Black History Month
In our ongoing work to rethink and remake the Whitworth as an anti-racist institution we have been having deep and sustained discussions on all aspects of gallery life. All activities – exhibitions, collections, conservation, research, recruitment, communications, shop, education, events – are being scrutinised through the lens of our anti-racism agenda.
As part of this we have been debating Black History Month and our position on it, given that it has come under increasing scrutiny. Many in the world argue that the whole purpose of Black History Month was for the hope that one day we wouldn’t need it anymore, when Black History became just history, and central to a shared story every day of the year.
Going further than this, some suggest that Black History Month celebrations maintain a divide we are trying to abandon – it was great for its time: a time when any accomplishments made by black people were wholly absent – but we live in a different world now and the time is ripe to up the game for a more wholesale change.
Amongst the Whitworth team there are a range of views and positions on this and we continue to debate this as we should. We may be in a different world, 33 years on from the founding of Black History Month in the UK and almost 100 years from its foundations in the US, but the ignorance preventing racial awareness from moving any further still prevails.
As such we want to support both views simultaneously: to use the annual celebration of black achievement and culture as a vehicle to support a perpetual programme of education, action, and change, until we no longer need to think of this history as an alternative.
Alistair Hudson, Director, the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery
Image: BHM2020 blackhistorymonth.org.uk