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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela.

Black History Month is a time to educate ourselves on the progress and achievements of our ancestors throughout history. We should take the time to understand and look back on how far the black community has come in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination that has been an integral part of society. From the Atlantic Slave Trade, to Brown vs Topeka, Apartheid, the Aborigines, Martin Luther King, Malcom X and all the way to the ‘first black president of America - Baraka Obama. The black community is flying forward into a future filled with hopes and promises. Black History Month is a time to celebrate great black achievers and providing us with the opportunity to recognise the progress and achievements of great black people throughout history.

However, whilst growing up in the UK, I had always felt that every year when Black History month arrived, we were repeatedly taught the same thing and simply served jollof rice and chicken in the school canteen to celebrate. There’s nothing wrong with the Black History that we were taught, but I have always felt that there was more to Black History than the slave trade and the civil rights movement. Don’t get me wrong, those elements of black history are very important and it was necessary for us to have been provided with the opportunity to learn about those events in history – as the legacy left behind was and is still inspiring. But I also feel that equal importance should be given to other elements of black history, especially the positive elements. That’s why I am glad that recently there has been a greater celebration of black people and culture that have positively impacted our community. This is important so that we, as black people, don’t forget the contributions some of these black figures have made or how they’ve paved the way for us. We essentially have a duty to be educated in and acknowledge inspirational figures in our history, especially those that are often overlooked.

For example how many of you were aware that the person responsible for coordinating the first Black History Month celebrations in the UK in 1987 was a Ghanaian man called Akyaaba Addai-Sebo? How about the fact that thousands of black men from the various colonies in Africa and the Caribbean fought for the allies in both of the world wars, yet often their contributions are overlooked by the same people that they fought and sacrificed for? How about your knowledge of great female figures like Yaa Asantewaa, the warrior Queen, who led the Ashanti-British “War of the Golden Stool?” Or Charles Odamtten Easmon who has been credited by scholars as the ‘’father of cardiac surgery in West Africa?”

Furthermore, as much as it is good to celebrate our past and our history, it is equally important to learn from it too. We should allow our history to teach us lessons and provide for a dialogue on how we should move forward as black people.

Maya Angelou once said “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” A statement that is very much overlooked but one that needs to be addressed and unpacked, especially around black history month. We forget that during slavery, which is probably one of the most horrific parts of our history, black people desired to be educated and to be free. They wanted the chance to make their own choices and to even feel either rewards or the repercussions of them. They wanted to choose who they loved, who they worked for, who they even slept with. During slavery, they were robbed of that chance and it’s something that our generation take for granted, especially those in the western world. Essentially, they fought and revolted for the future…for us and I don’t think we take the time to even be grateful for that.

So this black history month, we should celebrate our past and our history while striving to learn from all the negatives that have happened. Our history should provide a dialogue on how we should move forward as black people. We need to use their pain and suffering and channel it into something amazing…awe-inspiring to influence the generations to follow.

Whenever life gets you down, just remember you are everything the slaves wanted to be.

You are essentially “the dream and the hope of the slave.”

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