This week we'll be hearing from more voices at York and thinking about how we can continue striving to make the world a fairer and more diverse place.

The Black Lives Matter protests that happened this year sought to remind many that racism was not a thing of the past. We may think that the world, the UK and our society have come a long way since some of the historical periods we've discussed over this month, but there's still work to be done.

We've invited back YUSU BAME Officers Fiks and Simi as well as York alumi Vanessa to say what they think are the most important steps in moving forward:

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One of our Access and Outreach Officers Laura had the fantastic opportunity to interview Dr Gurnam Singh, current Associate Professor of Attainment and previous Associate Professor of Social Work at Coventry University.

His expertise and research interests include race, racism, critical pedagogy, social inclusion, educational disparities, critical social work and higher education development. He describes himself as an academic activist in that what inspires him in both teaching and research is the desire to transform individuals and society. 

Hear what Gurnam's got to say about the state of the UK curriculum, inclusiveness in reference to online learning and what steps can be taken in moving forward.

We've also got a short video from Kate Arnold, the Dean of York Graduate Research School, explaining what Black History Month means to her and what steps she's planning to take in the future to increase diversity.

Black History highlight - the Haitian revolution

The Haitian revolution (1791 to 1804) has been forgotten by many history books. It stands out among the many historic slave rebellions as one of the few successful revolts that led to freedom and independence and challenged the long held narrative of the time that African slaves were docile and submissive to their status as slaves as dictated by White Europeans. By turning the former French colony into a nation of self-freed slaves, the revolution shocked Europe and sent ripples of uncertainty to other empires.

Haiti had a history of slave rebellions and many happened before 1791- however in August that year a former slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture led a number of 500,000 enslaved rebels against 40,000 white planters. This left 24,000 of the planters killed and, despite the rebels’ strength in numbers, 100,000 of the slaves were killed as well.

Now former slaves, L’Ouverture’s forces managed to defeat both the French and British forces who arrived in 1793 to conquer the colony and place the Haitians back into chains. In 1798, after several defeats, the British and the French eventually withdrew. When Napoleon Bonaparte became the ruler of France after the French Revolution he sent troops to restore French rule and slavery and also ordered the capture of L’Ouverture. L’Ouverture was sent to France, where he died in prison in 1803.

This was not the end for the Haitian revolutionaries: as Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of L’Ouverture’s generals (and former slave himself), led the revolutionaries in the Battle of Vertieres and defeated the French forces in November 1803. 

On January 1 1804 Dessalines declared the independence of the nation and renamed it Haiti. Haiti emerged and still stands as the first post-colonial Black-led republic in the world, the second nation in the West to win its independence from the Europeans after the USA and the only nation whose independence was secured after a successful slave rebellion.

Provided by the University of York History Society

Jean-Jacques Dessalines

Read, watch and listen

Check out these resources to help educate yourself about Black History:

  • Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. A charged and necessary wake-up call to pervasive, institutionalised racism, Eddo-Lodge reconstitutes the frame of the argument around race, removing it from the hands of those with little experience of its impacts.
  • Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala. Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, sexual objectification and the far right, Akala speaks directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Inspired by real events, this is a story about a young girl’s best friend who is shot by a police officer in the USA. She knows the truth of what happened and as she faces intimidation and national media attention, she struggles to know what to do.
  • Black is the New Black (BBC iPlayer). Exceptional figures from politics, business, sport, culture, religion and science share their insights into being Black and British today, how they got where they are and their thoughts on what the future holds.
  • Black Panther. Marvel's superhero blockbuster focuses on the leader of the fictional African nation of Wakanda with access to advanced technology who fights to protect his nation. Breaking box office records upon its release it serves as an inspiration to many people across the world for the largely Black cast alongside its themes of racism and colonisation.
  • Black History Matters with Don John (YouTube). Don John is a filmmaker, author, DJ and well as a pioneer in the development of race and diversity issues across the southern region for over 30 years. He was the founder and coordinator of Black History Month in Southampton over more than 20 years.
  • About Race podcast. Hosted by Reni Edoo-Lodge this podcast seeks to take the conversation started by her book even further. Featuring key voices from the last few decades of anti-racist activism Edoo-Lodge dives into the recent history that lead to the politics of today.
  • Black Scot PodTwo Black Scottish girls having some much needed conversations and redefining what it means to be Black and Scottish, to be a woman of colour, and everything in between!

Contact us

Access and Outreach
+44 (0)1904 323529