The theme for the 2018 Black History Month University of Manchester Celebrations was BAME and British. This excellent celebratory display of the contribution BAME peoples have made to Britain was executed through hard work and creativity by the Manchester University BAME Staff Network.

Hannah Niblett and I had the pleasure of curating a hands-on pop-up exhibition as part of the Black History Month Celebrations.  The focus of the stall was to display BAME accomplishments from the John Rylands and Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Archives.

We spoke to over 100 people from all different backgrounds who enjoyed the exhibition and told us of their own experience of being BAME and British. The celebration of what the community has given to the UK was an excellent backdrop to the galvanising talk, BAME contribution to Britain by SuAndi and the University Showcase, Working Towards Race Equality. 

We had seven topics of contribution; Arts and Literature, Education, Community, Healthcare, Politics and the Second World War.

Arts and Literature

Karen McCarthy Woolf, ‘A Matter of Gravity’, 2013. 

Born in London to English and Jamaican parents Karen McCarthy Woolf writes poetry and drama. ‘A Matter of Gravity’ is from her book An Aviary of Small Birds (Carcanet Press, 2013), which explores the emotions of mourning and loss.

Sujata Bhatt, ‘Search for my tongue’, 1988

Journeying between Guajarati and English, Bhatt beautifully exemplifies the fear of forgetting your mother tongue. The challenges around language is one area in which BAME individuals may struggle with dual identities.

Phillis Wheatley, Untitled Poem, The Bow in the Cloud, 1858. 

Wheatley published her first poem at the age of 13, becoming the first published African American female poet. Although she was not British, it was in Britain that she published her first anthology of work in 1773, Poems on various subjects, religious and moral, as American publishing houses would not accept her work.

Bow in the cloud.jpeg

Community

Big Fat Asian Wedding, video, 2018

British-born Pakistani community worker Nusrat Ahmed is committed to reducing isolation amongst south-east Asian women. Her Big Fat Asian Wedding project is about keeping alive women’s traditions and stories, and sharing these with the wider community.

Education

Bernard Coard, Gus John and the Black Parents Movement, booklets, 1971 and 1986

Coard’s 1971 pamphlet How the West Indian Child Is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System highlighted institutional and scientific racism in our education system. These ideas were the basis of the Black Parents Movement in the 1970s and 80s.The Manchester branch was led by well-known educational campaigner Gus John.

aii. How the West Indian Child Jacket

Healthcare:

Louise DaCocodia, photo, c.1958, oral history excerpt, c.1990

The experience of Louise DaCocodia, a Windrush generation nurse, demonstrates the vital contribution of this generation to the newly established NHS, while also highlighting the struggles for equality and respect in the workplace.

LD

There were times when I went home and cried, you know, I went to my room and really cried because I felt so humiliated. But there was always something in me that said ‘Well look, I’m here for a purpose, and by golly I shall show you, and I’m going to get a senior role’. Not that I would’ve been vindictive but I felt I had to sustain myself with that thought.

Politics

Afzal Khan, commemorative photo and brochure, 2005, oral history excerpt, 2003

Mohammed Afzal Khan bacame Manchester’s first Asian Lord Mayor in 2005. Promoting diversity and multiculturalism is the focus of his political career. These values that were put to the test just weeks into his term as Lord Mayor, with the July 2005 bombings in London. As he said in the Guardian:

We organised for all the mosque imams to come and sign the book of condolence at the Town Hall. That was an important message. I spoke to a packed Albert Square before the two minutes silence when many faith leaders stood together. With our experience of the IRA bomb, we know that terrorists, wherever they are, do not belong to any faith or community.

War

Sir Claude Auchinleck: Papers on the Army of India, 1948

Auchinleck discusses the importance of the Indian Army in the Second World War. He speaks highly of their skill exclaiming that ‘we, the people of Britain, owe them a great debt.’

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Contact us to join the Special Collections to explore more of these themes.

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Archive: http://www.racearchive.manchester.ac.uk/

John Rylands Special Collections: http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/special-collections/