Friday, October 27, 2006

Black History Month in Britain

October is drawing to a close and I felt I had to say a little something about my recent observations. While back in the US, everyone is participating in beer and schnitzel-laden Octoberfests or Halloween events (such as my friends' annual Great Pumpkin Demolition Derby) or even food fares such as the Turkey Testicle Festival in Byron, Illinois (check out the website; it's for real, ya'll), Britain has selected the month of October for something altogether familiar to us Americans.

October in Britain is Black History Month! That's right, people! No mere 28 (unless it's a leap, thus 29)day silliness here. A full 31 days to commemorate and celebrate the history and influence of blacks in Britain.

Now, I somewhat agree with Morgan Freeman that having a BHM is ridiculous. As he said in an interview for CBS' "60 Minutes" in Dec. 2005, "I don't want a black history month Black history is American history". However, with the pathetic state of education in the US, especially with the lack of regard to the participation and advancements donated to the American culture by blacks...well, sorry, Morgan, we still need to put it out there.

Seriously, America really isn't the openly liberal country it pretends to be--so there isn't going to be a time in the near future that our general school history courses are going to genuinely teach about how this "mighty" country was built and made rich off the labor of enslaved Africans. And I could go on but you get the point.

Ok, off my soapbox now...

Since we still need a BHM, let me continue. Like most black-inspired celebrations, there are some wonderful pluses and some embarassing minuses.

As far as the great BBC channels are concerned, October is simply the month to catch up on all your missed Dr. Who episodes before the next season starts in November.

I must say, I was quite surprised to not see ONE show in honor of BHM. Well, hold on, that's not true. Today, they did show on an independent channel, a 1987 wretched version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". God-awful, I tell you.
That was it.

While there is some acceptance that black history does matter, at least by the Education Minister Lord Adonis, you still don't get much on television.
Even after a search online for television program formats for the BBC, I came across BBC Four where (that is, IF they presented any programs) they might have been shown. According to the BBC website, BBC Four is the channel "niche programming for an intellectual audience, including specialist documentaries, occasional 'serious' dramas, live theatre, foreign language films and television programmes and 'prestige' archive television repeats". But all the historical and/or archaeological programs were just descriptions on Anglo-saxons, Romans, Tudors, Victorians, Lord what's-his-face and his entire lineage; the world wars...blah blah blah; you get the point.

The best thing I could find--the hell, the ONLY thing I could fine was UKMTV's broadcast of the "Black in the 80s" (which is strictly based on American culture).

Looking to other mass media forms, there's radio and more specifically, the BBC's black-centered radio station (hip-hop, R&B, Dancehall, Garage, and Drum & Bass) and webpage for 1Xtra.
Now, while we see this repeatedly shown as a 5 second demo spot on most television stations in the US with very little material content behind it, cities all over Britain participate in BHM in some of the most interesting and thought-provoking ways.

Events were organized by all types culturally invested parties-- from the individual to the corporate. Lectures, cooking demonstrations, music/dance/speech performances, special museum tours, and art exhibitions were just a few of the incredible opportunities that cities provided during BHM.
Glasgow, for example, offers a "slave tour" of the Merchant City area of downtown. According to the organizers, Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance, the walking tour "reveals the hidden clues of the great wealth and prosperity of Glasgow which is inextricably linked to the exploitation of African Slaves and black people from the former British Empire."

Other cities I heard participating included London, Norfolk, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Brighton.

For anyone sincerely interested, one just needed to get online and type in black history month in the uk and several million hits appeared in 0.20 seconds.
The most comprehensive guide but by no means exhausted collection of events is found at


At Oct 31, 2006, 1:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So modest. You fail to talk about your own contributions. How did your talks go in Glasgow and Brighton?

Greetings from Waco, Tx


At Oct 31, 2006, 1:28:00 PM, Blogger Peggy Brunache said...

Hey S!
I will possibly do a post about my goings-on. Still thinking about it.
Be careful out there in Waco/Wacko Land...

At Oct 31, 2006, 4:06:00 PM, Blogger girlblue said...

really quite interesting info. i wonder what other euro countries do something similar???

At Nov 6, 2006, 3:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

peggy, great post! although i dont think i agree with morgan freeman. i think it is so important for black history to be put on its own pedestal. in martinique, they dont learn about black history, only slavery but everything else is french so voltaire and all this oldies are staple diet here academically. its great to see the black community in britain taking pride in their history there and i wish i was in england now to take part too.


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