Reflection on Black History Month

‘Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.’ 1Corinthians 10:16-17

Black History Month is something that should not be necessary. It should not be necessary because we should by now have accepted without any reservation that Britain is and always has been a nation made up of different cultures and those cultures have contributed significantly to the nation’s development. The fact that Black History Month is still necessary to highlight the achievements of people from other cultures and tell their stories from history, indicates that we have not yet reached that stage of acceptance. This was clearly seen in the outpouring of demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd, as people from a black heritage voiced their frustration at prejudice and inequality in society. It comes down to a question of belonging – who is really part and parcel of British society and who is not? This question frequently emerges in the political scene and particularly at election times, when immigration is often highlighted as an issue to be dealt with and something to crack down on. Have you thought how that might make our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel feel, let alone those from different cultures in wider society.

Selina Stone writes: The implications of this question of belonging have always been central for Black communities here in Britain. Living as ethnic minorities in a majority white country has meant developing the capacity to inhabit two different cultural spaces simultaneously. On the one hand is a desire to continue to enjoy the richness of one’s heritage and home culture. On the other, the demand to adopt cultural norms and values that will help you to navigate a society and political life that have developed historically without you in mind. For many within Black communities, churches have been the spaces which have helped them to handle both of these challenges. Determined to create places to worship that were welcoming and familiar, these congregations have changed the face of British Christianity. 

While October may be the month to highlight the historic and contemporary contributions of Black communities to Britain, their impact is year–long and so should their recognition be. These stories are not just Black History, any more than stories of the contributions of white communities to Britain should be categorized as White History. This month is an invitation to consider the ways in which British life has been and continues to be impacted by different ethnic identities, including whiteness. Together these various stories have the power to shape British identity by allowing us to celebrate past victories, to learn what must not be repeated and to cultivate hope for what could be possible in the future. (For her complete article go to https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2018/10/01/black-british-history-month )

Let’s not move into November thinking Black History Month is over for another year, but challenge ourselves to learn more about the contribution of people from different ethnicities to the life of society, as well as the life of the church.

Russell

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