Three weeks into Black History Month, and this year’s celebration has proved as provocative as ever.
With calls for it to be changed to something broader, like Diversity Month, these suggestions have angered man, and for good reason.
As a parent of children attending primary school, I feel that BHM is needed now more than ever.
But it is clear some drastic changes are needed to what exactly is being taught about black history and how it is delivered to our school children.
Key stage two children may learn about Mary Seacole and Rosa Parks, but it’s not mandatory, according to the department of education.
How is it that the entire history of a group of people can be cut down to just two individuals?
As a parent, I understand I am responsible for the education of my children, which includes everything from the basics to teaching them about their heritage.
But if we are teaching history, then we cannot exclude an entire group of people from that lesson, after all isn’t that why Black History Month began in the first place?
Black history is diverse and stretches far beyond the ships of the Atlantic Ocean, but when it is being taught the focus is on slavery and nothing else.
This makes me question whether having it taught in schools is a good thing at all.
If all our children are taught is that black people were slaves, what does that do to our children’s confidence, pride and self-esteem?
What does that do to the children who may have begun to develop bigoted views?
A solution could be, for every lesson taught about the horrors of slavery, there should be a lesson on the accomplishments and inventions created by Africans and Africans in the diaspora.
This will educate everyone and may help to combat negative stereotypes, racist views and ignorance.
If the resources that teachers use are out-dated and bias, these will need to be changed.
One way, would be to get the community involved.
The black British community has many qualified and talented people that could come into classrooms and spearhead a new type of black history lesson.
This brings me back to my childhood, when there was a special BHM event in my primary school, during the early 90s.
As a young black girl, whose parents were Rasta and came from the Caribbean, I was delighted that renowned poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah was doing the assembly.
For those minutes, I was completely fixated on this tall, black, Rasta man with long dreadlocks, performing poetry in front of the whole school.
He spoke with a Jamaican accent, mixed with some English slang, he sounded like the voices I had heard in my own family.
Instantly, I felt a connection.
He was me and I was him.
Every child has the right to feel what I felt that morning, which is represented.
It is clear there needs to be an overhaul of the way our teachers look at black history and understand that our history didn’t begin with slavery.
Teachers need to be open about examining the empires in Africa before the arrival of Europeans.
The stories of triumph need to be taught also.
It is important for all of us to learn about the Battle of Adwa, the Benin Kingdom, Queen Nzinga, the Haitian revolution, rather than continuing this same one-sided narrative.
If we are going to teach black history, it must be taught with balance, covering the good and the bad.
Thinking back to when I was at secondary school, teachers were reluctant to teach the devastating impact colonialism and the British Empire had.
We were not told that slave owners were paid compensation for their “lost property” when slavery was abolished in 1830s.
It was almost as if they only wanted to teach history which portrayed positive images of Europeans.
We cannot rewrite the past and learning history is not about shaming people but it’s about telling the truth.
We should be taught about Olaudah Equiano and Toussaint Louverture at the same time as we learn about William Wilberforce.
A problem in British schools is black history focuses on the USA and ignores the issues that happened right here.
It doesn’t make any sense to exclude the black British experience, when there is so much important history right on our doorsteps.
All British children should learn about the Bristol Bus Boycotts, the Windrush Generation, Brixton Riots, Notting Hill Carnival and the birth of Choice FM.
This idea that there were never any racial tensions in Britain is far from the truth.
Britain can’t erase itself from black history, just like black history cannot be erased out of British history, and its time we all acknowledge this.
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