Chelsea Beckford-Procyk, third year student midwife at the University of Bedfordshire explains what Black History Month means to her.
When I look in the mirror, I see several things. I am a woman; I have a gapped tooth smile and I’m black. All these things go towards making me who I am, and I am fiercely proud of them. Pride and my blackness go hand in hand as I’ve experienced life growing up in a place where I never fully felt like I belonged, but this wasn’t always the case.
I remember how much I cringed and sank in my seat at school when they showed that awful video about the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in our history lesson. That lesson being the sum of any black history taught. Why not show videos about the Kingdom of Kush, Toussaint Louverture or rebellions led by Queen Nanny of the Maroons? Why should black history be reduced to dehumanisation and subjugation?
There’s richness in my Jamaican heritage, from the way we celebrate the lives of departed loved ones on nine nights, to dressing up for Gran’ Market Night, to the music and not forgetting the food. All these things are steeped in history and tradition and that’s incredibly special to me. It connects me to my ancestors, the ones who not only survived but thrived.
So, while I feel like black history should be a permanent feature in history lessons and not just something wheeled out and acknowledged for one month of the year, I also know it is an opportunity for many people like myself who are growing up in the diaspora who need a link, a connection to where their ancestors are from. Marcus Garvey wrote: “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. By learning about black history, you feel closer to it and see the value of not only your culture but that of others too.
It should also go without saying that Black History Month is not just for black people. In order to live in a more cohesive multicultural society, having an understanding and appreciation for the history and cultures of people who are different to you is vital. We know simply living alongside each other is not enough as it can lead to misunderstanding and creation of biases and stereotypes.
I say all this to say Black History Month means so much to me. And it should also mean something to you too.
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