Unison along with CBWG have long campaigned to oppose racism in all of its forms. We have been working together to improve real equality in our workplace, challenge discrimination, work to combat institutional and individual racism and to provide solidarity and support for all Black workers and communities in Camden. One way of doing this is the annual celebration of Black History Month (which is becoming Black History Season this year in Camden)
We welcome the decision of Camden Council to have a Black History Season and to pay greater attention to issues of racial inequality. This has been possible because of the work of generations of campaigners in raising awareness of racial injustice – most recently the upsurge of protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in the US. Camden Unison and CBWG have been pressing for the Council to act on equalities issues and to support BHM and it is good that they are committing to do so. Over the years, the Black Workers Group have worked jointly with Camden Unison and Camden Council on a range of initiatives during the Black History month. We welcome the measures being proposed to make the organisation more inclusive and less discriminatory. Despite the disappointments of the past, we have to keep campaigning until we get real change – we owe that to previous anti-racist campaigners and we owe it to future generations.
People from minority ethnic communities are disproportionately impacted by many issues in society including; unemployment, dangerous conditions of front-line work, pay disparities, becoming unemployed during this Covid pandemic, issues of poor housing, problems in the education system, certain health conditions (including Covid-19), negative media portrayals, poor treatment by the police, immigration services, and the criminal justice system but many Black Heroes have contributed so much to society in the past and are still doing so – and they all need to be acknowledged and celebrated for their contributions during the Black History season.
Carter G. Woodson, the individual who created what was originally known as Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., in February 1926. was the second Black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard—followed by W.E.B. Du Bois a few years later. His vision for Black history as a means of transformation and change is still quite relevant and quite useful. The chains of slavery are gone—but we are all not yet free. The great diversity within the Black community needs the glue of the past to remind us of not just how far we have travelled but, how far there is to go.
Knowing the past opens the door to the future, the continuing importance of Black History Month ensures that we are taking the appropriate steps to safeguard the preservation of Black History.
Woodson believed that his role was to use Black history and culture as a weapon in the struggle for racial uplift. Black history is still a vehicle for change and racial uplift today. Black and White are engaged in Black culture through music and television. It is therefore important to ensure that all communities be exposed to Black history because experiencing Black History Month every year reminds us that history is not dead or distant from our lives.
We should embrace all that makes us stronger and rebuke all that seeks to divide us. Martin Luther King Junior said in the context of many Americans not standing up against discrimination of Black people and their civil rights. “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”
Let us all join in the cultural consciousness raising and mobilisation rolled together that is Black History Month.