Black History Month Community Spotlight - Sonia Howell and Steve McGregor (whg)
Contributions from two whg colleagues Sonia Howell (Housing Advisor) and Steve McGregor (Neighbourhood Services Manager).
Sonia Howell, Housing Advisor
Black History Month is very important, and it is symbolic to me for various reasons. I believe that it should not be an annual monthly celebration; it should be all year round and part of UK school curriculums as we live in such a diverse nation. In British History, the Abolition of Slavery Act received Royal Assent on 28 August 1833. Prior to this, many nations engaged in slavery to trade in global markets and gain economic prosperity in particular for products such as sugar and cotton. Times began to change, social norms were challenged and there were growing concerns over equality, humanity and the rights of individuals due to barbaric practices of slavery.
Fast forward to 2020 and despite numerous positive role models gracing the face of the earth we share such as Nelson Mandela, Dr Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Barack Obama, Mary Seacole, (to name just a few) as well as my own ancestors; equality of opportunity, fairness, social justice, unbiased and non-discriminative practices and human kindness often does not prevail. There are a few films I have watched that give insight into the journey of Black people such as Just Mercy, Hidden Figures, Harriet, 12 Years a Slave and Selma. By watching these films, the news, documentaries and reading newspaper articles, it is evident that some positive changes have taken place but there is still a very long way to go!
I would like to encourage all individuals who understand and empathise with the struggle for racial equality to take a pledge which truly inspires and invokes positive change. I am inspired by Dr Martin Luther King who once said: "The time is always right, to do what is right".
Steve McGregor, Neighbourhood Services Manager
I remember back in the late 1980s becoming frustrated that there were very few positive black role models taught in the school curriculum. I had to head to London to research for myself. This is when I came across historical figures such as Jamaican born Mary Seacole who sacrificed everything to nurse wounded soldiers in the Crimean War and Lewis Latimer who invented the first carbon filament for lightbulbs.
In recent times we've seen Hollywood blockbusters such as Men of Honour starring Cuba Gooding Jr and more recently Hidden Figures depicting the true stories of black men and women that overcame racial opposition to play their crucial roles in their fields of expertise.
Recently the BBC aired a programme presented by Lenny Henry entitled Black Classical Music - The Forgotten History which explored facts about black classic composers, musicians and their compositions. This was jaw-dropping for me as I studied music and have played in orchestras in my younger years and yet I had never heard of these figures or their music. I've heard some academics and top musicians who studied at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for Music make similar statements in recent days.
This learning over the years has massively helped build my confidence and self-esteem that the contribution we make to the world around us is not restricted by colour, ethnicity or any other protected characteristic.
BHM is now 30 years old and has made information on hidden figures more accessible for all of us. In essence, I believe this allows us to celebrate our shared history which is fully inclusive and more diverse than many realise.
With thanks to Sonia and Steve from whg for sharing their contributions with Walsall for All.