‘I have a dream’ – Black History Month

It is a vivid moment in my life that I can still remember like it was yesterday. The first time that I was fortunate to hear that famous speech – ‘I have a dream’ by Martin Luther King Jr.

As a teenager (which feels an awfully long time ago!) I explored the speech as part of my college studies. It transformed the way I look at life and those around me. King’s speech on the National Mall was a profound moment in history. A moment that continues to inspire people. Promoting thoughts and discussions decades later. This month, we explore ‘Black History Month’.

What is Black History Month?

Black History Month is an annual observance that began in the United States and Canada before spreading to other countries across the world. The event celebrates and recognises the achievements, contributions, and history of Black people. In North America, the event takes place each year in February. However, in the United Kingdom, we observe our Black History Month in October.

The event originated in the early 20th century. Dr. Carter G. Woodson began promoting the idea of dedicating a week to the study of Black history. Dr. Woodson is often referred to as the “Father of Black History”. He was also the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH).

‘Black History Week’, was first celebrated in February 1926, and was designed to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Both of whom played significant roles in the history of Black Americans.

Half a century later, the observance of Black history expanded from a week to a month. The first Black History Month took place in the United States in 1976 and coincided with the nation’s bicentennial. Since then, Black History Month has grown to encompass a wide range of activities and events. These have included educational programs, art exhibitions, and cultural performances. All aimed at celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black individuals throughout history.

When Black History Month comes around in the UK, it reminds me of that speech by Martin Luther King. Recognising that “the quality of one’s life is what is important” and that “the time is always right to do what is right.” These powerful statements remain true today across society. In the workplace, it is vital that we continue to challenge all forms of bigotry and racism. Providing strong education in schools, and in workplaces.

There is more work to do

Yet, today, racism is still prevalent. It is appalling to hear of situations where individuals continue to face racial discrimination. Denied opportunities due to the colour of their skin, their culture, or family history.

Across the world, during Black History Month, it’s important to recognise our role models. Individuals who have helped to progress human rights for all. Inspiring future generations to come. As Martin Luther King inspired me and my contemporaries.

My dream is that organisations continue to champion ethnic diversity in the workplace. I dream that one day racism will disappear forever. Where individuals no longer suffer abuse because of their background. Because of their race. Their colour. Their family history.

The great tragedy is that today, in the modern world, this only remains a dream. We have taken positive strides forward over the years, of course, but more work still needs to take place. That is why Black History Month is so important.

We must continue to talk. To educate. To challenge what is wrong. One day, I hope ‘my dream’ becomes a reality.

By Mark Ellis, Leadership Coach, Accipio

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