October marks Black History Month (BHM) in the UK. The event was officially recognised by the US government in 1976, and first celebrated in the UK in 1987. People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries. So, the event gives everyone the opportunity to share, celebrate and understand the impact of Black heritage and culture.
Black figures from the UK
BHM not only recognises the contribution and achievements of people of African or Caribbean heritage, but also is an opportunity for people to learn more about the adverse effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes.
Over time, BHM in the UK has highlighted key moments in Black British history and key Black figures from the UK, including:
Walter Tull, the first Black officer to command white troops in the British Army and one of English football’s first Black players
Malorie Blackman, a bestselling author and the first Black Children’s Laureate
Olive Morris, a social activist who co- founded groups such as the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent and the Brixton Black Women’s Group
Dr Shirley Thompson, currently professor of music at the University of Westminster, and the first woman in Europe to conduct and compose a symphony within the past 40 years
Sir Lewis Hamilton MBE HonFREng, one of the most high-profile motor racing drivers, as well as the first and, so far, only Black driver to race in the Formula 1 series
BHM is also celebrated in the community, in places such as museums, care homes and workplaces. The event covers a broad range of topics, from Britain’s colonial past to migration and music.
BHM at the BCCJ
This year, for the first time, the BCCJ is very pleased to be marking BHM.
Led by members of the BCCJ’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) taskforce, the chamber is launching a campaign that celebrates Black Brits doing business in Japan (or who have another UK–Japan link), and showcases what we have learnt from those who are in Black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) networks across BCCJ member organisations.
You will find related content on the BCCJ website.
On 27 October, the chamber is delighted to be running a BHM event in association with the University of Oxford. Please stay tuned for more details.
We also look forward to sharing stories from the UK’s Black History Month organisation, including views from business and government.
As The Rt Hon The Lord Paul Boateng of Akyem and Wembley PC DL says, “Black History Month is a good opportunity to reflect on what more needs to be done in order to ensure that our education system is fit for purpose”.
He continues, “The challenge is to prepare by a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion all young people to thrive in a diverse and multi-polar world in which no region or race holds sway over all other [races]”.
In 2016, the Parker Review Committee, led by Sir John Parker, published its Final Report urging business leaders to improve the ethnic and cultural diversity of UK boards to better reflect their employee base and the communities they serve.
The report set out achievable objectives and timescales to encourage greater diversity, and provides practical tools to support board members of UK firms to address the issue.
The Review’s recommendations noted the need to take the following three steps:
- Increase the ethnic diversity of UK boards by proposing that each FTSE 100 board have at least one director from an ethnic minority background by 2021 and that each FTSE 250 board to do the same by 2024
- Develop a pipeline of candidates and plan for succession through mentoring and sponsoring
- Enhance transparency and disclosure to record and track progress against the objectives
The work is ongoing.
Interested in getting involved?
Does your firm have a BIPOC network or specific leader or employee that we could highlight in the BCCJ’s first- ever BHM? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about BHM in the UK, please visit: www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk