Most every year at this time, a debate ensues about the purpose, merits and direction of Black History Month (BHM), a debate fuelled in the main by frustration about the focus of BHM programmes over the preceding four weeks.
On Thursday 31 October 2013, some 1,000 people gathered at the Church of Christ the Redeemer in Allenbury Road, Greenford, for the funeral of the publisher and political activist Jessica Huntley and to acknowledge and celebrate her distinctive contribution to British schooling, British social history and Black History over the last half a century.
One of the many educational and inspirational events Jessica organized and contributed to in the period before her death was a debate in November 2012 about ‘the way forward for Black History Month in the UK’. On 22 February 2013, Nubian Jak organized a symposium at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London, on a proposal for an annual ‘African Heritage Month International‘ celebration in February. On February 23rd, the 8th Huntley Conference was held at the London Metropolitan Archives. This also marked Jessica’s 86th birthday and turned out to be her last conference.
I was unable to contribute to the Huntley debate but wrote this paper for the Africa Centre symposium. I reproduce it here because among the very many discussions that took place around Jessica’s funeral about the many projects she was actively involved with up to the day before she passed on, was one about her take on the future of Black History Month. Read the rest of this entry →