Ahead of her Black History Month class, we spoke to Renee about what the celebration means to her, the impactful play she saw in the 80s, and more...
What does Black History Month mean to you Renee?
For me, Black History month is a time of recognition and celebration.
Why is it so important?
Like a lot of people, I don't think BHM should just be highlighted for a month. It should be embedded within British society and form part of the National Curriculum, however as it's not taught in school, I appreciate a month has been dedicated to showcasing Black History. Since its inception BHM allows people to learn about Black British History and experience Black culture in a way that they may never have done before. From the arrival of the Windrush in 1948 to the present-day generations' contributions - this needs to be acknowledged and recognised.
How do you usually celebrate?
As a family, we usually attended local cultural events. This year following recent events in America there's been an increase in initiatives to highlight racial awareness and cohesion around some of the subtle aspects of racism that Black people have to encounter on an everyday basis.
What's your earliest memory of Black History Month?
My earliest memory is when schools started hosting BHM events and encouraging children to learn about this part of history in 1983. I used to be a youth worker and during BHM we would run specific events to raise young people's understanding of Black history - especially as the majority of young people had little to no positive experiences of the subject. Most of what they were taught in school came from a very selective and negative viewpoint. Black History Month allows schools to introduce a more balanced way of teaching Black history.
What events have helped raise awareness & contribute to BHM?
During the early ’80s there was a play called 'Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame'. This play opened people's eyes to aspects of Black History that many were not aware of. For a lot of people, they were learning facts about black people that they didn’t know because they were just used to the spotlight being placed on sports and entertainment. Inventions created by black people were never widely spoken about but this play raised awareness of this, and got people questioning why these 'heroes' were never spoken of before.
Why did you want to hold a class dedicated to Black History Month?
I wanted to use this platform to raise awareness but in a creative way. Food is such an integral part of all Black communities so while learning a Caribbean dish, I wanted to do this Black History Month special. I'm will be teaching my dish of Salt Fish, Cabbage, and Rice, this is a typical Saturday dish from the West-Indian community.
It's just so important not to forget. When you're living a certain life you don't forget, you just need people to remind you and I like to be reminded in a positive way.
Sign up for Renee's Salt Fish, Cabbage and Rice: Black History Month Class on Sat 24th Oct 5-7PM here.