Black History Month 2016 Theme: Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories

This month, Britain is celebrating Black History Month, an annual celebration of the phenomenal contributions that African and Caribbean people and communities have made and continue to make to our society. It is a time to give thanks to them for making cities like London and Manchester arguably some of the most vibrant and diverse in the world and enriching our culture, food and music in unimaginable ways.

Of course it is important to remember why ‘Black History Month’ first came into being.

Following the abominations of the slave trade years, which prevailed right up until the beginning of the 20th Century, much was to be done to redraw relations in America between black and white communities. Only by the 1960s had the Civil Rights Movement taken place in the USA. Finally, in 1978, ‘Black History Month’ was born, to celebrate the tremendous achievements of African Americans, throughout the history of the USA.

This year’s theme of ‘Hallowed Grounds’, wants to pay tribute to some of the sites that paint the picture of history and culture of African people’s journey through the US and Europe. Through years of migration, strong communities have been built and the imprint of African heritage has been etched into the American past.

From that time when African people first arrived on slave ships to American turf, they and their descendants have had to spend years and years, tirelessly fighting for equality, education, freedom and the rights to privileges that should not be privileges, but basic human rights.

That part of history is one that we would not wish to see repeat itself. These are basic human rights that should be available to everyone and which many of us are able today to take for granted.

So why is it that today, in 2016, millions of people are being forced to flee due to conflicts, natural disasters, political persecution, female genital mutilation, religious persecution. They flee and risk their lives in their struggle to reach a safer place and being denied of these basic human rights?

A recent study by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), found that almost three quarters of migrants attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean have experienced either exploitation or human trafficking.

Picture from the Guardian website: A motor boat from the Italian frigate Grecale approaches a boat overcrowded with migrants in the Mediterranean. Photograph: Italian Navy/AP

Picture from the Guardian website: A motor boat from the Italian frigate Grecale approaches a boat overcrowded with migrants in the Mediterranean. Photograph: Italian Navy/AP

How can it be that so many incredibly brave, yet vulnerable people are being exploited, mistreated and abused during their journey across Europe? And why is it then that at the end of this traumatic journey, they may not be welcomed…?

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made that famous speech and in it he said:

“I have a dream… where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Yes! Let’s create the Unity that we preach.

The vast improvements that have been made over the past 50 years should not be underestimated. However, what is important is that we do not give up our fight. Months like ‘Black History Month’ serve to remind us of how much our country has benefited from the influence of different cultures and how powerful those influences are. Without them, we would not be the same place.

It is therefore more important than ever that we speak out about what is right, put an end to this crisis and give refugees back those human rights that people in the past fought so hard to achieve.

Join us and stand up for what is right, Let’s make the change.

By Hattie Ditton


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