Beyond Black History Month: Key Arts & Education Initiatives
The UK’s Black History Month 2020 is taking place against a backdrop of momentous Black Lives Matter protests, surging awareness of institutional racism and growing consumer expectations that brands commit to long-term change. As activists and allies sound notes of confidence about the BHM initiative, we track some notable activations with mileage beyond October.
- Diversifying the Curriculum: After the UK government rejected a bill to expand Black history on the English national curriculum, alternative education campaigns are gaining momentum. A GoFundMe campaign is underway to send a copy of the September-published book 100 Great Black Britons – compiled from thousands of public submissions – to every school. To date, it has raised £9,000 ($11,694). Meanwhile, The Black Curriculum social enterprise (which is critical of Black History Month, arguing that the topic should be taught year-round) has partnered with City Hall to rethink education in London schools, while the Welsh government has launched a working group after 34,736 people petitioned for a more diverse curriculum. Also see The Brief on how BLM is inspiring educational reform.
- Confronting Colonialism: London members’ club The House of St Barnabas has commissioned Black British artist and rapper Gaika to interrogate its historical links to slavery and provoke conversations around ownership. Richard Beckford, the 18th-century politician who rebuilt the house, enslaved hundreds on Jamaican plantations – including Gaika’s ancestors. After visitors interact with the installation Flight Recorder, which features an aircraft-style black box, Gaika will sample the audio and perform a live concert at the Soho club this winter. Also see Diversity + Travel for more on heritage organisations addressing slavery as the source of their wealth.
- Street Art Salutes Local Legacies: Among a slew of BHM-focused art commissions placing Black British culture at the heart of public spaces, London’s Love Kensington + Chelsea Street Art project has unveiled an Afrofuturist mural. This permanent display honours Windrush campaigner Paulette Wilson and Belly Mujinga, a railway worker who died from Covid-19.
- Money Talks: Besides creative displays amplifying Black narratives, brands are backing their statements of solidarity by providing practical, tangible support. Ogilvy Roots and WPP Roots has produced a pro bono campaign for Black Pound Day – the UK’s June-launched initiative, taking place on the first Saturday of each month – while London-based Gen Z influencer agency Fanbytes is offering free marketing expertise to Black-owned businesses.