October is Black History Month here in the United Kingdom and so far I have spent it all with my natural hair. It isn’t a deliberate statement but the timing does seem to work.
I still scowl at my reflection in the mirror first thing in the morning, but I’m OK with it. My hair looks the same as it did when I was eleven, but the main difference is that I now bother combing it properly and putting a bobble in it.
As per usual there are people wanting to know when we’ll be celebrating white history month and wondering why black history needs it’s own place in the calendar. The short version is that if I, as a black woman, have made it into my mid 40s without knowing anything about the history of black people in the United Kingdom then there is a problem in which stories are being shared. I shouldn’t have to go and seek out this knowledge, it should already be there alongside the rest of things I was taught at school. There is no way for my children to understand their ancestry if I don’t.
As American television programming takes over more of the UK schedules, there is a danger that Black history will only ever be seen through the lens of how things were / are in the United States and the stories of black Britons will be lost. I know about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but how many black British men and women do I know the stories of? Not enough. If nothing else Black History Month is an annual reminder of how much I don’t know and a prompt to find out more.
By the end of the month my afro will almost certainly be buried under a new set of hair extensions, but hopefully I’ll have some new knowledge to go alongside the new hairdo.