Black History Month: St Paul’s School’s ‘Proud to be…’ programme

Posted on: 01 Oct 2021

Dr Malcolm Cocks, head of inclusion and teacher of English at St Paul’s School, explains how a programme of events taking place at the school throughout October will celebrate the important contributions black people make to British culture.

This October at St Paul's, as in previous years, and along with many schools, universities, and institutions across the country, we will be celebrating Black History Month.

Black History Month in the UK provides us the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of black Britons to the history of the nation. It is the chance to acknowledge that black history, black literature, black culture is also British history and culture, even as we acknowledge the processes of silence, erasure, and misremembering that have meant that these contributions are not always visible.

As we remember and celebrate the contributions of black pioneers, public figures, and personalities to local communities or to wider culture, we engage in a collective process of historical revisionism and we reaffirm our own commitments to social justice and equality. Not just for the month of October, but as integral to the way we imagine ourselves and our pasts.

This year's theme 'Proud to be…' invites an emphasis on celebration, joy, and pride in the extraordinary range of identities, roles, and contributions black people make to British culture. But this theme perhaps also issues an invitation to think about black identities not as discrete or separate, but as shaped by a complex set of overlapping and interdependent social and political formations that include class, sexuality, religion, and gender identity. By attending to this intersectionality, we are better able to see not only the disadvantage and discrimination we have faced and must continue to resist, but also the dexterity, resilience, and achievement that ultimately distinguishes our history.

It’s a pleasure to invite the St Paul's community to engage with a rich and celebratory programme of events, speakers, and activities. On Thursday 30th September we were delighted to welcome David Olusoga OBE to Polecon, History, and REACH societies to speak about the importance of black history to an authentic understanding of British history.

Aspiring scriptwriters and creative writers will get to work with London-based playwright and director Tonderai Munyevu in an interactive workshop that mobilises queer and black poetics as a means of audience engagement and storytelling. Film buffs can enjoy a marathon screening of Steve McQueen's acclaimed anthology Small Axe. Other highlights include talks on the Bristol Bus Boycott, on 'Seeing Black Lives in the Italian Renaissance' in ArtSoc, and I am particularly excited by the exhibition in the Library & Archives 'Err: Not Found', which engages the community on the importance of archival memory. The emphasis on pride and celebration will connect the range of black British pioneers and contemporary role models spotlighted by staff and students on the posters and screens throughout the school.

About Dr Malcolm Cocks

Dr Malcolm Cocks is head of inclusion and teacher of English at St Paul's School.