'Black history should be celebrated every month, not just in October'

Micaelia Clarke from Black Voice Letchworth gives children a free lesson in carnival dance during th

Micaelia Clarke is a pillar of the community through BVL, offering dance classes for kids and events - both in person and virtual - to educate and promote black voices and culture - Credit: DANNY LOO

As October draws to a close, we reflect on a time that is dedicated to celebrating black history.

Earlier this month, the Comet spoke with Micaelia Clarke of Black Voice Letchworth about the importance of celebrating the black experience, and honouring the history that has got us all to where we are today.

When posed with the age-old question 'How important is Black History Month, and that people of all backgrounds engage with it?' Micaelia came back with a calm and informative response.

While acknowledging the importance of observance, Micaelia explained that she takes it with a pinch of salt.

Leader of Black Voice Letchworth Micaelia Clark

Leader of Black Voice Letchworth Micaelia Clark - Credit: Supplied

"I actually don't believe they should engage with it every October," she began. "I believe they should engage with it simultaneously, 24/7.

"It's a part of their history, it's a part of British history, and it's important that everyone in this country who identifies as British knows the history of Britain, so we know how to evolve and be better. That's the point of history."

On the subject of Black History Month's etymology, although not inherently problematic, she highlighted that it presents a sense of othering by attributing a month to its recognition.

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"We've labelled it Black History Month because we need to give it a self identity, to remind people that this was a main contributor to the world we see in Britain today.

"It's my goal to have a space where this is remembered and protected and celebrated by everybody. Not just in October, but all through the year, because it's important. It's important to how we live."

And Micaelia has been working hard on just that. Since launching Black Voice Letchworth last year, Micaelia and BVL have been busy working to champion and establish the UK’s First Black History Museum, Library and School of Cultural and Creative Arts, striving to create a space to reflect, as well as a platform for change.

She added: "If you identify with Britain as part of your history, it's not black, white, Asian. It's Britain - Great Britain - and it would not have been great if it wasn't for people who identify as being of African and black Caribbean descent.

"Our roads were built by the Romans, primarily a multicultural society. Britain used to be run by the Moors. Our Queen even has black blood in her, because her great-grandmother was a descendant of a black Moor dynasty!

Micaelia Clarke created Black Voice Letchworth after attending a Black Lives Matter protest organised by Sage Pearce in...

Micaelia Clarke created Black Voice Letchworth after attending a Black Lives Matter protest last summer - Credit: Archant

"I think we need to start making it a celebratory conversation rather than something that we really need to push for."

Although October has been a month of celebratory conversation, Micaelia and many others have signposted that some elements of the celebration "gaslight black history".

Emphasising that she can't speak on behalf of all black people or those who identify as an ethnic minority, she added: "Don't get me wrong, Black History Month is important, especially at this time.

"It's extremely important to have a time to celebrate. However, I would encourage us all to just remember that through the year."

Micaelia explained: "I'm a person of faith. I don't wait until Christmas to go to church! There's many different explanations. As much as I can celebrate International Women's Day, I'm a woman, and, every month something reminds me of that! That's who you are.

"So, it's the same as what I want for black history - for it to be a celebratory norm."

Sharing a phrase her grandmother would say, she added that with history, it's important to acknowledge and learn from it.

"You won't know where you're going until you've seen where you've been," she said.

"I've been through a lot of trials in my life. But when you look back, you see every trial, blessing and accomplishment. It got you to where you are.

"I'm so excited about BVL. It's my life, it's my journey. It's what I've been through, it's what I see in the future. It's what I'm going through now.

"It is a joy and a privilege to sit in a space where you have been unapologetic to who you are, and trusted in that and see people support it. That's been really humbling for me."

One of her proudest initiatives to date has been bringing Princess T to life for the people of Letchworth and North Herts. The princess character visited David's Bookshop at the weekend for story time and songs with an adoring young audience.

Explaining that the visual representation is important, she hopes that children seeing black figures in all positions, roles and jobs will reinforce their natural  ability to love another person, regardless of their complexion or background.

Micaelia Clarke from Black Voice Letchworth gives children a free lesson in carnival dance during th

Black Voice Letchworth's Micaelia Clarke highlighted the importance of children and young people seeing black role models in their life - whether through lived experience or fiction - Credit: DANNY LOO

"Imagery is powerful," Micaelia said.

"I've got a lot of heart, and I've got a lot of joy" she added, and with that joy, she shares the black voice, history and culture, all through the year.

To find out more about BVL's initiatives, and to support the work it does, visit Black Voice Letchworth on Facebook or at blackvoiceletchworth.com.

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