May 6, 2017, by Rights Lab
Race, Rights and Justice: A History Month Programme for 2016-17
In 2016-2017, the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (C3R) and the Research Priority Area (RPA) in Rights and Justice joined together to curate our largest ever series of History Months.
We served 850 audience members at our 14 events, with additional online audiences for our live-streams, blogs and event recordings.
Our postgraduate students directed these programmes, and here they reflect on Black History Month, LGBT History Month and Women’s History Month 2016-2017.
Hannah Jeffery: Black History Month 2016
October 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, in the context of the Black Power Movement – a frequently misunderstood period of black history. History textbooks, curricula and memorials tend to favour non-violent, integrationist figures like Martin Luther King Jr. So this year our Black History Month (BHM) focused on the narratives of Black Power, including its position alongside the long history of slavery and antislavery rebellion.
The month commenced at Nottingham Contemporary with C3R’s flagship annual conference, The October Dialogues. Taking the theme this year of “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: Transatlantic Slavery,” the two-day event held in collaboration with our partners at Nottingham Contemporary focused on slavery’s legacies and memories in Britain, including for 1960s activism. Day two of the conference was a collaboration with the national exhibition and city-wide engagement programme Journey to Justice and brought together local activists, artists and communities from across the East Midlands.
Our second BHM event saw us return to Nottingham Contemporary for a film festival celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Black Power, with screenings of the films The Black Power Mixtape, 1967-1975, Revolution ’67 and The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. Then we joined forces with the University of Nottingham’s American and Canadian Studies Department for our third event: a public lecture by Professor Manisha Sinha from the University of Connecticut, titled “The Slave’s Cause.” Here Professor Sinha, a leading historian, argued that abolitionism was a radical, interracial social justice movement—with enslaved people’s own rebellions at its heart—that broadened the horizons of democracy and continues to resonate today. Our final event for BHM 2016 was a film screening and panel discussion titled “Beyond the Walls: Murals as Activism,” in collaboration with our partners at the New Art Exchange. We focused on the murals as a tool for political commentary and community empowerment, and celebrated our work earlier in 2016 to create Nottingham’s first black history mural.
Focusing on new perspectives and untold stories, BHM 2016 was a great success, reaching a huge range of communities in Nottingham and provoking important discussions that have continued into 2017.
Ibtisam Ahmed: LGBT History Month 2017
LGBT History Month (LGBTHM) in February 2017 was a deeply intersectional and insightful approach to the shared concerns of a diverse community. With the UK marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality, it would have been easy to fall into a false complacency. So it was especially important for the University of Nottingham to host a series of events that reflected an increasingly complex and multi-faceted global liberation movement.
Our first LGBTHM event in February was a special intersectional panel on the role of solidarity and grassroots activism, held at Nottingham Contemporary with speakers from the Nottingham Trans Hub, Outburst Nottingham, QTIPOC Notts, Out in Education, and the LGBT+ Student Networks from both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. David Edgley of Nottingham Rainbow Heritage also shared the county’s rich LGBT+ history. The following week, our second LGBTHM event saw Lynda Kelly from Nottinghamshire Police in conversation about how to respond to LGBT hate crime.
At the midway point of the month, speakers from Nottinghamshire Pride, Istanbul Pride, and Dhaka Pride came together at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio to debate the various ways in which Pride is mobilised and commemorated in different socio-political contexts. The following week, researchers from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University who work on queer theory and LGBT+ scholarship presented a lively showcase that involved multiple academic disciplines. Finally, to round out LGBTHM Month 2017, C3R and the RPA joined together with the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice to host Paul Dillane, then Executive Director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (and currently the Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust) for a discussion about LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers.
The world is witnessing an outpouring of expression and emancipation, at the same time as reactionary oppression and violence against LGBT+ individuals and groups. It is therefore vital that the community and its allies continue to engage with the issues that we were privileged to help highlight during this year’s LGBTHM.
Olivia Wright: Women’s History Month 2017
March 2017 marked the largest ever Women’s History Month (WHM) at the University of Nottingham. Before now, WHM has been a somewhat overlooked celebration in the UK, compared with BHM and LGBTHM. But with 2017 already marked in January by rampant sexism in politics and resistance from the Women’s March, here in Nottingham we wanted this year’s WHM to engage with the year’s tumultuous start. We therefore devised a series of events that would inspire, engage and unite through the telling of women’s history, engagement with women’s issues today, and visions of the future. Through art, music, politics, creativity, engagement and history, we sought to make the month interactive and relevant, and hopefully lay the foundations for an annual WHM on campus.
The month began with a night of live music and spoken word for International Women’s Day at Lee Rosy’s in Nottingham city centre. The following week we hosted Paula Akpan and Harriett Evans from the “I’mTired” Project for a talk and exhibition, followed by a fully-booked photo shoot on campus. Halfway through the month, we welcomed Dr Kate Dossett from the University of Leeds for a discussion on the role of feminist archives in making women’s history. This sat alongside a workshop the following evening that offered a hands-on experience with archive artefacts: a zine workshop for women to discuss the role of the alternative press in the women’s movement and collaborate on the creation of a brand new zine, titled Yonic Youth, that we printed and bound for distribution. Our final WHM event built on our LGBTHM discussion about hate crime against LGBT individuals, and discussed Nottingham’s role as first city in the UK to define misogyny as a hate crime.
Running throughout the month was our new blog series, open to anybody wishing to contribute their writing or thoughts on women’s rights and history. WHM 2017 asked women and allies to think about women’s history and the current women’s liberation conversation, in order to draw links between past and present: we considered how art, conversation, archiving, print culture and activism have shaped our past, but also how these tools can help shape our present and our future.
Hannah Jeffery is a PhD student in the Department of American and Canadian Studies and a Postgraduate Director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights. Funded by the AHRC grant The Antislavery Usable Past, her PhD examines the radical memory of antislavery in Black Power street art and murals. She served as Director of BHM 2016-17.
Ibtisam Ahmed is a PhD student in the School of Politics and International Relations and a research associate with the Centre for Research in Race and Rights. His PhD examines the British Empire as a deliberate attempt at political utopia. He served as Director of LGBTHM 2016-17.
Olivia Wright is an M3C/AHRC-funded PhD student in the Department of American and Canadian Studies and a Postgraduate Director of the Research Priority Area in Rights and Justice. Her PhD examines women’s prison zines, in the context of radical print culture and protest literature. She served as Director of WHM 2016-17.