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Black History Month

October is Black History Month; our chance to pause and reflect on the past, celebrate a number of vibrant and compelling cultures and examine the way in which we view our history. This year, we are putting on a programme of events, led by The African and Caribbean Society (ACS), in collaboration with a whole host of SU Societies and supported by President Student Experience Amelia Banton and President Welfare and Inclusivity Charlotte Agnew.

We are excited to introduce you to the 2020 Black History Month programme via a letter written by Lily-Mary Cox, President of ACS, in which she defines the true purpose of Black History Month as "to challenge, question, and discuss the way in which Black contributions to history are celebrated and acknowledged in society". We look forward to coming together as a community to "shine a light on Black History" (Lily-Mary Cox, President ACS).

If anyone is interested in joining discussions around our plans for Black History Month, as well as being part of a wider conversation around Black and Ethnic Minority representation, please get in touch with Charlotte Agnew at charlotte.agnew@thesu.org.uk.

ACS Black History Month letter: an introduction

Dear students, staff, and others,

I would like to first and foremost thank you for taking the time this month to shine a light on Black History as we honour, celebrate, and narrate the stories of Black antiquity.

When I think about the importance of Black History Month, I am reminded that it is a time of rejoicing, celebrating and thanking all the heroes from the past to the present, for giving us hope and even future life lessons. Black History Month is not just about all the bad times we have been through. Rather, it is all about integrity, leadership, and determination. It is about showing your true character. Black History Month is a time when all the people of colour can take the time out and see what the people before them fought for. Along with similar events, Black History Month serves as a time to pause and reflect, which is why we must take the time in our institutions to educate everyone about the contributions of Black leaders and events that have shaped today’s society. 

The start of October marks the beginning of Black History Month in the UK. It was launched in the 1980s to celebrate the achievements of Black people and encourage a more racially diverse curriculum. Most of our introductions to history are within the confines of our school classrooms, and dominated by British history, with both the World Wars and the British Empire taking centre stage. However, the lens through which we learn about the empire and its supposed glory is tainted.  Even in the rare event where we do learn about Black historical figures, it is only as a result of the fact that they are also of British heritage; for example, Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican woman who worked as a nurse in the Crimean War. The Euro-centric and nationalistic way in which we are taught about not only the empire, but historical figures fails to acknowledge the role and suffering of Black lives at the hands of the British. What Black History Month aims to do is explore the history that we often do not see as part of our curriculums and present the history that we do learn about in school in a different way.

This year, the Politics course at the University of Exeter Cornwall was opened with a week-long programme entitled ‘Building an Anti-Racist Classroom’, which addressed subjects such as white privilege, equality in the classroom, identity and diversity in Cornwall and starting anti-racist conversations. The sessions were not only informative but, in the words of the students, challenging. It forced students, regardless of their backgrounds, to ask themselves disconcerting questions, have uncomfortable conversations and question their own judgement. This, in a nutshell, embodies the true purpose of Black History Month: to challenge, question, and discuss the way in which Black contributions to history are celebrated and acknowledged in society.

To continue to promote cultural celebration and racial awareness, we as the SU African and Caribbean Society (ACS) have been working in close proximity with not only the Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union, but also other societies on campus to organise events to celebrate Black History Month. We look forward to sharing the programme of events with you in the next few days and hope for us as a community to engage with and celebrate Black History Month.

We hope that this Black History Month will inspire conversation, enable growth and reinvigorate our sense of community.

With Love,

Lily-Mary Cox

President Exeter & Falmouth ACS

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