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  • vanessabelleau

Let's Talk About Black History Month UK

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

If you have read my Guide to October D&I Dates, then you will know that October is Black History Month here in the UK. I would really like to take this blog as an opportunity to share my thoughts on Black History Month with you.

Black History Month and Me

Now, truth be told, Black History Month never meant that much to me. I bet you didn't think I would begin with that sentence. Before you are too surprised, please allow me to explain: in France, where I was born and raised, there is no such 'month'. The contribution of Black people to the history of France is not really acknowledged, sadly.

Fast-forward to when I came to live in London, over 16 years ago now. At first, I was not comfortable talking about my race with others (now I am a D&I consultant, talk about growth haha!). I really didn't understand why there was an entire month dedicated to Black History. At the time, I didn't want to think about Black History, I thought that I needed to 'blend in' to be accepted and valued.

Why was this the case? Well, I realised that I didn't know the real history of my ancestors. All I knew of the Black Caribbean experience of life was hardship, slavery, shame, poverty with very few dreams coming true. That very fact in itself was traumatic, and it did the opposite of motivating me to learn more, despite the constant reminders that my daddy Belleau would give me!

Over time, and thanks to seeing more Black people achieving great things, connecting with their culture, their joy and living & dancing freely (yes, Notting Hill Carnival did play its part!), things started to change in my head. I was able to feel more comfortable and have better conversations, discuss race perceived and experienced differences, learn more and be proud of myself and other Black people.

Today, I am very proud to be a Black woman, and that was not something I was taught in school. Before I didn't understand why we needed to shout about and showcase Black History, but now I am so grateful to live in a country that celebrates it! Black History is part of the UK's history, and it should be taught in the curriculum. Sign this petition if you also think that this should change!

This is all very fitting too as the theme of this year's Black History Month UK is Proud To Be.

Black History Month and You

I have said a bit about Black History Month and me, so now I want to talk a bit about how you can get involved with Black History Month in the UK.

Black History Month is all about embracing Black History, learning about it and celebrating it. There is plenty you can do throughout October to be part of it.

Here are a few ideas for you:

So this month (and every month after) listen, learn, share, amplify Black voices and use your own voice to fight for an equitable society where we can all be proud and free to be ourselves!

Let's do this!

Vanessa x

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