After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took the following actions:
- We wrote joint statement expressing our disappointment
- We wrote to Sir Robin Wales asking for an urgent meeting to discuss relaunching Newham Black History Month
- We wrote to the Headteacher of St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School asking to meet (we will be meeting tomorrow morning).
- We’ve organised an open event with Paula Perry, Co-Author of UK Black History teaching guide on Monday 13th November.
Through social media, emails and phone calls we know many, many residents are interested in this and are keen to be kept updated. We’ll do our very best to share regular updates.
On Thursday 26th October, Councillor James Beckles and I met with the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales and the Cabinet member for Equalities, Tahmina Rahman. Ahead of our meeting we prepared a PowerPoint presentation, Newham Black History Month 2018-2022 Plan with a plan for reinstating Newham Black History Month through some quick wins and long term planning. This was presented to both the Mayor and Tahmina. At the heart of our presentation was a draft set of ideas for a five year plan which if implemented would make the preparation, commissioning and delivery of Black History Month in Newham part of the Council’s work and involving the community. The Cabinet had a week before agreed to set up a working group to explore how best to celebrate Black History Month in the future. This was a positive step but to go further the group will need buy-in at both political and leadership level, both points Seyi and I raised.
We set out how best we could work with this new working group, one of many suggestions was to make it an “action group” so it would be focused and proactive with clear objectives around the delivery of a growing and sustainable model that would mean Black History Month in Newham is relevant, educational and informative.
It won’t be an easy task but me and Seyi are prepared to play our part in getting this group off the ground, developing a plan that is inclusive, informative and more importantly steers us away from the misconceptions held by some about what Black History Month is and should be about.
Two years ago a small group including myself, James, Darren Steer and Rokhsana Fiaz, held a well attended Black History Month discussion. We did that on a very limited budget with good will from UEL/Birkbeck and high profile speakers. It just took will and commitment. We are hoping for the same now going forward. Just imagine what more a local authority could achieve, not just with financial resources and leadership but via a range of partnerships.
In terms of next steps the action group has been tasked to set objectives for Newham Black History Month and we’re waiting to hear from Tahmina and the Mayor, hopefully this week. We will do our very best to ensure that Newham Black History Month is another legacy we can be proud of in our borough.