What is Black History Month?
People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries. However, campaigners believe their value and contribution to society is often overlooked, ignored or distorted.
Most schools still teach a history curriculum that focuses on traditional events and the achievements of white figures. Black History Month gives everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture.
1875: The “Father of Black History", Carter G Woodson was born in Virginia in 1875 and was the son of former slaves. Growing up, access to a good education and job opportunities were limited, but he ended up studying at one of the few high schools for black students after saving money from working as a coal miner.
1926: Over the years he gained an impressive number of qualifications, including a PhD in history from Harvard University. In 1926 he sent out a press release to mark the first Black History Week in the US. Throughout his life, Carter G Woodson worked tirelessly to promote black history in schools, leaving an indelible legacy.
1976: Every US president has officially designated February as Black History Month in the US. February was chosen in the US because it coincides with the births of former President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass - who escaped slavery and became a key social activist. Both men played a significant role in helping to end slavery.
Influential Black Britons in the fitness community
Sir Lewis Hamilton
Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE HonFREng is a British racing driver currently competing in Formula One for Mercedes. In Formula One, Hamilton has won a joint-record seven World Drivers' Championship titles and holds the records for the most wins, pole positions, and podium finishes, among others. Hamilton is the first and, as of 2022, the only black driver to race.
Marcus Rashford MBE is an English professional footballer who plays as a forward for Premier League club Manchester United and the England national team. In 2020, Rashford ran a campaign to tackle child food poverty in UK, influencing the government to provide free meals to vulnerable children during school holidays amid the pandemic.
Dina Asher Smith
Also known as Britain’s fastest woman ever in British history. Smith has been listed in the Powerlist as one of the UK's most influential people of African-Caribbean descent, most recently in the 2021 edition.
Khadijah Mellah was the first hijab-wearing Muslim jockey in a competitive British horse race. Despite being new to horse racing, she won the Magnolia Cup on her mount Haverland.
Nicola Virginia Adams OBE is a British former professional boxer who previously won two gold Olympic medals in 2012 and 2016. She retired with an undefeated record and held the WBO female flyweight title in 2019. Through childhood trauma and experiences of prejudice came the first woman ever to become an Olympic gold medal boxing champion. A now double-gold Olympic winner, honoured with an OBE and having hit the dance floor as the first same-sex dance couple on TV show, Strictly Come Dancing.
How to be a good ally
Listen first & amplify Black voices
Committing to standing against racism as an ally means never centering ourselves. However, it can be helpful to use our platforms whether in our friend groups or as part of a society, to make sure that Black voices are amplified Black activists are more visible and accessible than ever before through social media. Engage with their platforms respectfully, always listening first. If we learn something from a Black activist or writer, we should think about how we can support their work.
Learning about anti-racism empowers us to take action and discover what being an ally means in our immediate contexts. There is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the world and how we can help to change things to create a more just and equal society. For a lot of us, we have been fortunate enough not to be on the receiving end of racism, and therefore have not had to understand how racism is embedded in every level of society. More importantly, this statement erases the experiences of many BIPOC, whose lives may be deeply impacted and enriched by their racial identity. When approaching issues of race, we should always lead with compassion.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Being an ally also means holding ourselves accountable for the ways in which we have personally contributed to racist systems. If we are called out for a comment that we’ve made, we should consider the impact it has had before getting defensive. How many times have you been hurt by someone, only for them to tell you they didn’t mean it like that? Too often we place more emphasis on our intentions than the consequences of our actions. And these situations are opportunities for us to learn, grow, and do better moving forward.
Becoming more aware and more knowledgeable about anti-racism is fantastic, but it won’t help move us forward unless it is coupled with action. There are so many things we can do right now to be actively anti-racist. Talk to our friends and family about racism. Encourage respectful discussion, where it is safe to do so. Support Black creatives and businesses by following on social media and sharing them within our communities.