On Wed October 26, members of the community gathered at Thurlow Lodge Community Hall to celebrate Black History Month.
The event was put together by Zahra Abdall and is an annual event. The purpose of the gathering was to listen to personal accounts of the diverse history of black people and their great influence on the community as well as to highlight the richness of black heritage.
Many different individuals spoke about their roles in the community and what could be done to educate others about the importance of black history.
Abdall spoke first and introduced her organisation that she started in 2000. Its main purpose is to empower and unite women of all ethnicities and faiths and to be inclusive.
Nadia Jones works for London Youth Support Trust, which aims to help young people aged between 18 and 30 achieve financial independence through entrepreneurial endeavors. Most of the people that the group works with are blacks and other minorities that are economically disadvantaged. Over the course of three years, the organisation provides advice and support to enable its clients to maintain sustainable businesses. Jones said that the group was a testament to the fact that it was possible to come from a life of struggle to one of economic success. Jones also touched on the issue of economic status, as those with higher economic status tend to have more say in their respective communities.
A representative from Notting Hill Housing spoke about the history of struggles that Black and Caribbean immigrants faced when coming to the UK in the past. One can imagine the quality of life when signs reading “No blacks, Irish, or dogs” were posted on the walls of many establishments. Though the current situation is nowhere near as extreme as it once was, it is important to remember the past struggles that shaped the present as well as to celebrate the progress that has been made.
Even children are aware of the importance of remembering the past. A boy spoke of wanting to change the perception of black history as only being about slavery. “There’s more to it than that,” he said.
The importance of educating children and working hard was continually emphasized throughout the afternoon. Prominent figures such as Rosa Parks and Obama were seen as people who had set examples for the rest of the black community to follow.
As an Korean-American and a minority myself, I was able to relate to many of the sentiments that were expressed at this gathering for black history month. I still feel the effects of racism and the “Western ideal” that are permeated in the world in which we live and recognize the necessity to continuously push back against them in order to achieve true color-blindness. In a society that is progressively becoming more globalized, much progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go.
ADDRESS: 1 Thurlow St, London SE17 2US