Black History Month Community Spotlight - Jaishree Patel
Jaishree is the School Programmes Officer (West Midlands) at The Faith and Belief Forum.
For me, Black History Month is about recognising that Black History is British History, that its stories and contribution have made the UK what it is today. As UK citizens and residents, I think it’s important that when we’re learning about the history of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in America, we’re also learning about the history of The Mangrove Nine and The Bristol Bus Boycott in the UK. We need to know about the Black contribution to developing British civil rights that are now an essential part of our society. I know that probably all sounds a bit serious, and it is! So equally, I think for me Black History Month also needs to be about a proud celebration of individuals, their communities and their cultures.
I’m inspired by the work of Black Britons, such as Professor David Olusoga whose work raises the profile of black British history, especially histories that are not widely known. He explains that after abolition, England condemned American slavery whilst simultaneously buying cotton grown by American slaves to manufacture hugely profitable textiles. To bring this into a present-day context, I was interested in the Black, British journalist, Gary Younge’s, caution against feelings of moral superiority about race/racism when comparing ourselves with countries such as America. For me, these points are a reminder to examine my own consumer choices/wider choices and the consequences that they have for others. I’m left reflecting on the responsibility of both individuals and societies for the impact of our thoughts, words and actions as we all create the history of tomorrow.