‘Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today’ – Samaira Anjum on Black History and fighting racism today
Samaira Anjum, member of NUS Black Students’ Campaign, and Community Officer at Manchester Metropolitan Students’ Union shares her thoughts on Black History Month.
Black History Month is an opportunity for us to celebrate and commemorate the huge contribution of African, Arab, Asian, Caribbean and other people of colour to society. It is important because Black history often goes unnoticed and unacknowledged, creating a vacuum in which our communities are seen as a drain on society, not an asset. Without a sense of history, many young Black people are left with little or no knowledge about the rich traditions from which they descend.
I was 10 years old when my journey started in the fight against racism. In 2001, the British National Party (BNP) was active in the area where I grew up. As a 10 year old I wasn’t politically active nor did I have any idea about who the BNP was or what it stood for.
I remember playing on the street outside my house when my father would approach me to and order me indoor because the National Front (NF), as they were called at the time, was coming to attack our community. I witnessed a number of incidents, including one where a car’s windows were being smashed, being committed by these NF people. I was terrified.
The BNP marched through our community, smashed up our neighbourhood, and whipped up racism by dividing Black and white communities. They claimed that there were ‘no go areas’ when this was a lie. This created tension within communities as people began to believe the claims that such ‘no-go areas’ were real. It should come as no surprise that I grew up with a passion to fight racism and fascism.
I was 16-years-old when I attended my first demonstration against the BNP. It was when the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, went to speak at the Oxford Union. At the protest I met people from different faiths, backgrounds, colours and origins. It was really then that my journey started in the student movement, and where I started to be inspired.
Since then, I have been at the forefront of the fight against racism. I have also become a leading anti-racism activist who actively challenges issues of racism, fascism and Islamophobia. I am the first Muslim woman to be elected to a sabbatical position in my union.
With a greater understanding of what Black people have achieved, we can be empowered to realise our potential, challenge the inequalities we experience, and face down stereotypes.
I am proud that during Black History Month I was able to launch the One Society Many Cultures Campaign on campus. It was one of the biggest anti-racism meetings my University has ever held.
I use the term Black as a political one. It acknowledges the immense diversity within and between the African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean communities whilst recognising the commonalties on the basis of our experiences which are marked with challenging racism and the under-representation of our communities throughout modern history and in society today.
It is vital that we celebrate our history to ensure that Black students are empowered and inspired. It is equally vital to educate other students, about our history, in order to break down barriers and prejudices. The words of Malcolm X inspired me when he stated: ‘without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world’ and ‘education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today’.
As our history has shown us, we are never more powerful than when we work together. We need to be joining campaigns and actively trying to make a difference. This is important if we are to try to make this world a better place. It is also important if we want to leave our own legacies.
Our struggle hasn’t been easy and we have to always remember where our journey started and how we got to where we are today. We did this by unity and strength. We should always stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world in our struggle against racism, fascism, and Islamophobia.
Black History Month’s significance cannot be overlooked as it is our opportunity to pay tribute to our predecessors and ancestors who challenged injustice and struggled to make the world a better place. It is important that we remember this as we enjoy the freedoms we have today.