The history and contribution of black communities to the UK is an essential pillar of the British story, whether it is Indian/Pakistani soldiers fighting to defend the UK in World War 1 and Two to the thousands who came from the Commonwealth to rebuild after the wars, their contributions cannot be forgotten. Sadly, for too long the contributions of minority communities have been overlooked and it was under this environment that October was picked to celebrate Black History Month. When I use the term “black” it is used in a political context which embraces the diversity of minority communities and for us to be united under one banner in our common history and struggle.
Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987. It was organised through the inspiration of Ghanaian community activist Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration in London to get it underway. As years progressed it went national and now events are held across the country.
I was honoured to be the guest speaker at the Department of Education in Manchester at their Black History Month Event where I talked about Black history, the struggles of my parents who came to the UK in the 60s and racism in the workplace.
In October PCS holds its annual black members’ seminar which I was chairing and this year it was held in Birmingham. Delegates heard from speakers about racism in the workplace, building diverse unions and how black history shaped British history. We also remembered former DWP colleague Ratnam Maheswaran who sadly passed away earlier this year. He worked in Caxton House, Westminster and was active in the union. I offer my condolences to his family and friends.
In Liverpool I was proud to chair the North West Black History Month event where we heard from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool councillor Anna Rothery who is the first Black mayor in the history of the city. She talked about her journey and aspiration. Members discussed how to plan to defeat racism and confront discrimination in the workplace and plans for the launch of the North West Black Members’ Network.
If you want more information on events featured in Black History Month you can access the site here.
Mohammed Shafiq, national black members’ committee chair