The University of Westminster is celebrating its first academic year of the Black History Year (BHY) initiative, a programme of events, talks and a blog to recognise Black histories which was initially launched in October 2020.

The Black History Year steering group came together in June 2020 to plan for Black History Month in October, but it became clear as their plans developed that Black history should not be relegated to a single month of recognition. As a result, the group comprised of Westminster’s BME colleagues, allies and the Students’ Union, continued their work across the academic year through a continuous stream of events, stories and initiatives that reflect the richness of Westminster and beyond. As a result of the initiative, the University has been commended by several institutions and individuals for taking a bold and sustained approach to recognising our diverse histories.

Throughout the academic year, the Black History Year steering group has developed and presented many events covering a wide range of topics. These include a talk on mental health in Black men, a discussion with British activist Leila Hassan-Howe, and a screening of Chocolate Babies in partnership with the Queer London Research Forum.

The group closed their programme with a final event titled ‘Politically Black’, which investigated the involvement of Black people at the sharp end of politics. During the event, two Westminster alumni Princess Bright, Councillor for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and James Beckles, Councillor for the London Borough of Newham, discussed their roles in shaping the political sphere with Professor Dibyesh Anand, Professor of Politics and International Relations. They also offered advice on ways to navigate and influence both local and central government policies that have direct effects on the wider population.

Reflecting on the past year, Dr Deborah Husbands, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, said: “It was a pleasure to work with such a committed and diverse group to shape this series. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a challenging endeavour, but everyone involved signed up to making this a success. The result was a plethora of ideas, creativity and energy that show what Westminster can do when we work collaboratively as academic and professional colleagues on a project. This is just the start of a fresh emphasis to recognise important histories, stories and experiences at the University of Westminster.”

Find out more about the Black History Year programme.

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