Dawn Butler: ‘Black History Is Not Just For October’

We should pledge to celebrate all year round, says Labour MP Dawn Butler on Black History Month.

Dawn Butler

by As Told To Zoe Beaty |
Updated on

There is an issue with Black History Month and there’s a clue in the title – it only lasts a month. Trying to fit this vast history into a few weeks just doesn’t work.

You don’t have to look far to see why education on this subject is so imperative. Inside and outside of Westminster our country is increasingly divided: just this month, research led by The Voice newspaper – Britain’s longest-running Black publication – found almost half of young Black Britons plan to migrate amid racism concerns, and this year an official report found the Met police to be guilty of institutional racism (as well as misogyny and homophobia).

Incidents of racism and bigotry are increasing all over the world and being dangerously legitimised by those in power. Unless we learn from the struggles of the past, this is only set to worsen.

Black history matters to every British person, and what we choose to remember and what we choose to teach matters further still.

I have made calls for Black history to be taught more widely and comprehensively, and the result was the Emancipation Educational Trust – a pledge I spearheaded for the Labour Party.

The trust not only addresses the historic injustice of the slave trade in the school curriculum, but also highlights positive stories so often hidden from history – including the immense strength, sacrifice and resilience of those enslaved. False framing of these histories, especially in school, reinforces the artificial idea of ‘their’ history and ‘our’ history.

That idea makes life harder – more dangerous, even – for so many people all over the country, including me. I was the first elected African-Caribbean woman ever to become a Government minister in the UK.

It’s an achievement I’m proud of, but it’s not easy to balance being an MP with dealing with abuse. Being a Black female MP is another level. We’re abused daily because we’re Black, because we’re female, because we’re Parliamentarians.

I hope when November rolls around we don’t quickly forget about Black History Month, because as well as the need to celebrate Black culture and heritage, it’s about standing up for marginalised communities, and that should be happening all year round.


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