Black History Month takes place every October. It has been celebrated in the UK for over 30 years now.
People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been left underrepresented for decades.
As a result of this, October has been dedicated to spreading awareness of contributions people from African and Caribbean nationalities have done throughout time.
At first this month began just including only the history of African and Caribbean backgrounds but has now expanded to all black history.
Where did Black History Month originate?
Black History Month originated as Negro History Week in 1926 in Virginia, USA. Carter G Woodson sent out a press release to begin the first Black History Week.
Once the event gained attention it expanded into a month. In 1976 the government designated February as Black History Month in the US.
The month differs from the UK as it is celebrated in October. This is only because it was first celebrated in 1987, tying in with the African Jubilee Year. A year in which:
- local and national government had to recognise the contributions of Africans to the cultural, economic and political life of London and the UK
- authorities to implement their duties under the then Race Relations Act 1976 and to intensify their support against apartheid
- was a call to action for authorities to support and continue the process of naming monuments, parks and buildings reflecting the contributions of historical and contemporary heroes of African descent thus giving positive affirmation to children and young people identity and self-worth.
What is happening in Black History Month 2021?
As a direct inspiration from the Black Lives Matter events in 2020. The campaign this year is named “Proud to Be”.
This allows the campaign to include black people, and black people from LGTBQ+ sexual orientations.
A list of the events that have happened this month were:
- Birmingham, 9-29 October: COBO: Comedy Shutdown – Black History Month Special
- Glasgow, 12 October: The Great Black History Month Quiz Night
- Manchester, 29 October: Culture Kitchen – Celebrating Black History Month through Cuisine
- London, 3 October: Black History River Cruise exploring thousands of years of African and Caribbean history, with line-up of historical speakers
- London, 4-29 October: Zari Gallery’s Honour, Remember, Inspire exhibition
Black History Month in Engineering
As well as other key events like highlighting the top 100 women in Engineering or having careers of their own.
The Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers are hosting a virtual show allowing students from BAME backgrounds to listen to professional engineers from different fields experiences.
This takes place on the 29th of October and is a great opportunity to expand student’s networks!
Last year Royal Academy of Engineering launched a campaign aimed at delivering fellowship fit for the future intime for Academy’s 50th Anniversary in 2026. They looked for candidates who were from,
- “Underrepresented groups, like female, Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic, LGBTQ+ and disabled engineers.
- Have come into engineering via vocational and non-traditional routes.
- Are achieving excellence at an earlier career stage than is typical.
- Work in emerging technologies and new industries, including areas that are important to address major societal challenges.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering have also created their Engineering Engagement Programme.
This is aimed at attracting undergraduates and recent graduates from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career in Engineering.
Royal Academy of Engineering states that the engineering workforce is 92% male and 94% white.
It hopes that positively impact the situation by engaging ethnic minorities and social disadvantaged undergraduates on relevant degree courses.
Hamilton Commission’s Report
The Hamilton Commission began research over a period of ten months.
They created a report ‘identifying the key barriers to recruitment and progression of black people in the UK motorsport.’
Only 1% of employees in Formula 1 are from Black backgrounds. This can be due to numerous reasons such as:
- Hiring practices in motorsport teams favouring students from high-ranking universities.
- Geographical factors discouraging black students to travel to work experience placements.
- Lower expectations of Black student’s academic abilities due to lower entries to STEM courses.
- The lack of Black role models in STEM.
EqualEngineers’ Stance on Black History
Last year a blog post was created for EqualEngineers on the numerous barriers BAME students face starting an engineering career.
The guest author Ash Kala states, ‘The UK Government’s statistics on the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country, sorted by ethnicity, reveal that Asian and Black ethnic minorities create the bulk of the population in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK’
These barriers can be overcome with solutions such as:
- A fund destined to children at risk of school exclusion,
- Apprenticeship schemes that specifically target BAME students
- The power of reverse mentoring.
The Pathways Programme
We at EqualEngineers are also doing our part!
EqualEngineers director Mark McBride-Wright created the Pathways Programme.
This programme lasts 12 months, created specifically to target students from underrepresented groups such as BAME, LGBTQ+, and female students.
The Pathways Programme includes:
- A mentoring programme pairing up engineers from industry with engineering students.
- In person careers insights and employability workshop sessions.
- An online programme supporting students on work readiness and employability and skills development.
- Work experience opportunities such as placements, internships and graduate opportunities.