October 30, 2015, by Michael Jennings

Black History Month 2015 – thank you!

Val Watson, Chair of the BME Staff Network, Claire Henson, Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator and Vincent Wilson, Associate Professor and Reader in Autonomic Pharmacology, reflect on a fantastic Black History Month programme for 2015.

As October draws to a close, so too does our programme for Black History Month 2015, which we are proud to say was educational, thought-provoking and varied.

Our events featured memorable insights into the history, culture and achievements from a range of BME cultures, as well as challenges that exist today. For the launch event we were blessed to have incredible music and spoken word performances from local artists Natalie Duncan, David Stickman Higgins and the Gang of Angels. This was followed by a fascinating insight into the cultural phenomenon of the enduring love affair that Jamaicans have for Clarks shoes, a story that manages to connect the sleepy Somerset town of Street to the dancehalls of Kingston, Jamaica. Next was an exploration of the hidden history of the slave trade with broadcaster David Olusoga and UoN academic Kate Donington. Using that most English of beverages, tea, David Olusoga cast an interesting light on historical connections between the people of India, China and West Africa. A link made all the more fascinating by the recent visit to the UK of the Chinese Premier, Xi Jinping. Brendon Batson, ex-West Brom player, and Troy Townsend celebrated the considerable achievements of the Kick It Out campaign over the past 20 years, that has grown from tackling racism to making the football more inclusive to everyone, irrespective of religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

In addition, there were film screenings covering the history of the Black Panther Movement in the United States and charting more recent social change nearer to home, accompanied by discussion with the Nottingham-based SKN Heritage Museum and Syncopate Media. The Widening Participation team and Nottingham University Business School also took the opportunity to welcome children and teenagers from local schools to campus, to showcase the opportunities that higher education offers. All this and more, culminating with a conference on the #BlackLivesMatter movement organised by the Centre for Research in Race and Rights, who contributed a number of insightful events during the month.

In particular, we were most impressed with the wide range of audiences who attended these events, as not just staff and students but also the public got involved. It was incredibly rewarding to see so many of the BME community coming on to the campus, joining in with the discussions and offering their view and experiences. We will explore ways to ensure even greater outside participation for events in future years.

If you were unable to attend in person, you can scroll down to read Storify highlights from three of our events for a glimpse of what was on offer. You can also read through our previous blog posts to find academic comment, personal stories and more.

So once more, our biggest thanks to all who have generously given their time and energy to make BHM 2015 the success it was. We are especially grateful to all the unsung heroes behind the scenes, who provided technical, administrative and general support to make everything run so smoothly. Particular mention should go to Claire Henson, whose general enthusiasm knows no bounds, and to Mike Jennings for the impressive artwork associated with each event that has given UoN Black History Month 2015 a striking visual impact – a brand, even.

Although this year’s programme might be over, our work goes on – plans for Black History Month 2016 begin now. We hope to make next October a bigger celebration than ever, and we would love for you to be a part of this. So if you have any thoughts to share or want to get involved directly, please contact Claire Henson (Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator) or Val Watson (BME Staff Network Chair).



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