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Celebrating Black History Month

October is Black History Month (BHM) which provides a fantastic opportunity for us to recognise the outstanding contributions people of African and Caribbean descent have made to the United Kingdom (UK).

Events celebrating African and Caribbean cultures will take place across the UK from 1 to 31 October. While the UK celebrates BHM in October, across the world, where it originated, commemorations take place throughout February. However, both share a common purpose.

The purpose is to counter the perceived invisibility of black people and to challenge the negative stereotypes that were often the only manner black people were pictured in popular culture.

For information about events, news and resources please visit the Black History Month UK website,  or Black History Month Wales.

Our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) champion Steph Howarth – Welsh Government’s interim Chief Statistician – was asked a series of questions about BHM:

What does BHM mean to you?

To me, developing a better understanding of our collective history is an important part of creating a culture of inclusion. Black History Month serves as a reminder that I did not learn much, if any, black history at school and it provides an opportunity for me to address that.

And whilst I don’t think we should confine learning about black history to one month, it provides a chance to reflect, learn and celebrate the contribution black people have made to social, political and cultural life in the UK.

Which black British visionary or pioneer has inspired you and why?

I’ve been very lucky over recent months to learn from some really inspiring black leaders and educators. A special mention needs to go to fellow ‘Cardiffian’ Mymuna Soleman, who recently set up The Privilege Café, a virtual space to discuss and hear from people directly affected by modern day issues of race and privilege.

Over the last few months Mymuna has curated discussions on topics such as Welsh identity, racism in the media, and bias in higher education. The session that really stood out for me was on language and labels, which made me reflect on how we can do a better job when we discuss ethnicity in the statistics that we produce.

Mymuna’s energy and commitment to facilitating these discussions has been incredibly inspiring. You can check out The Privilege Café on Twitter and join the weekly Zoom discussions.

What changes would you like to see in the future at the Civil Service?

I would like to see a Civil Service that not only says it wants to be an inclusive place to work, but actually is an inclusive place to work. This needs a contribution from all of us to take time to listen to the experiences of our ethnic minority colleagues and to identify the ways in which we can actively contribute to creating that culture of inclusion. It’s easy to think that it’s someone else’s issue to solve, but I firmly believe inclusion needs all of us to play a part.

Black History Month was first launched in London in 1987 where the aim was for the local community to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about the history that was not taught in schools.

An excellent resource to find out more is the documentary series by British Nigerian David Olusoga OBE, titled Black and British: A forgotten History. It looks at the relationship between Britain and people whose origins lie in Africa and which removes the ‘whitewashing’ of our history.

The Government Statistical Service’s D&I Task and Finish Group plan to celebrate BHM by sharing the profiles of of black analysts whose contributions to history and society have been huge.

Starting with Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, known as the “human computer”.

Follow us on Twitter to celebrate more throughout the month.