How we’re marking Black History Month
October sees a programme of online events and digital content exploring the work of Black artists and Shakespeareans
What if the history of Black people in Britain was taught in schools, in every classroom in the country? What if there were more period dramas that accurately reflected the past and showed that Black achievement was not so rare, or that these programmes showed not just the cobbled streets of England and the carefully-made historical costumes but also a much more racially diverse cast?
Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in yet, and although we are getting closer to it, the recent response in Britain to the murder of African American George Floyd, shows us we have much, much farther to go. In the 21st century, we should not need to dedicate an entire month to commemorating the achievements of Black people in Britain. But, as David Olusoga says, ‘with Black history and Black people largely expunged from the mainstream narrative of British history, we have been left with a distorted and diminished vision of our national past’. Black History Month is meant to be seen as a means to an end; a process, rather than a finite moment that finishes on the 31 October so that in November we can go back to amplifying and emphasizing whiteness.
‘With Black history and Black people largely expunged from the mainstream narrative of British history, we have been left with a distorted and diminished vision of our national past’
— David Olusoga
We opened this blog with a question – what if? What if our institutions recognized that remembering the accomplishments and contributions of Black Britons throughout the centuries needed to be integrated into our everyday lives? How would that look? Black Lives Matter is influencing the way organisations everywhere are operating, programming and remembering the past. But there is so much work to do: in the archives, in schools, in universities, in industry, in theatre, in television and film. If with each October, this country advances a step closer towards the ultimate goal of no longer needing one month a year dedicated to Black History, then the importance of Black History Month needn’t be contested ground.
At Shakespeare’s Globe this October, we are commemorating Black History Month with a programme of online events and digital content, exploring the work of Black artists and Shakespeareans throughout history.
We’re thrilled to be collaborating with The London Rep and Goldsmiths College (which has just launched the first ever MA in British Black History) to run a postgraduate seminar and creative writing workshop with Globe Ensemble actor Leaphia Darko. In Unearthing Black Voices on 23 October, participants will be guided through the process of uncovering the hidden histories of Black people, and how to weave them into new writing.
The workshop will start with a screening of Leaphia’s short film The Very Error of the Moon – created in response to Shakespeare’s Othello and filmed on a smartphone in quarantine. Leaphia’s film interweaves animation, film footage and sound, as is currently screening as part of HOME’s Black History Month programme.
Our blog will play host to a new series Black Shakespeareans which aims to highlight the career and contribution to our understanding of Shakespeare of Black Shakespeare scholars. Future articles will look at notable actors Rudolph Walker and Joseph Marcell, so do keep your eyes peeled for further reading this month!
We’re also releasing a new, exclusive episode of our Such Stuff podcast. Subscribe to the series to be notified of new releases, as well as catching up on previous episodes.
And finally, we’re thrilled In Conversation: Reckoning with our Past will now be available to watch indefinitely on our YouTube channel. This important discussion was the final event in last month’s Shakespeare and Race festival, where special guests Preti Taneja, Margot Finn and Elliot Barnes-Worrell and our very own Professor Farah Karim-Cooper explored British history, the colonial past, and racial identity in 2020.