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Black History Month - What You Can Do

By Victoria Monari, Contributor

We can all do better and it starts by realising that BHM is about so much more than a single month - 

This BHM is especially crucial as it is right after the racial outcry and resurgence we had this year ; fashion brands and fashion consumers alike must act. This action must go beyond posting your obligatory Black square over the summer. These are a few ways you as a consumer and or a brand can get actively involved this Black History Month. October which is BHM for the United Kingdom, has usually been used as a token month for people to briefly and superficially highlight issues of racial injustice and then continue the rest of the year with rose tinted glasses. Most non-Black individuals are unaware that although BHM may be over for them personally being Black does not fade for Black individuals; once the 31st of October comes upon them or upon me. The problems associated with being Black will still persist come Nov 1st 2020.

So I’m writing this article in a sense to protest the concept BHM; and to urge my white counterparts to let it not just linger as a 30 day event where you get to feel pity for a moment and move on. To be a useful ally is to realise we need to do much more than just dedicate one month. Here are a few ways to start for now.

CAUSE THE CHANGE FROM WITHIN: 

 This may involve getting more Black influencers sponsored by big brands or getting Black freelancers Involved in regular contribution to big publications. An interesting way I have personally observed non-Black influencers and celebrities being a source of education is giving up their instagram and massive following, to another Black public figure to raise their own profile within the industry. A recent brilliant example of this was Kourtney Kardashian lending her instagram with the massive following of 102 MILL, to British Vogue publishing director Vanessa Kingori, thus giving her the chance to take centre stage and raise her profile in the mean time. holding diversity and inclusion meetings, led by a person of colour. These diversity and inclusion meetings would be safe space for people within the big fashion and retail companies for those affected to talk about their personal experiences of prejudice, and positive change can come about.

BUYING BLACK: 

 Buying Black can mean many things it may mean investing in Black lives, Black businesses and Black fashion. During the BLM resurgence this summer; people rushed to donate to bail funds raising millions. Although this is definitely a way of investing in Black lives, a lot of it initially felt like a way to pacify 400 years of white guilt and It must go beyond performative ally-ship. An active way of buying black would be seeking out Black owned fashion brands, going to Black owned book stores and eating in Black owned restaurants. These are a few ways to which you would actively know that the money is going straight back into the pockets of a Black trader. Some great fashion brands to invest in based in the US and UK are TELFAR, Wales Bonner, Christopher John Rodgers, Bianca Saunders, and Eastwood Danso. This is not an exhaustive list of course as Black fashion has exploded in the last couple of years. Black designers being more and more sought after when it comes to dressing the big names. If you’re around London this Autumn and are looking for Black owned businesses to invest in; the Youth empowerment organisation known as “My Runway Group” have set up a pop-up on Carnaby street with over 50 Black owned businesses ranging from hair (Afroani Hair Love), sanitary products (Calico Fibre), lingerie (Nubian Skin) and even reusable bottles (8.7 LIVING) . My Runway group’s pop up is especially unique as it is open up until the end of the year; unlike the government’s banal efforts at painting post boxes Black to celebrate BHM and Black lives; this pop up is much more than just a brief moment. It is an effective grassroots that is benefitting all POC involved. 

EDUCATE YOURSELF:

This involves active pursuit of information. If you’re a non-black person it is not enough for you to expect your black counter parts to educate you on what Black history month is, why it is needed and how to get involved. Information is now freer than ever, the internet has a wealth of info on how you can get involved. Reading this article itself is a source of seeking out that type of information. There is also a wealth of anti racism reading material, articles or even podcasts to listen to. A great place to start would be Remi Eddo Lodge’s “Why i’m no longer talking to white people about race.” or "So You Want to Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo. Let's face it. There is no perfect way to do Black History Month; however the most ignorant and naive thing would be to think that these practices have to be confined in the space of one month. When most people like me, are Black all year round. 

ATTEND THE EVENT: 

On the 12th of November we will be hosting a panel discussion with Black Directory UK to round off Black History Month and to celebrate Black owned businesses. This evening will focus on inspiration and empowerment. Hear the conversations from small business owners from a variety of industries including music, creative and tech - drawing on their own experiences and what drives them to make a positive impact. This will also be a networking opportunity and fun drinks evening to connect and have key conversations around important subjects.

The conversation will be based around navigating as a black person in the working world: common micro-aggressions in the workplace, hair politics, unconscious bias from colleagues etc. With also the possibility of touching on the under representation of black people in senior positions. 

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