October 2021 Editor’s Letter: How we’re celebrating Black History Month at HLN
We'll be taking a look at some of the North East's contributions to Black history and culture over the centuries and present. As well as celebrating the achievements of women of colour all month.
Proud To Be
Black History Month is here.
It’s now over one year since The Black Lives Matter protests resulted from the death of George Floyd, where hundreds of thousands of voices raising awareness of racial inequality were heard. This led to historic statues being taken down and names removed of people related to slavery, as well as celebrities, MPs and sportspeople taking the knee at current events to show that racism is not accepted.
But racism is, unfortunately, still present, with recent racial abuse towards our very own England football players in the Euros, police brutality still affecting Black people far more severely – and fatally – compared to many of their white counterparts, and modern slavery still happening.
That’s why celebrating Black History Month is so important, and I’m so pleased that High Life North can provide a platform for women in the North East to do this. The theme this year is ‘Proud To Be’ – encouraging us to celebrate who we are and to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture in their own words and way. Whilst also focusing on how we’re all making history in our own way.
Here’s a little spoiler for you. Our Editorial team got the memo. They’ve prepared a month of inspiring interviews – from today’s Ngozi Ossai, a biomedical student providing products that help women with afro hair to embrace their natural weave, to founder of charity Teakisi – and friend of HLN – Salha Kaitesi. We’ll also be checking back in with MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Chi Onwurah after our chat with her last year, and we’ve got a fab Meet the Musician lined up with the super-talented Georgia May.
To kick things off, today we’ve taken a journey through the North East’s regional history and how it has impacted Black history and culture, from the abolishment of the Slave Trade through to how the recent Black Lives Matter movement affected our region.
We’ll hopefully see you at some of the events below – make sure you come and say hello!
It’s important to always look at both the good and the bad that came from our city and to remember that the North East wasn’t free from guilt when it came to slavery and the Slave Trade – the region still benefitted from it and participated when they used the produce created and procured by the Slave Trade, such as sugar, ginger and rum, and had many figures who encouraged and participated in it. However, the North East also has had a rich history of anti-slavery movements. The region has long been associated with the civil rights movement, with many civil rights figures passing through our city to help abolish slavery and create a more equal world.
The North East was known for pushing harder than almost any other region when abolishing the Slave Trade, both in the British Empire and across the seas in America. It even saw visits from famous activists and speakers like Martin Luther King. When the Black Lives Matter protests marched through the UK, many statues of Slave Traders were ripped down in protest of celebrating someone who caused so much harm. In Newcastle, extremists sought to protect Grey’s Monument, despite the fact the monument actually commemorates Earl Grey, who was a pivotal part of the fight against slavery. The North East does, in fact, have many famed streets and statues named after lobbyists for the abolishment of slavery, which solidify the North East’s position against racism.
Whether you were born and raised here in the North East or relocated here from further afield, it’s hard to walk through Newcastle without spotting Grey’s Monument. Earl Grey was commemorated by the monument, thanks in no small part to his impact on slavery abolition. During his time as Foreign Secretary, he abolished the Slave Trade in 1807, and between 1830-1834, whilst he served as Prime Minister of the UK, he put an end to the Slave Trade throughout the British Colonies in 1833.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Blackett Street, named after John Erasmus Blackett, who benefitted from being the Mayor of Newcastle four times over and served as an apprentice for one of Liverpool’s leading slave traders, George Cuncliffe, helping import rum produced by slaves. Thankfully, we can always count on the women of the North East to come through; the now-defunct Assembly Rooms were the site of female abolitionists’ boycott of slave-imported goods (such as tea and coffee), whilst the Lit and Phil hosted many anti-slavery meetings and campaigns.
In more recent times, 1967 saw arguably one of the most prolific civil rights activists, Dr Martin Luther King, arrive in the city, after Newcastle University gave him an honorary degree, becoming the only city in the UK to do so during his lifetime. Following this honour, King gave an impromptu and passionate speech – his last outside of America before his assassination. There is now a statue found outside the university to commemorate King and his incredible work, erected to mark the 50thanniversary of his visit.
The Angelou Centre
This charity is one of the North East’s few remaining black-led organisations, designed to offer support and safety for Black and minoritised women, including accommodation, employment training and physical and emotional wellbeing support. Keeping charities like this running and funded is so important to continually ensure the women in our communities have the resources and backing needed to thrive.Find Out More
Saturday 16 October – 2.30pm – 5.00pm
Blogger Salha Kaitesi began her blog, Teakisi, to empower and connect the voices of African women in the North East communities and provide them with the space to unite and support each other. Wanting to create conversations amongst the community to highlight their shared and individual experiences with discrimination, she always wishes to highlight the intersection of sexism and racism that black women reside in and open up the conversation to incite greater change.
This month Salha is hosting her third annual Teakisi Woman Talk conference, which allows black women and the general public to talk about topics that really matter to them – however uncomfortable they may be. This year’s theme is ‘Community and Connectivity: Bridging The Digital Divide’, which explores how technology is now vital in our lives, which was shown especially in the pandemic, and how many families in the African and minoritised communities, these digital necessities are not as readily available to them.Book Tickets
North East Women In Soul Music at Hoochie Coochie
Thursday 28 October – 6.00pm
This Black History Month, Hoochie Coochie are proud to present the very best of female current, upcoming soul artists based in the North East, featuring: Georgia May, Kate Bond, Phibi, Fallu and Frankie Jobling.
We are delighted to see the lovely Georgia May, soulful vocalist born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne with Nigerian roots, perform. Her breathtaking voice is defined by soothing timbres exposing contrasting emotions of lust and heartache, with a poetic lyrical narrative. Heavily influenced by 90’s hip hop, RnB and acoustic soul, Georgia’s captivating vocals are complimented by Daps on keys, Glen Smiley on Bass and Lloyd Kroft on Drums, bringing live instrumental flavour from their gospel and jazz influences.Book Tickets