested against deportations and produced leaflets, newspapers and posters to
spread their message.
They were the children of migrants, and although their
parents still identified with their home countries, these young Asians felt
entirely British and believed they had the right to live as equal citizens, not
on the fringes of society.
They had clever and simple slogans:
'Come what may, we are here to stay.'
'Here to stay, here to fight.'
Anandi Ramamurthy was prompted to research this
history because since 9/11 Asians have tended to be identified through their
religion – and this is often portrayed negatively. She wanted to show that many South Asians in
Britain today have a radical, political identity. AYM activists came from all
religions – Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, agnostic, atheist – but all were
united by their political beliefs.
Her research is fascinating. She has interviewed many
of the people who were involved in the AYMs (and a few of them were at the book
launch), creating a large oral history archive. So her book is really vibrant,
full of the voices of the real people who were involved, and the archive is a
valuable resource for others to use and for further research into this
fascinating piece of history.
What really struck me was how relevant her research
is. During the event, discussion kept coming back to the present day - the
current profile of far right fascist groups, the reluctance of young people to
take part in political activism, and the state of our society for BME families.
Anandi’s work demonstrates exactly what history research should be – relevant,
thought-provoking and providing lessons for the future.
Click here to watch Anandi Ramamurthy talk about the politics and identities of the Asian youth movements in 1970s and 1980s Britain.
For more information about the book, 'Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements', click here.
More information about the Ahmed Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre can be found here.
Follow the Ahmed Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre's Twitter feed and like their Facebook page.
My name is Valluvan. I am currently
completing my PhD and have recently become a Sociology lecturer at the
University of Manchester. My research explores how issues of poverty and racism
are linked in often unexpected ways.
One famous comment was the historian
David Starkey’s strange claim that ‘the whites have become black’. This claim
is interesting. Starkey uses stereotypes about black people and black culture
to talk about a broader set of people. He and others like David Cameron, who
called the riots ‘criminality, pure and simple’, use ideas of ‘deviant’ youth,
and especially ‘deviant’ black youth,
to prevent ordinary citizens from having sympathy for those who rioted. This
allows the government and the majority society to ignore the realities of
poverty which many suffer from.
Some of my own research was in one of
the areas where the rioting in South London happened. From interviews, and also
from time spent with the mostly black residents of the local council estates, I
tried to find out about the frustrations of these people. This research allowed
me to argue against the accepted beliefs about what caused the rioters’ anger.
For example, I was able to write about:
1) The already difficult relationships
between the local people and the police.
2) The lack of stable employment and good educational
3) The everyday exclusion from leisure
activities which many others take for granted.
These problems link to racism. For
instance, the people I researched were often targeted, despite not having any
criminal record, for random stop-and-search and other forms of police
confrontation. The young people often felt that they were being targeted
because of the colour of their skin. This leads to what sociologists call
‘criminalization’: when a whole social group is vilified as criminals, which
leads to hostility and humiliating feelings of exclusion.
But thinking about how exclusion happens
also involves confronting dominant ideas about what it actually means to feel fulfilled
in today’s Britain. For instance, the third reason for the rioters’ anger that
I mentioned might not seem a reasonable cause for violence. However, it is the
task of sociologists to encourage caution when people’s actions are dismissed.
My research argues that inequality is
not simply about whether one can buy food or have somewhere to sleep but also
about how one is able to express themselves. It shows that for people
to feel fully fulfilled in today’s
Brittan and how it is designed means that they have to be able to buy consumer objects, like branded clothes, and
be able to go to certain restaurants and clubs. This might initially sound
silly, but research shows that buying Nike shoes is not about just buying Nike
shoes anymore. Young people raised in our society often feel that not being
able to buy these products and experiences, things which other people do easily
and on a regular basis, is a real
In many ways, thinking about poverty and
racial exclusion requires imaginative thought about what it means to live in today’s
Britain. It is very exciting to engage in this kind of work. It leads to
surprising and powerful ways of thinking outside of normal ideas about major social
problems. I believe this is really important. It allows us to think of
different ways in which not only government, but also our friends and other
people around us, might want to understand the suffering of people who might
look different to the majority and don’t always have the same prospects as the
rest of society.
Iqbal Race Relations Archive: A University of Manchester based archive which
has great and sometimes rare material on the recent history of race-relations
in Britain and also the British Empire. The Archive’s also boasts various
on-line resources aimed at young learners.
Trust: The UK’s leading independent race equality think-tank. Their website has
excellent learning resources (like Generation 3.0) as well as accessible
summaries of leading research on racial discrimination and strategies for
realising equality. Click here for more information.
on Dynamics of Ethnicity): A University of Manchester research institute which
provides short and impressively accessible reports on key statistics concerning
racial inequality and ethnic demography in the UK. Find out more here.
A thoroughly independent online media platform which hosts challenging and
sophisticated discussion on various social issues – including racism,
immigration and global poverty.
British Future: A small think-thank which discusses mainstream British anxieties about
migration, economic prospects and national identity. The website is very much intended
for a non-academic audience and offers well-presented blog-posts, podcasts and
videos covering multiculturalism, integration and ideas of national belonging.
The Different Faces of the First World War
The School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester is running an autumn lecture series on the occasion of next year’s centenary of the outbreak of WW1.
these lectures, which are aimed at Sixth Form students and members of the
public, experts from our wide ranging subject disciplines will share their
research into World War 1 – subjects range from History, English,
Classics, Archaeology, Religion and Languages to Music, Gender Studies
and Archaeology. The series will give you an excellent opportunity to gain an
insight into university-style teaching, gain a wider perspective on topics you
may be studying for A-level or get an introduction to new and thought-provoking
the full programme, booking forms and venues, please see the website.
Wednesday evenings (5-6pm in most cases) from 9 October until 8 January.
Main Oxford Road campus, The University of Manchester (venues see website).
to book: Lectures are free, but everyone who
wishes to attend should book a place for themselves online.
Black History Month is celebrated in
the UK throughout the month of October, and staff from the University of Manchester’s Ahmed Iqbal Ullah
Race Relations Resource Centre will
be busy delivering talks and workshops in local schools, as well as hosting
community events – but what exactly is Black History Month all about? Sam Kalubowila explains more...
The origins of Black History Month
The very first Black History Month wasn't actually a whole month. It began in 1926 as Negro History Week, a week
where emphasis would be placed on the teaching of African American
history. It was the brainchild of Carter
G. Woodson, an African American historian, journalist, lecturer and
educationalist, and his Association
for the Study of Negro Life and History. Carter’s aim was to encourage young
African Americans to understand their own history and to be proud of it. It wasn't until 1970 that it officially became a whole month of celebrations, and
a further 17 years was to pass before it came to be celebrated in the UK.
In the US, February
was chosen as was the month of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, and freed
slave and abolitionist campaigner Frederick Douglass. When the Ghanaian
activist Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, and the Greater London Authority began
preparations to have a UK-wide Black History Month, October was chosen for a
number of reasons:
“We decided on October as the month to
celebrate black history because apart from its significance within the African
calendar - the period of the autumn equinox in Africa - October is consecrated
as the harvest period, the period of plenty, and the period of the Yam
Festivals. October is also a period of tolerance and reconciliation in Africa,
when the chiefs and leaders would gather to settle all differences. October was
therefore chosen because of these factors. We were also thinking about the
children, and what to bequeath to them. October is more or less the beginning
of the school year; their minds are refreshed and revitalised, so they can take
in a lot of instruction. This was also one of the reasons that October was
chosen. Black History Month is a reconnection with our source.”
Even though Black
History Month has been given formal recognition, and is well embedded both here
and in the US, it still has it’s detractors – and it’s not as simple as black
and white either. One of the main arguments against
Black History Month is that strictly speaking, Black History (or black
history) is part of history, and should be taught as such. One of Hollywood’s
biggest stars, Morgan Freeman said “You’re going to relegate my history to a
month? I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is [American]
history." (Click here to watch the clip)
Freeman makes a good
point. In an ideal world, history would be taught in an inclusive way,
incorporating characters and stories from all walks of life, including the
stories of those people who may have been written out of the history books, and
‘black history’ would be part of ‘history’. All children would learn about the
advances in medicine and science that came from the Islamic world; about Sikh,
African and Caribbean soldiers who fought alongside Allied troops in the First
and Second World Wars; about those from the Empire who responded to Britain’s
call for labour to rebuild the motherland after the Second World War. Names
like Mary Seacole, Olaudah Equiano and William Cuffay would be as familiar as
Florence Nightingale, Brunel and Napoleon. But until we see a complete overhaul
of the history curriculum, I believe having a Black History Month is better than not having one.
So now, in 2013,
Black History Month is celebrated in October, with events taking place across
the UK celebrating and commemorating the positive achievements and
contributions made by people of African and Caribbean heritage. Keep your eyes
and ears peeled for specialist programming on local and national radio and
television, and events that may be happening in your local area.
You can find out more
about some of the events happening in Manchester this October here
For more information about the University
of Manchester’s Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, click here.