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Black History Month – why do I care?
There is nothing more powerful than using your life story to inspire the lives of others. Whether we know it or not there are details in each of our lives that can elevate, challenge and inspire another person. This is why History is so integral to the world; it brings awareness to the stories that laid a foundation for culture and society today. Black history is the story of individuals, societies, countries and cultures of Black origin both past and present. It is the story of Malorie Blackman, a computer programmer who became one of the most successful fictional writers in Britain or the story of Walter Tull who sacrificed his sporting career to fight in the First World War.
A question that emerges for Black people all over Britain every October is “How can I celebrate the stories of those that have come before me?” In contrast the question that naturally comes to mind for those who are not of Black origin is “If I’m not Black how do I participate in Black History?” Whilst the questions appear to be different there is a common theme – both query how people can do Black History month justice, both have a desire to adequately celebrate a rich history that means so much to so many. But rest assured you should feel comfortable and welcome to celebrate the history of another culture.
To give you some further comfort, one of my favourite historical characters is Henry the VIII and although I am not a Tudor, I often indulge in any literature or Netflix series that has anything to do with the Tudors. I have probably watched ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ about 5 times, so I can assure you that even though you may not have your origins in Black Culture it does not mean you cannot be passionate about it or get involved!
Let’s consider the analogy of a wedding. Although we may not have ever been a third wheel on a date with the happy couple, we see the wedding as an opportunity to celebrate their love and their union. We have no reluctance in participating, eating and dancing with the couple on that glorious day. Therefore the first thing to remember is that Black History Month is a celebration! All of us can indulge in BHM by celebrating and actively sharing the stories that derive from black culture, attending events that shine a light on Black History and of course eating the food! We can make these stories come alive by turning our attention to Black Heroes, studying black culture and elevating black businesses.
A few nights ago I was watching the story of Muhammad Ali and as much as I thought I already knew about him, this documentary caused me to see him in a completely different light. That’s the beauty of learning history it is told from so many different accounts and can impact us at different stages in our lives. As lawyers in particular any one of us would be particularly inspired by Ali’s passion for justice and abhorred by the injustice he experienced being sentenced to jail for five years at the height of his career!
Our lives are so much more enriched when we engage and experience cultures that are not our own. Given that we have been locked up for so long it’s time for us to emerge ready to try new things. For example, I am committed to trying Ethiopian food this month since I have circled around West African food for the majority of lockdown. Ultimately we all relate to individual stories of perseverance, family and courage and Black history contains multiple stories that we can all relate to. There is so much to be gained in this celebration and our individual stories will be greatly enhanced if we choose to participate.
Prior to joining the firm Sinead worked as a paralegal in the Commercial Real Estate Team at Allen & Overy. Sinead has also worked in regional firms such as Debenhams Ottaway working for local businesses on landlord & tenant matters in St Albans. Sinead worked as an in-house paralegal at a Hedge fund Tishman Speyer on a number of Global real estate Joint ventures. Sinead has undertaken Vacation Schemes at Mishcon De Reya and Goodwin.
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