As a black woman, born in England with Jamaican heritage, Black History Month is a celebration that is very close to my heart. I’m sure we’ve all asked ourselves the same question at some point: Why is only a month out of the year dedicated to acknowledging the history and achievements throughout the history of black people in the West? A month is good, but why stop there?

The origins of Black History Month go back as far as 1926 and was once named ‘Negro History Week’ in the US. The first BHM in the UK was held 34 years ago in 1987, introduced by Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai-Sebo (a special projects officer at the Greater London Council). As Akyaaba Addai-Sebo put it in words, he aimed to ‘sow’ Black History Month ‘in the communities, educational, public and private institutions in the UK’. When we look throughout history, it’s clear that black history is world history, full of achievements such as: Mae Jemison, the first black woman astronaut, world records, for example the fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt, and humanitarian efforts such as, Dianne Abbott, a UK parliament MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, who has supported human rights and equality policies throughout her career.

The contribution black people have given to the world of literature is one that also continues to inspire each new generation. I’ve compiled a small but powerful list of poems to celebrate BHM all year round and honour the progression of this international celebration. Let’s celebrate BHM 365 days a year!


Checking Out Me History’ by John Agard

Dem tell me
Dem tell me
Wha dem want to tell me

Bandage up me eye with me own history
Blind me to my own identity

Dem tell me bout 1066 and all dat
dem tell me bout Dick Whittington and he cat
But Touissant L’Ouverture
no dem never tell me bout dat…

Read the full poem here


Still, I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise…

Read the full poem here


Black is Beautiful’ by Sharon D. Brown-Rogers

Black is as beautiful as a bed of milky white clouds.
Black is as beautiful as soft as a newborn baby hair.
Black is as beautiful as standing up for what is right.
Black is as beautiful as trying on grandmother’s classy hats.
Black is as beautiful as you and I saying Hi!
Black is as beautiful as two sisters walking hand in hand.
Black is as beautiful as wading in a pond on a hot summer day.
Black is as beautiful as you holding your baby for the very first time.
Black is as beautiful as saying I miss you.
Black is as beautiful as going fishing with your dad.
Black is as beautiful as calling your mother on her birthday.
Black is as beautiful as two brothers playing basketball.
Black is as beautiful braiding your sister’s hair.
Black is as beautiful as grandpa taking you to the park.
Black is as beautiful as the sweet sound of a saxophone playing.
Black is as beautiful as eating mom’s never fail caramel cake.
Black is as beautiful as the bright rising sun.
Black is as beautiful as a simple kiss placed on the forehead.
Black is as beautiful as lilies on Easter morning.
Black is as beautiful as saying I love you.
Black is me and I AM BEAUTIFUL.


Won’t you celebrate with me’ by Lucille Clifton

“won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in Babylon…”

Read the full poem here


Dream Boogie’ by Langston Hughes

Good morning, daddy!

Ain’t you heard

The boogie-woogie rumble

Of a dream deferred?

Listen closely:

You’ll hear their feet

Beating out and beating out a —

                                           You think

                                               It’s a happy beat?

Listen to it closely:

Ain’t you heard

something underneath

like a —

                                               What did I say?

Sure,

I’m happy!

Take it away!

                                                Hey,

pop!

Re-bop!

Mop!

Y-e-a-h!”


‘Dew’ by Kwame Dawes

“This morning I took the dew from the broad leaf of the breadfruit tree, and washed the sleep from my eyes. I saw a blue sky.

The cock crowed again and again.

On such mornings, each deep breath, clean as new light, is a blessed gift.”


‘Poem For My Father’ by Quincy Troupe

(an excerpt)

…& you there, father, regal, as an african, obeah man

sculpted out of wood, from a sacred tree, of no name, no place, origin

thick branches branching down, into cherokee & someplace else lost

way back in africa, the sap running dry

crossing from north carolina into georgia, inside grandmother mary’s

womb, where your mother had you in the violence of that red soil…”

Read the full poem here


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