By Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ Officer. This article first appeared on Aaron’s NUS blog on Monday 1 October.
Black History Month has just begun, an incredible opportunity for us to commemorate the history of Black communities and celebrate the immense contribution that people of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean heritage make to humanity. We are proud as a Campaign to be joining organisations across the country in celebrating Black History Month and it is great to see more and more Students’ Unions organising political and social events throughout October – a clear sign that the student movement recognises the strength of our diversity.
Black History Month is deliberately held at the beginning of the academic year so that Black students can start off the year empowered, as knowledge of our history and struggles enables us to challenge inequality in society and help us reach our full potential.
There are countless Black individuals and organisations that blazed trails against injustice that should be celebrated. Whether the struggles of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress against Apartheid, the movements for independence from colonialism and empire across Africa, Asia, the Middle-East, Latin America and the Caribbean, to the Palestinian liberation movement, or the inspiring leadership of women such as Rosa Parks, Diane Abbott, Salma Yaqoob and Angela Davis – we have much to be thankful for.
The struggle is not yet over however, and we continue to witness a rise in racism and continued attacks on the Black community. Increased racist stop and search, deaths in custody, attacks on multiculturalism and the systematic attack on public services and education – this is the reality of Britain today. The abolishing of the EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) and increased university fees, will disproportionately affect Black communities for generations to come as so many of us and our families relied upon the EMA to get us through college. And even if we do get through college and make it through to university where we will be lumped with tens of thousands of pounds of debt, we can then face the prospect of 50% Black youth unemployment.
Now is the time for our voices to be heard, and we must stand in the tradition of our ancestors and organise. We must unite to challenge institutional racism whether in the police or education system and we must organise to challenge fascists, in the form of the English Defence League or the British National Party. We must organise against the government’s austerity agenda that is tearing Black communities apart, and we must organise to campaign for justice for the Black majority of humanity as we see millions of our brothers and sisters across the world facing continued attacks from Western governments in the form of military intervention and economic exploitation.
That’s why the Black Students’ Campaign is proud to work with organisations such as Unite Against Fascism, One Society Many Cultures, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War and we are proud to play a leading role in the upcoming NUS National Demonstration on the 21st November against fees, cuts and inequality. Because we have a duty to try and make the world a better place – it is important if we too want to leave our own legacies.
What you can do to celebrate Black History Month
* We will be launching our official guide to Black History Month this Wednesday! Containing guest contribution from Diane Abbott MP on 25 years of Black MPs in Parliament and information and ideas on what you can do to celebrate Black History Month this October.
* Order Black History Month posters from the Campaign by emailing Aaron.Kiely@nus.org.uk with your name, position (if any), Students’ Union, address and telephone number.
* The Black Students’ Committee and Officer will be touring the country so if you’d like to request a speaker from the Campaign, make sure to get in touch by emailing Aaron.Kiely@nus.org.uk.
* Put the dates of our flagship annual Winter Conference down in your diary, which will be held at London South Bank University on the 1st and 2nd December. Look out for updates in the coming weeks!
In this month we should take our time to reflect on those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for Black liberation and who lost their lives in the struggle so that we could enjoy the freedoms that we have today. One of those people is Malcolm X, whose words I’ll leave you with: “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”.