Launching a dedicated webpage that explores the legacies of slavery, Karen Campbell, Secretary for the United Reformed Church’s (URC) Global and Intercultural Ministries (GIM) team, explains why Black History Month 2020 is of particular importance.
October 2020 is the UK’s 33rd occurrence of Black History Month – and is considered by some to be the most important since its inception.
Why? Because 2020 has been an extraordinary year. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on black communities and has heightened awareness of systemic racial injustice in the UK and globally.
The killing of George Floyd in the US has cast a stark light on issues of racial injustice and stirred an upsurge in Black Lives Matter conviction amongst people of all ethnicities and ages. The lockdown seems to have created space to hear the many diverse voices challenging the status quo and calling for change.
Black History Month was never about limiting interest and focus on black history to only 31 days in the year, but more than ever, people seem ready and determined to listen and to hear.
This has been the observation and experience of the URC’s Global and Intercultural Ministries (GIM) team. Back in the early summer, looking ahead to a picture of complete uncertainty, we wondered how to approach the coming months.
There was a sense of urgency in the air – how can we, how should we, respond to the picture unfolding around us and the growing cry ‘What can we do?’ So it was that GIM hosted a number of online gatherings addressing the themes ‘Do Black Lives Matter in the URC?’, ‘What does it mean to be white when Black Lives Matter?’ and ‘Legacies of Slavery’.
These gatherings have complemented the work of the URC’s ‘Legacies of Slavery (LoS) Task Group’, appointed by Mission Council to help the URC consider and respond to a report by the Council for World Mission (CWM) regarding the ongoing impacts of transatlantic slavery on Black communities around the world – including here, in the UK and in the URC!
The themes have been challenging, thought-provoking and well-received by those who have participated. But what next?
With Black History Month upon us, the GIM team and LoS Task Group have been working hard to produce a bank of materials to resource continued reflection and conversation. We are delighted to offer a new webpage including a wide range of resources – recommended films and books, YouTube clips, poetry and articles. You will also find a pre-recorded service which can be used for Black History Month in local churches, the text for a further service, topical hymns, Bible Studies and articles suitable for church magazines. Recordings of GiM’s three online gatherings are also available here.
Further materials will be added to the page throughout October and beyond. We hope the page will be an important vehicle for keeping the whole Church informed and resourced as the LoS Task Group continues its work.
For now, though, our focus is on Black History Month. Please visit the page and take a look at the resources available, and don’t forget to keep coming back to see what’s new.
‘Change’, a poem by Kaiyah Dixon, aged 14
The world is changing; it’s a brand new day.
Our voices will be heard instead of brushed away.
No more of our people aching, no more of our people slain.
And although there’s hurt in our hearts, the struggle will not be in vain:
We will rise above the hatred; we will walk the way they paved,
We will love, live and be free, for we are the dreams of slaves.
This time we won’t be silenced – told we’re too angry or out of place.
This time we’ll speak our thoughts, all communities will be a safe space.
We will now be taught our history in every aspect of our learning
Instead of searching for it ourselves, because our ancestors are deserving.
By any means necessary, we will fight for a better day;
Because a great change is among us,
and we are leading the way.
Published: 5 October 2020
Image: Tim Brauhn_Flicker CC BY_NC_SA 2.0