Black History Month Is Shaping Our Future



By Abbie Dodson

Black History Month began in 1915, only 50 years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in America. The event was originally named ‘Negro History Week’ by its founder, Carter G Woodson, but has been officially referred to as Black History Month since 1987. The campaign for ethnic equality now spans the whole of October, where it was originally held during the second week of February

Sheffield Hallam Students' Union President, Abdullah Okud, is leading a campaign across the Students' Union, focusing on barriers within education and the black struggle within academia. Abdullah is keen to promote this month not just as Black History Month, but as an ongoing “Black History Campaign”. Abdullah believes that racial empowerment should be an ever-present movement throughout the entire year.

Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union intends to celebrate the 31st Black History Month in many different ways. Black History Month inspires discussions about racial topics, and aims to empower people of colour and eradicate racial discrimination. The Students' Union is keen to enforce equality and belonging, and Abdullah intends to use his position within the Union to tackle any racism that may occur within Sheffield Hallam University.

It seems implausible that we live in the futuristic setting of ‘Back to the Future’, and still battle racial inequality. However, a multitude of evidence suggests that racial discrimination is still prominent in 2018.  This discrimination has been proven to particularly affect black university student, as 2011 NUS report found that one in six black students had experienced racism at their institution.  A mathematics student at the University of Surrey was severely injured in a racially motivated attack, and now finds it difficult to attend lectures through fear of another attack.

A black student we spoke to who attends Sheffield Hallam University claims that there is a lack of understanding of people’s differences within the University. Abdullah wants to make Hallam’s environment as enjoyable and unbiased as possible for black students, and to encourage more black students to enter academia. Research concludes that black students are 50% more likely to leave university than people of other ethnicities, with 1/10th of black students dropping out of universities across Britain annually. Studies conducted by the Equality Challenge Unit claim that the gap between the number of white students and BME students obtaining firsts and 2:1s is 15.2%.

In wider society, studies have found that black adult males have the lowest mental health treatment rate of any ethnic group. The statistics for black patients show that they are 7.1% less likely than white British patients to seek help. Whilst cultural values have been proven to influence these statistics, racism is another key contributor. Despite Black History Month initially aiming to raise awareness surrounding racism and discrimination, it also aims to empower black communities, and better enable them to discuss these ‘taboo’ issues, including the relationship between masculinity and mental health. This issue is being confronted directly in a scheduled talk this month; Mental Health and Me: The Unspoken Taboo in the Black Community.

Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union also aims to support black women in academia throughout this campaign. Deborah Gabriel is a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, and has experienced this racial and gender discrimination first hand. Gabriel claims that her students circulated racially abusive messages about her via social media during her classes. She states that the messages referred to her “[...] race and gender in animalistic and graphic sexual terms”. The scheduled talk: NUS: Black Women in Academia, aims to support black female students this Black History Month, and reduce discrimination, encouraging more potential black female academics.

In 2015-2016, shocking figures concluded that universities employed more black staff as cleaners and receptionists opposed to lecturers or professors. Two years later, and the statistics are still disheartening. In the 2016-17 academic year, only 25 black female academics worked as professors out of 19,000. These statistics also showed that only 90 black men worked as professors in English universities opposed to a staggering 14,000 white males.

The Students’ Union has also launched several smaller campaigns to help fight racism and prejudice. These campaigns include encouraging ethnic pride and eradicating racial bias within the curriculum. The Students’ Union wants students to stay at university, not leave early. These issues are all going to be addressed in the upcoming events scheduled by the Students’ Union through October, culminating with Do It For Your Culture, a celebration evening of food, music and culture with guest speakers, performances and awards. With attendees encouraged to wear their traditional clothing to the event,

These events range from workshops to a talk with Sheffield’s Mayor, Majid Majid. There are planned cinema nights in the iconic HUBS building, where films such as Black Panther and Selmar will be screened. A football tournament has been organised with the intention of removing differences between competitive and non-competitive black students. Externally, Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union is running an outreach programme where staff visit local schools to inspire black children to attend university, hopefully reducing the attainment gap for prospective black academics.


A full list of the planned events can be found below:


Black History Campaign 2018.


02/10/2018 – Black History Month Launch.

Time: 12:00 – 2:00

Venue: Pinball Square.


04/10/2018 – Barriers in Education.

Time: 18:00 to 20:00

Venue: Peak Lecture Theatre.


11/10/2018 – Black in Politics: In Conversation with Mayor Majid.

Time: 18:00 to 20:00

Venue: Owen 1028.


12/10/2018 – NUS: Black Women in Academia.

Time: 18:00 to 19:30

Venue: Awaiting Confirmation.


13/10/2018 – Mental Health and Me: The Unspoken Taboo in the Black Community.

Time: 09:30 to 16:20

Venue: Victoria Hall Methodist Church.


18/10/2018 – Selma Film Screening.

Time: 18:00 to 20:30

Venue: The Stage (in the HUBS).


22/10/2018 –Black Panther Film Screening.

Time: 18:00 to 20:30

Venue: The Stage (in the HUBS).


23/10/2018 – Kick it Out Workshop.

Time: 11:00 to 13:00

Venue: The Stage (in the HUBS).


23/10/2018 – Open Mic Night.

Time: 18:00 to 21:00

Venue: Coffee Union.


25/10/2018 – Black History Debate Night.

Time: 17:00 to 20:00.

Venue: Common Room.


27/10/2018 – One Race Football Tournament.

Time: 12:00 to 17:00

Venue: Sports Park.

Details: 6 a side tournament. Ticket Price: £2.50 each, £15 for a team. Transportation included.


30/10/2018 – Do it For Your Culture.

Time: 18:00 to 21:00.

Venue: Stage (in the HUBS).




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