Black History Month (UK) is 25 years old this year. And as we celebrate this landmark event, the man credited with its founding, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo salutes all those, past and present, who have made this annual commemoration a success for over two decades.
Black History Month, in 25 years, has become a sustaining catalyst in the promotion and advancement of the cause of racial harmony and peaceful co-existence in a multicultural Britain and for that matter Europe.
Black History Month is a force for good and it is for the good of Mother Africa’s children living and sojourning in the UK that it was created in the first place, to secure the unity and future safety and development of the wider pan-African family struggling to survive as an “ethnic minority” in a “Rule Britannia” mindset of a society whose leaders play musical chairs with the fate of those institutionally classified as “Black”.
Black History Month is causing the greater British society to pause every October and enter into a state of self-examination about its relations with Africa and all people of African descent, be they born in the Caribbean, Chile, Suriname, Papua New Guinea, South India or China.
Black History Month is a period of self-examination of the responsibilities we owe to each other as a result of the encounter of imperialism, enslavement, the slave trade, plantation slavery, chattel slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Black History Month therefore serves as a constant reminder to European society of their abiding duty to humanity, by freely accepting and embracing those categorised as “Blacks” as human beings first, beyond the pale of colour, class and creed.
And in 25 years, the cause of humanising European society by virtue of the “staying power” and force of personality of Mother Africa’s children has gained currency and made an accelerating impact.
The evidence here is the missionary vocation of African footballers in the heartlands of European racism, plying their sporting skills to humanise the tribal bands of supporters, who chant racist slogans and throw bananas at “Black” players in the gladiatorial stadiums of Russia, Spain, Croatia, Poland, Italy and the rest. Having taken the risk, these gallant African players are succeeding in their “civilising” mission.
It is a reversal of roles purely on human terms and not on economic or “exploitation of man by man”. This is the catalysing agency of Black History Month. And it is this fact that New African and its readers are celebrating as a cause for the greater good of society.
As we celebrate Black History Month at 25 (BHM@25), we recognise and pay tribute to the sterling contribution and prescience of the following luminaries of the Pan-African world who responded to the call to institutionalise Black History Month between 1987 and 1988, when the boroughs of London, led by the London Strategic Policy Unit, declared that period African Jubilee Year: John Henrik Clarke, Josef ben Yochannan, Frances Cress Welsing, Tony Martin, Maulana Karenga, Angela Davis, Max Roach, Hugh Masekela, Kofi Ghanaba, Burning Spear, Robert Northern, Nina Simone, Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Sally Mugabe, Graca Machel, President Thomas Sankara, and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
They readily saw the significance of what had been conceived and most of them came in person to support the cause of Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, Keith Vaz, Narendra Makendzi, Ken Livingstone, Linda Bellos, Herman Ouseley, Bernard Wiltshire, Drew Stevenson, Ansel Wong, Arif Ali and all those that cannot be listed here to ensure that the seed was well planted.
The seed of Black History Month has been well planted in the hearts and minds of the people of the UK and is being nourished by the devotion and sense of purpose of key individuals quietly working in, and holding their positions in, the civil service, local authorities, public libraries, museums, schools and colleges, the police, army, navy, air force, non-governmental and community-based organisations and in government departments and agencies, Whitehall and most of all in both Houses of Parliament and at Buckingham Palace. It is these individuals also living amongst us in our communities, whose quiet sense of mission has kept alive Black History Month. We celebrate them because through their enlightened efforts they manage to win resources to advance the cause of Black History Month.
We salute their selfless hard work and devotion to the cause of the Pan-African family. For example, the work and personal sacrifices of Mia Morris of Black History Month 365 have been recognised by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with the honour of an OBE, which she cherishes with pride.
The example of Mia Morris deserves special mention, as a single woman with a nagging neurological disability struggling against all odds and through thick and thin to run a Black History Month magazine and a dedicated website, www.black-history-month.co.uk .
My abiding memory of Mia Morris is as a precocious and spritely small-framed female aide of Paul Boateng who was tenacious in getting results as she ran her rounds in the corridors of the Greater London Council. Mia Morris would stop in at our fifth floor offices that gave us a panoramic view of the enchanting architecture of Parliament House, the chiming Big Ben and the ebb and flow of the River Thames with St. Thomas’ Hospital in the foreground. Mia was always encouraging.
It is at St. Thomas’ that some of the generation of Black History Month were born: Oye’s Papa Addai-Safo Kumi (named after me), Kwakye and David; Mansa’s Ohemaa and Nana Bonsu; Sally’s Gerard Nartey, and my sister Rosemary’s Nana Gyebi and Barima.
They and their school mates, across the UK, participate in and celebrate Black History Month every October in a reverberating pose of pride and accomplishment supported by impressive academic performance. They enter each new school academic year full of confidence because they are well rooted in their cultural traditions, anchored on the disciplines of modern technology which they embrace as a raisin in the sun. They are the beneficiaries of the teachings of Black History Month which Mia Morris propagates as a 365-day vocation.
From London to Prague and from Accra to Edinburgh, Black History Month is anticipated and prepared for every October. The British Council promotes the cause of Black History Month abroad and in the Czech Republic and Germany it is the resolute efforts of Afrikatu Kofi Nkrumah that have stimulated the European embrace of the ideals of Black History Month.
In Kofi Nkrumah we find the burning flame of unquenchable Pan-Africanism that is an example to behold. It is his missionary zeal that sustains the links to and with Diaspora Africans and their respective communities in continental Europe. Kofi is an aficionado of networking and it is right that his sense of duty to the cause of Pan-Africanism is recognised to spur others on.
In this 25th year of the founding of Black History Month in Europe, we recognise and salute IC Publications, its management and editorial team for recording and fearlessly disseminating the truth about contemporary Africa and its glorious antecedents.
The IC publishing house and its New African voice have survived in accordance with the maxim of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, that, “The secret of life is to have no fear.”