What Black History Month Means to Me

October 12, 2022

By Celestine Greenwood

Black History Month to me, a white, middle-aged woman, is about honest reflection, about learning, about embracing difficult truths, and about self-development. It is about embracing, enjoying and celebrating Black people, culture, and history.

It is a time to reflect upon all that wealth of history that was denied to me in mainstream education growing up in the 70s and 80s, all those stories that were deliberately excluded or overlooked, and those stories that were minimised or somehow twisted into lies of glorious righteousness. They are stories of man’s inhumanity to man, of unimaginable pain and suffering, and of some prospering and thriving at the expense of ‘others.’ They are also stories of resilience and strength, of determination, of pride and of humility. They are stories to induce shame and sorrow, they are stories to inspire. These stories are realities not just of the past but also of the present.

Black History Month to me is about bringing the shame of our history into the light, about owning the inhumanities committed in my name.  It is about acknowledging slavery and racism and how it is that some of us benefitted so much from the awful suffering of others. It is about acknowledging that racism still pervades our society ensuring that others, who remain marginalised and excluded, still suffer. It is about lifting up and celebrating the lives, past and present, of Black people, both here and around the world. It is about recognising the daily struggle and pain of lived discriminations that I don’t have to face but others do. It is about understanding what it is I do, and don’t do, that contributes to the perpetuation of racism, about what I can do to stop that. It is about listening and allyship, being supportive without burdening my Black colleagues and friends with making me feel comfortable.

Black History Month to me is about learning more about the rich cultures of Black People here in Britain and around the world. It is about celebrating what is different and what is common.

Black History Month to me is about the history and lives of friends and colleagues of colour, their families and communities, about their struggles and their triumphs.

Black History Month to me is embracing and celebrating Black People, their part in this country’s history, the culture that they have built within British culture and, celebrating and championing their place in the life and future of this country, our country. It is living the truth that our country is so much better when we celebrate our differences, let our commonalities unite us, and accept our challenges rather than deny them out of shame.

Celestine Greenwood is a human rights lawyer and activist, specialising in public law children cases.