A reflection on Black History Month from the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)
As a Black woman and a senior professional and now one of the very few Black female Professors in the UK, I am often asked about my opinion on Black History Month and whether it should exist at all. My response is the same. I start by recognising that there are many views on Black History Month even amongst the various Black communities because we are not a homogeneous group. Some people are very much in favour whilst others are not, and each view has its place as it allows for diverse perspectives to be presented.
On a personal note, my view is that Black History Month should be celebrated because it provides a platform for Black and Brown people to raise awareness of, acknowledge and celebrate the positive contributions of Black and Brown people throughout history, now and how that is projected into the future.
I am very fortunate that I know my history which allows me to stand proudly on the shoulders of the many who have gone before me. Some I have had the privilege to know and others that I have never met. Knowing this history and their accomplishments has provided me with a solid foundation, strong values, principles, and a social consciousness that guide my decisions and actions. This knowledge also reinforces many of the African proverbs that have been shared with me. For example, “it takes a village to raise a child” is a nod to difference, the diversity of roles, to inclusion, social responsibility, each one person has value and that in one way or another, each one teaches the other.
Another example is the famous line in a Bob Marley & The Wailers song, ‘Buffalo Soldier’ that says ‘’if you know your history then you would know where you’re coming from”. This also reminds me of another adage “if you want to know the way, ask someone who is coming back”. Knowledge and learning happen in multiple ways, knowing your history can help you to plot your future as it acts as a reference point that provides you with a type of compass or blueprint of what can be accomplished and what to embrace, and equally as important, the things you may very well want to avoid!
Many Black and Brown people have been denied this because their history has not been told; they have been hidden or rewritten or distorted to the extent that some Black and Brown people have only seen themselves represented in negative ways. This is perpetuated through conscious and unconscious biases and legitimised through systemic practices and when attempts are made to redress it, is often further accentuated on the negatives or remedial rather than positive action. I believe Black History Month provides an opportunity for us to reframe this and reset the dial.
One of the ways to challenge this bias is to present a different narrative. One where the many who were once looked to for sources of wisdom: innovators, composers, scientists, etc who helped to create great libraries where knowledge was developed, stored, transferred and disseminated; can be celebrated. Their diverse contributions can be reintroduced into the discourse and provide a more inclusive environment.
I have seen this at Loughborough University where colleagues from within the Black and Brown community have come together to generously share their experiences, culture, religion, talents, research and so much more.
I have also seen allyship at its best where simple acts of getting involved have signalled an appreciation of difference and helped to foster a more inclusive environment.
This shows the best of Black History Month and I look forward to the day when Black History Month is not needed because the achievements and contributions of Black and Brown people are recognised every day.
Professor Charlotte Croffie, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)
Find out more about how Loughborough marked Black History Month.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Reflections, comments, discussion and opinion on EDI topics from Loughborough University staff and students