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Black History Month Community Spotlight - Hannah Gilbert

Hannah Gilbert is a Youth Justice Worker for Walsall Council.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a time for all communities across the UK to focus on the experiences and celebrate the contributions of Black people – past, present, and future. Black history is neglected in mainstream primary and secondary education curricula, so we need a specific month dedicated to the huge diversity of the experiences and history of the African diaspora. Black history is so much more than the transatlantic slave trade, and given Britain’s key role in the slave trade and colonialism, much of Black history is also British history! For Black British people, October is often the only opportunity we get to learn about the experiences and contributions of people who look like us. This kind of representation is very important as it allows Black people to feel included and valued in society, as well as supporting our aspirations and pride in our identity.

Who inspires you?

Maya Angelou – an American author, poet, actress, and dancer. She faced massive adversity growing up in a very racist small town in the southern states of America and went on to achieve amazing things with unrivalled grace and eloquence. Her series of autobiographies are some of my favourite books and I would recommend them to anyone!

Malcolm X – a self-taught American intellectual and orator whose worldview is still very relevant today.

Akala – a Black British young man who has shattered stereotypes by excelling in academia and writing a critically acclaimed book (‘Natives’) which explores Black British history and the contributions of Black Britons. He came from a disadvantaged background and his speaking and writing style means he is accessible and inspirational to young Black British people from similar communities.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future?

I hope to see a Black Prime Minister in my lifetime and to see more Black people in executive roles. I also hope that key institutions in society – education, police, housing, employment, health etc. – become fairer towards Black people so that they no longer consistently achieve poor outcomes across every measure which denotes the success of a society.

What do you think would make Walsall a better place?

More Black people in executive roles, a more diverse curriculum so that future generations understand and empathise with the plight and value of the African diaspora and racism being consistently challenged across educational/employment/social settings.

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