Why Britain's Black history month is hollow

The-Latest has been highlighting Black History Month with several articles. Today The Guardian became the first national newspaper in the UK to mark BHM by launching a five-part series of information packed posters. But respected Black sociologist Thomas L Blair says something is still missing.

Celebrating October Black History Month is double-edged. In many cases, it gives local talents exposure and is therefore laudable. Yet, it is also edged with unreason.

The zeal unleashed by celebrants masks a singular inability to be serious. The entertaining vignettes of individuals and events evoke no serious debate.

London Mayor Boris Johnson's Black minions in City Hall have cobbled together a musical on the first seaborne immigrants of the 20th century. The Greater London Authority offers a potpourri of Black people in British films. Hackney borough's Caribbean Elderly Organisation features talks on Black performers and seamen. Popular writers and journalists memorialise the historical past.

However, decades of these events have thwarted the political dialogue on Black Progress. They are not rooted in thoughtful analysis. How could they be? There are no Black-led institutions promoting the achievements and contributions of people of African descent.

A historically changed people have no supportive, Black-led study associations; no authoritative Black literary and political journals; and no dedicated Black Studies scholars and public intellectuals to bring the policy history to life. This is what Carter G Woodson, the father of Black History in 1915, intended, and which succeeded to lift the voices of African Americans.

Here in Black Britain, is this too much to expect from the inheritors of great civilisations, survivors of the holocausts of slavery, builders of post-war London's hospitals and transport, and now prey to the worst excesses of the subprime, credit crunch and national economic crises. To celebrate without an ideology of Black Progress is naught but comic energy.

* Thomas L Blair is a sociologist writing on creative renewal in Black Britain and Afro-Europe, see Chronicleworld web site http://www.chronicleworld.org

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