Black History Month
For this year’s Black History Month, the Kingston Hub Committee has collected some of our top recommendations for essential reading, viewing and listening to help you learn about Black history while supporting and celebrating creative Black voices.
If you’re not already familiar, Black History Month (BHM) was largely
established to counter the exclusion, suppression and distortion of the
fundamental role Black individuals and culture has played in shaping our
national identities. Interestingly, although the earliest iteration was
established in the US in 1926, it wasn’t formally recognised until 1976 and
the UK didn’t designate a BHM until 1987. Fundamentally, BHM allows us to share stories that illuminate the true history of our nation. It provides space for communities to recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people and culture to our society. It’s also an opportunity for essential discussions of ever- prevalent issues, such as the many manifestations and consequences of racism.
READ: Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
I will never not recommend Akala’s fantastic Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire. Featuring elements of memoir and frequently sharing his own personal experience, Akala presents an assessment of British social divisions as they exist in the shadow of the country’s colonial legacy. So, although this book focuses on the Black British experience, Akala takes a global approach to his deconstruction of issues like systematic racism and socio-political hypocrisy. Akala is a hugely influential figure in UK political commentary, he’s a truly brilliant writer and this book should have a place on the National Curriculum.
READ: Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Another recommendation from me! Caleb Azumah Nelson’s beautiful debut novel, Open Water, is a true love letter to Black love, Black culture and Black art. The novel follows an unnamed protagonist juggling his Ghanaian and London cultural identities and questioning themes of heritage, home and belonging. It examines the dichotomous nature of the City, and of life, with poetic contemplation of racism and microaggressions, freedom and powerlessness and falling or flourishing in a hostile environment.
READ: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Our Issues Coordinator, Nasra, is recommending Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. The novel follows estranged twin sisters leading different lives and adopting different racial identities. This one is focused more on American Black history, but Nasra liked that, as a work of fiction, it deals with the complex issues of racism and colourism in a much more accessible way.
READ: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
Victoria, our Issues Coordinator, has recommended The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed. It’s a coming- of-age story set in 90’s LA, exploring themes of race, class and violence from the eyes of a young black girl from a wealthy family. Set to the backdrop of the Rodney King Riots, the novel questions the divisions cast between us asks us to consider our own accountability.
Listen: Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo
Me again! I’m recommending Bernardine Evaristo’s new memoir, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, which is currently available as a free abridged audiobook on BBC Sounds. Evaristo has been a successful writer and activist for decades but following her 2019 Booker Prize win for Girl, Woman, Other (read it!) she’s been a hugely influential voice in our national discussions of race, class, feminism and sexuality.
Watch: The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Georgina, one of our Social Media Officers, has recommended the 2009 TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story from bestselling Nigerian author, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She speaks to her experiences growing up in an affluent Nigerian family without access to representative literature and the effect the lack of visibility had on her perception of literature as well as on her place within the world. She encourages us to refuse the single story, so often formed by misconception, and implores us to be open to experiencing different truths so we might understand each other better.
Watch: Leigh-Anne: Race, Pop and Power
We also recommend the BBC documentary, Leigh- Anne: Race, Pop and Power. In the film, Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock shares some of her
experiences as the only Black member of the band and explores the ways racism still exists within the contemporary music industry.
So, while BHM encourages us to look back and celebrate histories, heritage and cultures suppressed by structural racism and social exclusion, it also presents an opportunity for us all to reflect on what has changed and what still needs to change. What are you reading, listening to and watching to help you join the conversation and be a part of positive social change?