Black History Month in the UK is a celebration of the history, achievements and contributions of Black people to the social, cultural, political and economic development of the UK.
To get a sense of what Black History Month means to people working with National Lottery funded groups in Northern Ireland, we talked to some of the staff and volunteers at the North West Migrants Forum.
The Forum’s Communities United Promoting Inclusion and Diversity project received £500,000 of National Lottery funding to support people from minority ethnic communities to have an equal say in the services that are directed to them to help them improve their quality of life.
The Forum develops leadership and capacity within the minority ethnic community and provide opportunities for them to play their role in advocating a safer and fairer and equal society.
Activities range from intercultural intergenerational workshop to English language lessons and Family Fun Days.
Forum founder Lilian Senoi-Barr and other members have shared what Black History Month means to them.
“We decided to celebrate Black History Month this year because it allowed us to influence both the law makers of this country and the communities that we reside in to see black people as equal citizens in NI and beyond,” explained Lilian.
“Through things like steering groups, the Black community are involved at every level of the design and delivery of the Forum’s work”.
Volunteer Aderonke Ado-Imoisili, founder and chair of African women Organisation Northern Ireland, added: “Black History Month means a month of reflection, and is one of the most important celebrations of the year.
“It is the celebration of the great achievements, our history, our values and our uniqueness”.
NWMF and AWONI have been working together since June 2020 to promote African women’s voices in Northern Ireland, a partnership Lilian says was made possible thanks to National Lottery funding.
Other volunteers believe that while a month of celebration works for some, promoting and celebrating black culture is important throughout the year.
Tshamano Mushapho, is a registered nurse from South Africa has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for 15 years.
He is the Forum’s health spokersperson and has been campaigning for recognition of overseas nursing qualifications .
This will help remove a barrier to career progression for people coming to Northern Ireland to work in the health service.
He says Black history should be celebrated “every day”.
“I was Black yesterday, still Black today and I will be Black tomorrow ,” he added.
This year’s theme is celebrating black voices and to Lilian this means giving black voices a platform to be in leadership positions, to really use their skills and knowledge to share, to contribute to the development of Northern Ireland.
“Here in Northern Ireland, we only tend to celebrate black voices through acts and cultural performances,” she explained.
“We do not recognise their leadership, their skill or contribution in leadership positions and that is why you don’t see any in leadership positions”.
Lilian also says to look out for poets such as Deanna Rodgers, Eno Mofano, George the Poet and Nandi Jola, who is based here in Northern Ireland.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, North West Migrants forum are continuing to deliver their work both online and in person.
Once the restrictions are in the North West are relaxed, they’re keen for as many people to get involved as possible whether that be by dropping into the centre to take part in activities or just for a chat.
But until then, they’re running lots of activities online.
You can find the details on their website or by following them on social media.
If you’d like to learn more about Black History Month, check out the official website.