The Leicestershire African Caribbean Newsletter produced by the African Caribbean Research Project shows how community groups in 1993 contributed to making Black History Month a success.
October of this year saw the launch of the Black History Month Celebration in Leicester.
The Black History Month celebration is a National and International event held from the 1st to the 31st of October. During this period of the month all over Britain, America, the Caribbean, and the rest of the diaspora, one can find people of Afrikan descent attending and organising events to commemorate Afrikan legacy, a legacy which we should not forget.
Black History Month owes its origins to the foresight of Dr Carter G. Woodson, born in 1875 in Virginia USA. Like many Afrikan people Carter Woodson suffered hardship.
Dr Woodson overcame most of his difficulties and managed to get through school leaving to go and work in the coal mines at the age of 17. Dr Woodson later entered Douglas High and gained a teaching certificate in less than two years, he travelled across Europe, Asia and graduated at Soubonne in Paris. On return to America Dr Woodson entered Harvard University and was awarded his Ph.D. in 1912.
In 1915 Dr Woodson founded the Association For the Study of Negro Life and History. After Harvard he enjoyed a long career in education, becoming principle of Douglas High School and teacher of Languages and History in Washington DC. He was also appointed Dean of the school of liberal Arts at Harvard and the supervisor of a school in the Philippines.
Negro History Week
This range of experiences made Dr Woodson see the need for a special time of the month to draw attention to the contribution his people made to America and the rest of the world, hence the launch of what was then called Negro History week, in the month of February.
Today this tradition is maintained and we remember our ancient and modern achievements in the month of October. This institution like others, which took root in the American framework found its way to Afrikans in the rest of the diaspora and is now part of the celebration of Afrikan achievements in Afrika and in the rest of the world.
The month long programme of events includes a whole variety of activities ranging from plays, children and youth performances, Afrikan Caribbean Songs, exhibitions discussion groups, video screenings, appearances by black writers currently touring Britain and a visit to the Iwa Obirin National Conference. The programme of events also included the visit of an Afrikan American scholar to the region.
The entire programme was devised by members of local Afrikan Caribbean community organisations and community members who responded immediately at short notice to present a variety of events at our ancient past and of our modern times.
Events co-ordinator Taleba Tahera commented that “It is important that these contributions to our history should not be forgotten and that this knowledge and awareness of our past should be passed on to our children in order that they remember who they are.”
Although numbers for the events were small they were all very well received and in particular there was enthusiastic participation in the discussions that were held, there are hopes that the Leicestershire community will make Black History Month a regular fixture and that it will be possible to link up with schools, making selected events a part of the curriculum. It is also hoped that greater awareness can be raised after the event.
Leicestershire African Caribbean newsletter (African Caribbean Research Project), ‘Local celebration of African History’, Issue No. 8, November 1993, pp. 1 – 3.
Donated by Carol Varley: African Caribbean Citizens Forum