BBC ARTICLE: Black History Month: Why it shouldn’t be ‘Diversity Month’

October is Black History Month – a celebration of the contribution the black community has made to the UK.

But some organisations have faced criticism for dropping the celebration altogether or changing its name to “Diversity Month”.

“I feel that there are 11 other months in the year for you to discuss other cultures and a wealth of cultures,” Chante Joseph tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

She started a BME (black and minority ethnic) power list in Bristol where she went to university.

She says broadening out Black History Month highlights a wider issue – that “black people are constantly silenced”.

“It just feels very convenient that it’s Black History Month that has been around forever that you wanna erase.

“I feel that that speaks to a wider issue, of the fact that black people are constantly silenced and we’re constantly told that we need to be grateful to be in this country.

“And we shouldn’t be too loud and we shouldn’t be too celebratory of our achievements.”

Black History Month was started in the UK around 30 years ago to recognise the contribution that black people have made to the country.

“There’s never been a more important time to celebrate black people who are doing incredible things,” says Chante, who also co-founded the Black Theatre Club.


Windrush protest crowd

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Home Office in May to protest in solidarity with the Windrush generation. Image copyright GETTY IMAGES

The 22-year-old points to the recent scandal involving the Windrush generation – which refers to people from the Caribbean who, between 1948 and 1971, were invited to live in the UK.

Some were wrongly categorised as illegal immigrants and were threatened with deportation or refused jobs and healthcare.

“It’s about celebrating people who have contributed to our society, to our environment,” she says.

“It’s about black people who are currently doing incredible things to change the perception of black people and the opportunities black people have.”

Wandsworth Council in London is one of the organisations which has been criticised for renaming Black History Month as Diversity Month.

Labour MP Marsha de Cordova has written to the council saying the change is a “disappointment” and the original name needs to be reinstated.Presentational white space

The council tells Newsbeat the name was changed in 2014 and hasn’t affected what is a “wide-ranging celebration of black history”.

“We are proud to celebrate the historical achievements and successes of all the diverse communities that make up our borough and who all contribute so much to life in our city.”

Trainee lawyer Raifa Rafiq, 25, who is also a host on the Mostly Lit podcast, says calling it Diversity Month is an “absolute no-no”.

Her worry is that if the month is rebranded, soon it will be “just any other month”.

“Once again, the story and the narrative is elsewhere,” she tells Newsbeat.

“Black people are at the bottom of that barrel and this month is supposed to be significant because we’re supposed to be celebrating those black lives.

“So it becomes really annoying to see that just black, and that word in itself, is not taken into consideration.”

She believes that while diversity is a positive thing, we should be calling for it every single day.

“Yes, we understand that diversity is important, however, we are trying to highlight black people in this instance.

“Right now, these are the people that we want to shed light on.”

It’s an issue actor Femi Oyeniran, who starred in Kidulthood, has also spoken about.

Appearing on Jeremy Vine on Channel 5 on Tuesday, he said: “I don’t understand why we have to explain the reason for the existence of Black History Month every year but here we are.

“It’s embarrassing that every time black people come up with something, it’s then immediately jumped upon and perceived as racist.

“But the only reason it existed in the first place was in response to the racism that black people are experiencing.”