Black History Month reminds us that remembering the past is about more than just memorising important dates and facts. It’s about recognising and understanding the kaleidoscopic mix of people, events and influences that have shaped the country we live in and make us who we are.
Over the last 26 years, Black History Month has helped to inform and educate men, women and children across Britain, highlighting and celebrating the powerful contribution of African and Caribbean people in every area of British society, across centuries of our history.
Black History Month is built around the belief that people who are aware of their roots and the achievements of their ancestors – with stories passed from generation to generation – can look to their future with ambition and confidence. Importantly, it is also a reaction to the fact that historians in decades past have failed to acknowledge Black historical figures.
But it’s not just the impact of more well-known African and Caribbean people on Britain’s history that we recognise throughout this month, like the abolitionists Olaudah Equiano and Mary Prince, Victorian Crimea War nurse Mary Seacole and composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, as well as Claudia Jones who brought us the Notting Hill Carnival, Jazzie B who revolutionised the British music scene, Arthur Wharton and Viv Anderson who achieved significant ‘firsts’ in football, Benjamin Zephaniah the celebrated poet and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Floella Benjamin.
It’s also those ordinary people, who – in their every day lives – continue to do extraordinary things to ensure a better life for their families and their local communities. This includes the Windrush generation. Sixty five years ago, this pioneering group of men and women arrived at Tilbury Docks with little more than a suitcase in their hand. Yet, ever since, the transformative and remarkable effect they’ve had on British business, politics, culture, arts, sport and elsewhere, is clear to see.
For all of us, whatever our background, this is our history. This is Britain’s history.
And I want to wish everyone – across the UK – involved in organising or attending events throughout October an enjoyable and successful Black History Month.
* Nick Clegg is the MP for Sheffield Hallam