October is Black History month, and this year is the 30th anniversary of the annual event. To celebrate, the University of Sunderland and its Students Union are holding a number of events, and celebrating some of its influential black staff and students.
October will see the University celebrate Nigerian Independence Day (2 October) with the Nigerian society’s traditional annual parade. There will be a season of free films screenings, including Hidden Figures, To Kill a Mockingbird and Moonlight. There will be a Diversity Football Match on 19 October, supported by former Sunderland player Gary Bennett, and a Gospel Choir, Voices of Virtue, on campus on 16 October.
The University will also welcome several speakers over the month, including the president of the National Union of Students, Shakira Martin, and Professor Donna Chambers.
Donna Chambers is the University of Sunderland’s first female black professor. A Professor of Tourism, her research focuses on how people and places are represented through tourism.
Professor Chambers features in a series of posters on display on campus during Black History Month, alongside graduates and academics who have contributed to the University’s diversity.
She says: “I am originally from the Caribbean island of Jamaica and I don’t recall that there was any significant recognition of a Black History Month. I believe this was because most Jamaicans are descendants of black Africans so our history was black history; there was no need to have a specific month to celebrate this.
“However, we were significantly influenced by developments in the US where Black History month was held in February to celebrate African American achievements in the context of a society where African Americans, as a minority grouping, were discriminated against and where their very status as human beings was often denied or questioned. So, in solidarity with African Americans we recognised Black History month and joined in the celebration of the achievements of eminent African Americans particularly from the era of the civil rights movement such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Angela Davis.
“In the UK, the celebration of Black History month commenced in 1987, much later than it did in the USA. This year marks the 30th anniversary of its celebration in the UK and many will be reflecting on the meaning of Black History Month particularly the extent to which it has led to greater recognition of the significant contribution that both black men and women have made to British history.
“Many will be reflecting on whether through this recognition of black achievement, there has been any significant material improvement in the lives of black people in Britain.
“Personally, I believe that it is important to celebrate black achievement in Britain, because black people in Britain have suffered discrimination and exclusion and their significant contributions to British history and society have often been devalued or silenced.
“Having a month set aside to focus on these achievements is great but I feel that it is vital that we remember the value of the black contribution to Britain throughout the year.
“Given Britain’s extensive history of colonialism, I believe that Black History is British History.”
Black History Month runs from 1 to 31 October. To find out more about some of the events taking place at the University of Sunderland go to: www.sunderland.ac.uk.