Black History Month, held in October each year, celebrates the contributions made by the black community to life, history and culture in the UK.
The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Proud To Be’. Inspired by the 2020 Black Lives Matter events, it invites Black and Brown people of all ages throughout the UK to share what they are proud to be. For example, Proud To Be Black, Proud To Be Brown, Proud To Be Black & LGBTQ+, Proud To Be Me.
Warrington youth worker, Anthea Islam, from the Targeted Youth Service, is looking forward to celebrating the month with young people from the ‘Empower’ group. Set up by Anthea in 2020 with the support of Warrington Youth Service, the group has gone from strength to strength. It provides a valuable forum for 14-18 year olds from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds to come together, share experiences and learn about different cultures.
The group, which meets every Tuesday, is made up of young people from eight different countries – some of whom were born in Warrington and some of whom migrated to the town. To celebrate Black History Month, they will be getting involved in a number of activities, including cooking Caribbean-inspired food, enjoying African drumming and listening to guest speakers from the community.
The young people have also created Black History Month posters and artwork, which everyone can view on Instagram @warringtonyouthservice, on twitter @warringtonys, or on the Warrington Youth Service Facebook page.
Anthea and her team work with the group on a range of issues, from team-building, to reporting hate crime and tackling racism in schools. She feels the ‘Proud to Be’ theme for this year’s Black History Month, perfectly encapsulates the values of the group.
Anthea said: “I’m very grateful to Warrington Youth Service for their support in setting up this group. Our ethos is ‘Safe Space, Brave Space.’ We want everyone to be confident and proud of who they are. One of the best comments I’ve received from a young person in the group is ‘I feel like I can be myself here.’
“We have a lovely and thoughtful group of young people who are intelligent, kind and caring. They are so keen to learn from each other, and to find out about other cultures, and they’re really excited to be celebrating Black History Month. Warrington is becoming a more and more diverse place, so it’s really important we acknowledge and celebrate other cultures. As adults, we can learn a lot from our young people – and I’m in a privileged position to be inspired by them every day!
“Focusing solely on the struggles black people have faced throughout history can diminish the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful achievements and contributions they have made to society. Black History Month is really important, because it allows us to do just that.
“My work with the ‘Empower’ group shows that we all have so much more in common than we think – all we have to do is take the plunge and start a conversation! The group has really opened up discussions about racism and celebrating difference, and it’s these values we’ll be taking into our Black History Month celebrations.”
LiveWire will also be supporting Black History Month, with displays in all its libraries on the theme of ‘Proud To Be’ – showcasing books by black authors, on black issues and black history. The dedicated libraries Facebook page will also regularly be showcasing recommended reads for Black History Month.
Culture Warrington will be joining the celebrations by hosting a special exhibition on 29 October at Pyramid Arts Centre. Tina Ramos Ekongo, an Equatorial Guinean figurative visual artist and illustrator who lives and works in the North West of England, has taken up residency in the Pyramid Arts Centre and will present her first solo exhibition ‘Muado’. Taking inspiration from the pioneering British Black Art Movement in the 1980s, Tina’s thought-provoking new project presents a ‘clash’ of cultural identity, re-imagining British queens as her artistic heroines, with a vibrant splash of African royalty mixed in.
People can also follow ‘Black History Every Month’, a series of virtual events hosted by Eventbrite which aim to inspire, educate and raise awareness of Black History Month, and the stories and voices of black people.
Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “Black History Month gives people from many different backgrounds the opportunity to come together and celebrate the contribution Black people have made – and continue to make - to our communities and to our nation.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate our history and diversity and help build a more unified future for everyone. I’m delighted that different groups in Warrington, from the ‘Empower’ youth group, to our libraries and arts sector, will be joining the celebrations. I would encourage everyone in Warrington to get involved and play their part in marking this important month.”
For more information about the National Black History Month celebrations, visit blackhistorymonth.org.uk