The brilliant Dr John Hendrik Clarke said ‘history is a clock that people use to tell their time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are and what they are’. I believe if you don’t know your history, where you come from, what people who look like you have achieved etc., then this will have a negative impact on your self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. For some people, it could even encourage self-hatred and an inferiority complex.
One of my favourite subjects in school was history. I remember learning about the Romans, Saxons, Normans; the battles of Agincourt, Waterloo, Trafalgar; and the World Wars. However, I was never taught about the contribution that black people have made to this country and to humankind in general. It was almost as if this history was hidden from me and my classmates. It felt like black people were excluded from world history.
That is why Black History Month is important. Black History Month was first observed in America in 1926. It was the brainchild of the African American, Carter G Woodson. In America, Black History Month is observed in February. In the UK, we celebrate Black History Month in October and have done so since the 1980s.
Black History Month gives us the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contribution that black people have made to humanity and civilisation. Our contribution to the world stretches back thousands of years. Black History is important to black and non-black people. In-fact, Black history is world history.
Black history is not just about the slave trade. It is also about ancient civilizations like Kemet (Egypt), Nubia and Kush; civilizations that developed education, science, medicine, farming, architecture and much more. It is about the black Roman emperor, Septimus Severus, who ruled Britain almost two thousand years ago. Or the ancient Malian ruler, Mansa Musa, who, if he was alive today, would be the world’s richest man.
It is ironic that we have just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, but we fail to recognise the black Spitfire pilots who defended this country and defeated the Nazi’s during the Blitz. I could go on.
The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey said ‘a people without the knowledge of their past, history and culture is like a tree without roots.’
So this month take the opportunity read, investigate and do your research. Learn something new and know thyself.
Stay focused and stay blessed.