As Black History Month Begins, what is the Reality of ‘Blackness’?

Dr Joy Gana-Inatimi

Today marks the launch of Black History Month 2021.

As a black woman in 21st century, BHM is a bittersweet period of time of year.  Yes, it is great to be able to celebrate Black culture and history; but what happens before and after October each year?  Does Britain celebrate my “Blackness”? 

Sometimes, yes, I can recognise it in the warmth I feel from my diverse family, friends and colleagues who accept me for me – just Joy, chatty, tall, black, from the Wirral. I see it in the smiles from the myriad of faces I come across in my walk across campus, I hear it in the cheeky banter that is unique to our region, and sense it in the open friendliness of a Northern town.

However, at other times I am forced to face the less pleasant underbelly of racist Britain. At one level there is institutional racism illustrated by the stubborn attainment gap in higher education.

There is cultural, conscious racism shown by three young men being ripped apart on social media by a minority of ignorant bigots over a football game and the non-stop negative narrative about the Duchess of Sussex.

Then there is the personal racism; driving through Walton in Liverpool and praying that my sons have not spotted the mature couple in the car next to us shouting and making monkey gestures at us; my husband being stopped by the police to prove that his car belongs to him, and the awful moment when I received a phone call to inform me that my husband had been stabbed by a patient in a racially motivated attack in the hospital where he works. 

This is Britain in 2021, and sadly I am not unique. 

So, when I had the opportunity to represent the Medical School and Health Research Institute, two communities within EHU that have welcomed me with open arms, to work on BHM, I can only do by being myself – Joy. 

Working in collaboration with the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR) and Professor Jo Crotty who is chairing the BHM working group this year, a programme of events, workshops and exhibitions have been developed to celebrate Black culture and Black history while we also acknowledge the reality of the world we live in. 

Here at Edge Hill we will be celebrating Black culture and history in October, but we will also do this all year round as we celebrate humanity with other groups that make up this unique community where we live, learn and work. 

We will not shy away from the challenges and realities of the lives we live though and so we will also share our experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – so we can learn from each other and grow together as a community.

If you are black or BAME, please join us to share your experiences at two BHM workshops on October 6th and 27th in a safe and supported space. Click below to confirm your place – lunch is provided.

06 Oct: Speaking Up and Speaking Out Our Truths

27 Oct: Learning, Living and Working Better Together

For the full programme of events, please click here.

Dr Joy Gana-Inatimi  is senior lecturer at the Edge Hill University Medical School, Health Research Institute and Respiratory Research Centre.

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