03 February 2020

STUDENT BLOG: The importance of celebrating Black History Month

STUDENT BLOG: The importance of celebrating Black History Month

Moriamo Oduyemi, Dr. Kehinde Oduyemi, Rutendo and Professor Joseph Akunna

Black History Month gets underway in the United States this month, and student Rutendo Mhonda (pictured below) has spoken to staff about what the occasion means to them. 

Hello! My name is Rutendo and I am in my 4th Year of studying BSc (Hons) Psychology and Counselling here at Abertay University. At present, I am a committee member of the African Caribbean Society (ACS) serving the role of Social Media Representative.

In February, people celebrate Black History Month in the USA. We actually mark the occasion in the UK in October, and back then the ACS gathered society members together for a fun afternoon, taking photographs and videos to celebrate the diversity on campus.

On this day, I had the benefit of meeting with 4 faculty members to ask them 2 questions centered on what Black History Month meant to them, giving an insight into their respective cultures through lived experience.

Thank you to Mrs Moriamo Oduyemi, Dr Kehinde Oduyemi, Professor Joseph Akunna and Dr Kathy-Ann Fletcher for their perspectives.

ABOVE:  Moriamo Oduyemi, Dr Kehinde Oduyemi, Rutendo and Professor Joseph Akunna

“What does Black History Month mean to you?”

“Really being proud to be who I am as an individual, as a woman, as a Black person. And it’s that celebration of the journey we have been through – the struggle and success. That’s what Black History means to me.” – Moriamo Oduyemi

“Black History Month means a lot to me. It’s much about looking back into our history, finding out what we’ve done very well to share with the world and also looking at things that we could improve. Celebrating all those things that we’ve done… in music, education, and all domains of life.” – Dr. Kehinde Oduyemi

ABOVE: Dr Kathy-Ann Fletcher and Rutendo

“It’s a time to celebrate the visibility of the contributions of Black people. Women, men of all genders and sexualities towards global history. So whether it’s in the UK, US, the Caribbean, Africa, all over the world.” – Dr. Kathy-Ann Fletcher

“In a nutshell, it means showcasing Black people’s contributions to the world”. “Having a dedicated month connects people to go back to fish out some of the things that would not otherwise have been brought back by daily occurrences. Brings out both success and mistakes.” – Professor Akunna

“What comes to mind when you think of your culture?”

“Our food, the way we love to celebrate and party and enjoy each other’s company. Our history and our ability to survive many of the tribulations that we’ve suffered over the past few hundred years.” – Dr. Fletcher

“…The whole family coming together to help each other along.” – Dr. Kehinde Oduyemi

ABOVE: Dr. Kehinde Oduyemi and Professor Joseph Akunna

I think of my culture outside Nigeria, where I come from. It’s putting it in the context of other cultures really.” “No culture is perfect. Growing up in a different culture and coming here there’s always that dynamic of looking at it which also gives me, I believe, opportunity to make that comparison. Anybody who’s never had another culture would not have to do that but I think it makes me better interpret my own culture and practise my own culture really.”- Professor Akunna

The culture is a big thing. It’s about that uniqueness. It’s about what is it as a Black person that you can offer to society. Society is big and everybody has something to contribute. So, when I think about my culture, I’ve got culture from Nigeria and I’m also a British so I’ve got diverse range of things to contribute to society.” Moriamo Oduyemi

ABOVE: Members of the African Caribbean Society

During this interview, the faculty members gave a number of mentions to celebrating Black people’s contributions to society. Recognising such influences underpins one of the many reasons for celebrating Black History Month. Focusing on Black Briton pioneers, we can look back to trailblazers such as Olive Morris. She was a notable civil rights activist leading antiracist activism in South London and Manchester. Before Morris passed away aged 27 from cancer, she made noteworthy contributions to Black communities across the United Kingdom. For instance, Morris co-founded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) and the Brixton Black Women’s Group.

For reference and more information on Morris’ works and other Black Briton pioneers, these are some suggested sources:
100 Great Black Britons:  https://100greatblackbritons.com/list.html
BBC 15 Great Black Britons Who Made History: https://www.bbc.com/timelines/zsdtp39

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