Black History Month UK was put into October to empower students to start the academic year as they wish to end it – successfully. Unfortunately, many institutions fail to directly engage students during this vital month. It is an opportunity to reach out to those students whose ancestry does not lie in the UK and demonstrate the success of their culture. Similarly, it is an opportunity to teach their peers to appreciate the diverse world we live in and just how closely connected we all are – whether that be sharing resources, cultural practices or swapping cooking tips. Where one has the resources and ability to do so, we should reach out to the student community and work to bring it together to empower, enlighten and celebrate the Black cultures. As BME Student Officer, this is what I have been working towards – cohesion among the BME communities in Manchester.
There is often confusion when we use the term Black, BME and even BAME in our daily lives – which is politically correct? Which do you fit into? If you do not self define as Caucasian, then you fit into them all as they are all used interchangeably across different organisations. This then leaves the question of what does this make of Black History Month which traditionally works around the history of African and Caribbean cultures; that choice is left down to you. There is no right or wrong answer. This year with Black History Month, I used it as an opportunity to unite as many different cultures across Manchester as possible under the theme of empowering, enlightening and celebrating. Working with a number of supportive students, we were able to employ the plan that has led to a month of celebration and education for staff, students and local community groups.
There are some individuals such as Morgan Freeman, who believe that Black history should not be confined to one month but incorporated into the mainstream archives. Although I understand his purpose, I disagree. Within the current way of the world we are living in, we need a period of time to focus attention on BME history. All cultures, including the English, have contributed to the world in their own way and no matter where you are in the world, this should be recognised. Black history (and BME history), will not be confined into one month forever, but for the time being we need to utilise it and educate ourselves as well as those around us in order to move forward, together into a future of diversity and equal opportunity.Written by Tanisha Douglas.