Black History Month – looking back and journeying forward

Written by Tai Pawb

Tai Pawb associate Marilyn Bryan-Jones has had a very busy October marking Black History Month.  In her blog, she shares how she’s raised awareness and celebrated the achievements of Movers, Shakers and Legacy Makers, while also receiving recognition for her own role over the last 30 years.

Marilyn receiving the Community Legacy Award

What can I say? Everything happens in October….

  • Go Sober for October
  • World Mental Health Day (This year’s focus was on suicide)
  • Halloween
  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Wear Red Day for Show Racism the Red Card

All these things are important and I did spend time raising my awareness and getting involved. Mental Health is something that I feel very committed to as I set up Awetu, the first Black Mental Health Befriending Scheme in Wales, which I am pleased to say still exists. However I had something that was taking most of my passion and keeping me really busy in October. What was it?

Black History Month

Leading into the Month I had the opportunity to do a lesson in school to my son’s class all about the Windrush. They were so engaged……Parents and children came up to me saying how much their children or themselves had enjoyed the lesson.

This year the theme for Black History Month was “Movers, Shakers and Legacy Makers”.  I was invited to the awards but to my astonishment I was presented with a “Community Legacy Award” in the form of a glass trophy and certificate.  It was a really humbling moment as I have only ever previously been recognised for my sporting achievements, apart from receiving the first ever runner up position in the Black Voluntary Sector Network Awards.  If I was involved in Equality & Diversity for the recognition I would have given up a long time ago!

The next thing was talk to the Women’s Institute (WI) on Black History & Walking Netball. I didn’t realise how supportive the WI are as an organisation. It is like a kind of sisterhood.  My talk was very well received and I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak to a female audience. It was nice to be among positive supportive women.

Then, I was asked by Race Council Cymru to talk as Chair of Caribbean Heritage Cymru about the organisation. They also wanted me to introduce a local storyteller affectionately known as “Uncle Fred”. This took place at the Riverfront and it was a diverse and entertaining event including speakers, choirs, acoustic performances, storytellers and a live African band as the finale.

Next, onto Caribbean Heritage Cymru’s ‘Heroines and Heroes’ event at the Lysaght Institute in Newport. I was responsible for the planning of the event along with our Treasurer and Committee and I co-compered the first half of the event and a quiz.  Our event included the Back-A-Yard Display which is pictures and stories of individuals who have moved to Newport from the Caribbean. It also included a history lesson from Vernesta Cyril OBE about the untold stories in relation to Black History. There is now a commitment by the Welsh Government to include them on the curriculum. There was also singing and dancing by a local Youth Project Urban Circle and a very emotive poem written a by a local young girl about knife crime. The feedback from attendees was very positive.

The last thing for me as part of the Black History Month Celebrations is to be part of a historic event.  A stone is being unveiled in Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff on Saturday 2nd November in recognition of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds who have contributed so much for our freedom since 1914. I am going to speak on behalf of Caribbean Heritage Cymru and I feel it is an honour and a privilege to be given this opportunity.

Finally I would like to say that I have been working in this field for over 30 years; people like myself who work in the Equality & Diversity field are often disappointed because we feel that there is so much more that needs to be done. We must remind ourselves how far we have come…..

One thing that we are never going to be able to say is:-

“Our Work is done.”

Because the journey will continue but it might still be a bumpy ride!!!

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