There are some who ask the question “Why is there a Black History Month” and our response is that the history of “Black” peoples is not recognised as much as it should be. Others also ask why it is recognised for only a month and our response is that the month is a reminder that Black History should be recognised all year round. The development of the Black Archives programmes managed by Black History Month South is an important and necessary next step to ensure that these acknowledgments and celebrations become an incontrovertible part of the history of the region and the country.
Black History Month South was first founded in 2005 by Don John and in 2006 Jayanti Shah came on board and as a team the celebration of Black History in the city become an essential part of Southampton’s cultural calendar. In 2016? Lou Taylor took on the coordinating role and together with Olu Rowe continued the Black History Month legacy.
Every year Black History Month South nominates a theme for the year, and in 2022 the theme was “Original Black Influencers”. The launch took place on September 28th and the guest speaker was Jim Baker who was a City Councillor in Southampton and played a significant part in the development of Race Relations in the city over the years.
Special awards were given to Sue Penny who was the first Director of the Southampton Council for Race Equality in 1968 and Bob Purkiss a race campaigner locally, nationally, and internationally over the last 40 years. Also, a special Black plaque was commissioned to recognise the 60th anniversary of The New Testament Church of God which provided spiritual comfort to many Black people who were not welcomed by churches in the city at the time when Black people first came to this country.
Crowd attending the launch event at St Mary’s Fire Station, Southampton
The launch also recognised the work of the Cultural Diversity Advisory Group to The Media (CDAGM) which was formed in 1992 by Anver Jeevanjee and in particular the support given by Sangeeta Bhabra the ITV presenter.
There were references to the possibility of a Race Advice Service which is part of a 2-year campaign to establish a means by which those who may have been subjected to race discrimination were able to receive advice from independent advisers. More recently Southampton City Council seem to be more open to discussions on this issue but there is still a long way to go.
Ebony Rockers, a Southampton Reggae band that were popular in the 1980s were recently honoured with a mural in the city centre and also received a best music film award at the Portobello Film Festival, but this will be featured more substantially in the features section.
”Black” a graphic novel written by Tobias Taitt tells the story of a young Black boy who lived in Southampton in the 1980s and was subjected to the racism of the care system and the criminal justice system. The graphic novel was exhibited at the John Hansard Gallery and was very successful.
Although the recognition of Black History Month over the years has created a greater awareness of the Black presence in the region there has been a realisation that the official record of that presence is a job still to be done. And the Black Archives programme is the means by which this will be achieved.
Having worked in the field of Race & Diversity for over 40 years and spent 10 years in the Treasury in Whitehall, Don moved to Southampton to work as a youth and education officer for the Southampton Council.
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If you live in the South of England and have a story to tell, or have any artifacts, photos and memorabilia relating to black history in the South, we would love to hear from you. Read More