Black History Month Press Release, October 2012

African Update – 05/11/12

October is Black History Month in the United Kingdom (UK). It became part of the cultural landscape of the Czech Republic also when Humanitas Afrika introduced it in the country in 2003. Long before then, Black History Month has been celebrated for years in the United States (US) since the 1920s, arriving later in the UK in the 1980s.

Once celebrated for the contributions of black people to our collective human civilisation, Black History Month has evolved greatly over the years and is arguably the annual toast of cultures in the US, Canada and the UK. The plethora of activities programmed for every Black History Month is often evenly matched by a flurry of excitement and animated debates.

When Carter Woodson initiated it in the US in 1926 it was meant to remind white America that black Americans have history too.  In 1987 when Akyaaba Addai Sebo adapted it for celebration in the UK it was to limelight black heroes and role model them for young blacks. In both cases the motivation was the denial or silence over black achievements in history and the goal was to celebrate and bring them to life.

Today the celebration of Black History Month is much more than reminding the rest of the world that black people have heroes and history. Pressing challenges have shifted gear to issues of historical revisionism, inequality of opportunities, racial profiling, and mistrust and prejudice between whites and non-whites amongst many others. When Humanitas Afrika introduced Black History Month to the Czech Republic it was part of this broader vision of mending or building bridges between cultures.

Yet some cynics call the continued celebration of Black History Month into question especially when the US, the world’s super power, is headed by a president of black descent. They dismiss Black History Month as an anachronism backed by others who pooh-pooh it as hero worship and occasion for media tokenism only. While these cynics are busy debating the relevance or otherwise of Black History Month many across the racial divide look forward to it every October in the UK and Czech Republic with great expectations for edutainment.

Black History Month has become a cultural institution of remarkable performances in music, theatre, and dance but also in intellectual discourse and reflection. In the words of one Gary Younge, it “gives us all a chance to rescue stories that have been discarded, correct stories that have been mistold, and elevate stories that have been downplayed.”

President Obama emphasised Younge’s point when in proclaiming one Black History Month, he acknowledged that "…In the volumes of black history, much remains unwritten. Let us add our own chapter, full of progress and ambition, so that our children's children will know that we, too, did our part to erase an unjust past and build a brighter future."

In a world that is yet to be at peace with all the races that inhabit it, it is precisely the injustices and the quest for a brighter future for all that makes the continued celebration of Black History Month both essential and relevant today. Black History Month is that clarion call to people of conscience to defend truth and stand by the defenceless.

It is meant to awaken humanity to reach out to those sidelined to the margins of dignity and to recognise excellence where excellence is achieved irrespective of race. In essence, Black History Month is about equality of access to opportunity.

In the US Black History Month has been going on for some 86years. In the UK it is in its silver jubilee this year. From 1987 when it was introduced into the London metropolis it has been embraced and promoted by almost all local councils in collaboration with civil society and civil society organisations.

The credit crunch notwithstanding, it is possible to sample film, literature, music, dance, performance, exhibitions, sport, food, craft, folklore, seminars, symposia, awards and many more throughout the UK this October. All of these are in recognition and tribute to black contribution to history and civilisation. Importantly in today’s world, they are in pursuit of justice and a more conscious, tolerant and inclusive society.

So many things happen during Black History Month that contribute to knowledge, add to our overall awareness and help deepen quality race relations. The notion therefore that Black History Month has “outlived its usefulness betrays some ignorance of what its purpose was in the first place,” according to Howard Dodson, the Director of the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture.

The celebration of Black History Month aims to impact a fairer, more egalitarian and peaceful society.  Certainly, we are persuaded at Humanitas Afrika that Black History Month serves humanity a noble cause and remains imperative in the quest for cultural understanding, racial harmony and equality of place for all in the annals of our collective human history and civilisation. Black History is, after all, human history.

As Humanitas Afrika is unable to line up the usual programme of activities this October to our own chagrin we want to hope that many in the Czech Republic will still find space and time to reflect on Black History Month. To the UK where the celebrations have the additional significance of a silver jubilee we extend our congratulations and we are in solidarity. And to the rest of the world and everyone else we wish you a happy and educational Black History Month!

Samwin Banienuba, International Spokesperson for Humanitas Afrika (UK)

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Book of the month

Xoliswa Ndoyiya: Ukutya Kwasekhaya

Xoliswa Ndoyiya: Ukutya KwasekhayaTastes from Nelson Mandela’s kitchen

A collection of recipes by Nelson Mandela's personal chef, this book contains the food served to visiting heads of state, celebrities, politicians for more than 20 years. Featuring some of the favourite former South African president's favourite meals including samp and beans, farm chicken, tripe, this book also features paella, peri-peri chicken, prawn curry, and myriad of other delights. With simple, delicious and nourishing recipes, it will interest those who wish to prepare meals that are both elegant and healthy.More

New arrivals

New titles in our library 12/2016

Our library has aquired a number of new and interesting books. Here is the list of the latest titles.

  • Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
  • Fashion Cities Africa by Hannah Azieb Pool
  • Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanismby Christopher Lee
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Robinson, James A., Acemoglu, Daron
  • Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures With the Ever-Living Poet by Edward Wilson-Lee
  • A History of Modern Africa: 1800 to the Present by Richard J. Reid
  • Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture by Sarah Van Beurden
  • Children in Slavery through the Ages by by Gwyn CampbellSuzanne MiersJoseph C. Miller
  • Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control by Tamara Giles-Vernick
  • Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos by Gary  Stewart
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 1: Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 2: The Modern Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Cahier d'un Retour Au Pays Natal by Aimé Cesaire
  • Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 by Karen Elizabeth  Flint
  • Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies by Antoni Verger
  • Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry by Matthew M. Heaton

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