Munroe Bergdorf: Black history is all of our histories
Social activist and model Munroe Bergdorf on why every month should be Black History Month
Black History Month (October) is a concept that both excites and irks me. On the one hand, the idea of an increased media conversation, celebrating the accomplishments, progress and histories of the black community, seeing black celebrities unapologetically basking in their #blackgirlmagic or #blackboyjoy on social media, makes me want to say “yaaas” and double tap every post on my Instagram feed. On the other hand, I just can’t help but feel... why are we still only being afforded a four-week pass to celebrate ourselves? Shouldn’t every month be black history month?
Beginning in the UK 30 years ago, Black History Month had the intention of providing an opportunity to celebrate and accurately revisit black stories and historic accomplishments that may have been whitewashed or overlooked by the mainstream altogether. In other words, for 30 years we have condensed hundreds of years of rich black British history and achievements into one month of the year. Isn’t it high time that instead of year after year seeing October as an “opportunity” to speak about black history, we start to actively create consistent opportunities throughout the year? And the first port of call is how we talk about race in schools.
As a black, queer, transgender woman who was raised in a suburban white majority area in Hertfordshire, I spent the entirety of my teens feeling consciously and unconsciously othered by those around me. I wasn’t just the only black kid in my school – for the large majority of my school experience, I was the only person of colour enrolled at the school – but on top of that, I came out as gay when I was 14 years old. This sense of insolation which later manifested itself as low self-worth could have been reduced, or arguably avoided altogether, if I had actively been taught or even exposed to examples of humans who looked like me, who experienced the same racial, sexual or gender prejudice that I experienced, yet were overcoming it and succeeding.
Kids need to be able to see themselves in aspirational figures. Kids need heroes. If I had been taught a diverse, accurate and honest history syllabus at school, it would have laid the foundations for a stronger sense of self in young adulthood and instilled a feeling of pride in my ancestry. If we are truly gunning for equality going forward, we need to be honest about where we’ve been.
Read the rest of Munroe’s column in the November issue of DIVA, available to buy in print or digitally here.
Only reading DIVA online? You're missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It's pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.