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October 3, 2022

Black History Month U.K. Reads

Melanie Bell

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©Original art by Anna Montgomery © Emerald Works Ltd

October is Black History Month in the U.K. It's a time to celebrate the contributions of Black people throughout history, in the U.K. and elsewhere. This year's theme is Time for Action: Change Not Words.

This year's Black History Month is about moving beyond a focus on the past by highlighting the Black history that's being made every day, taking action against racism, and celebrating the stories and achievements of Black people from all walks of life.

Given the thematic focus, it might seem ironic that we've put together a reading list! But we want to highlight some wonderful books that do exactly as the theme suggests – spotlight the contributions of Black people today and celebrate African heritage. Learning is the first step toward taking action, and for readers outside of Black communities, it can facilitate understanding, which helps with being a good ally.

Here are four books to learn from and enjoy this month:

"I Am a Girl From Africa" by Elizabeth Nyamayaro

Nyamayaro is a senior U.N. advisor and award-winning humanitarian. Her moving memoir begins with her experience of drought in Zimbabwe at age eight, when a U.N. worker saved her life with a bowl of porridge.

Nyamayaro was inspired to pursue humanitarian work herself, seeking to uplift others just as her life was uplifted. Her dream – persistently pursued through travel across Africa, to the U.K., and beyond – is rooted in the African idea of ubuntu, "I am because we are." Nyamayaro founded the HeForShe Global Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality, and she's now the Special Advisor for the U.N. World Food Programme.

"A Bigger Picture" by Vanessa Nakate

When Vanessa Nakate, the only Black African activist photographed with four white Europeans at a climate conference, was cropped out of a press photo, she realized just how vital her presence and recognition were in the climate movement. "They hadn't just cropped me out," she writes. "They'd cropped out a whole continent."

Despite having lower carbon emissions, African countries are dealing with the harshest consequences of climate change, such as food scarcity, floods, droughts, and deaths. In her book, Nakate explains why it's important for the fight against climate change to include perspectives like hers, how she became a climate activist, how the climate emergency is connected to multiple forms of equality, and why it's so important to take action.

She highlights the voices of activists, from Africa and beyond, and shares solutions that you can implement now.

"Africa Is Not a Country" by Dipo Faloyin

We're all familiar with the stereotypes about Africa: footage of suffering people in stunning landscapes. Faloyin looks beyond these hackneyed narratives, using humor and history to present a modern portrait of a diverse, vibrant continent.

Readers will learn about African nations' colonial pasts, and their continued struggles for democracy. Faloyin introduces us to Lagos' urban scene, we learn the places Africans would need to travel to visit their cultural artifacts (90 percent of which are outside the continent), and we discover the rivalry over which West African country makes the best jollof rice.

Faloyin's love of Africa's many different cultures shines through the pages. It's a compelling corrective to the dangers of collapsing our ideas about an entire continent into a single story.

New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Writing by Women of  African Descent: 2: Margaret Busby, Margaret Busby:  9781912408740: Books

"New Daughters of Africa" by Margaret Busby

A follow-up to Busby's 1992 landmark anthology, "Daughters of Africa," this ground-breaking international collection brings together writing from over 200 women of African descent.

From 1900 to the present day, it collects work from Antigua to Zimbabwe, celebrating the wide-ranging voices of the African diaspora. While common themes emerge, celebrating shared heritage and continued battles against obstacles of gender, class and race, the included works display richness and multiplicity. Genres range from memoir to poetry to humor to journalism.

The anthology includes writing by both well-known and overlooked writers. Contributors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Malorie Blackman, Zadie Smith, Bernardine Evaristo, and Warsan Shire. Not to be missed!

Take Action

These books are fantastic for learning about Black history. But only through action can we create change. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog on how to be an anti-racist ally.

And in the meantime, learn more from our blogs about racism in the workplace: Our First Conversation and No Laughing Matter. You can also learn how to tackle discrimination or bullying with our articles.

What are you reading for Black History Month? Is your organization doing anything to mark it? Let us know in the Comments, below!

© Original artwork by Anna Montgomery.

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