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October marks Black History Month, and the University of Liverpool is proud once again to join the celebration of Black history, arts and culture throughout the UK. The theme this year is “Actions not Words”, emphasising the importance of being an ally and taking active steps to create a fairer and more racially just society.
To support this, the Diversity and Equality Team have created a month-long Racial Equity Challenge for staff; for each working day in October there will be a resource or activity to engage with, with the aim of further building and acting on anti-racist principles and skills.
The theme of Week 1 is Literature and Culture; we’ve caught up with Professor Dinah Birch to discuss the importance of celebrating Black art and culture:
In my 19 years at the University of Liverpool, I have taken great pride in working at the heart of such a culturally vibrant city. The University contributes greatly to the city’s cultural scene; with performances at the Tung auditorium, displays at the Victoria Gallery & Museum and, of course, discussions at our Literary Festival this weekend.
Liverpool also has the oldest Black community in Europe and, as this year’s Black History Month begins, I’m seeking out and reading books by Black authors; books which explore key themes in Black History to celebrate, learn from and support the Black community.
Reading a book may seem a very small action to take. But literature is a crucial tool to help us engage with one another, learn and understand different perspectives. It’s vital that we all discuss, share and amplify Black experiences, identities and voices to help us break down barriers of inequality, bias and stereotypes. Through broadening our understanding of issues, we can take active steps towards creating a fairer society.
Whether fiction or non-fiction, part of Black History Month is about recognising that all Black stories matter. That’s why, every week throughout Black History Month, our Diversity and Equality Team will be running a prize draw to allow our students and staff to win books which explore key themes in Black History. The titles on offer range from Peaces by award-winning Black British author Helen Oyeyemi, to David Olusoga’s Black and British – there really is something for everyone. Helen Oyeyemi’s brilliant short story ‘ “Sorry” doesn’t sweeten her tea’ is available for everyone to read in this year’s online ‘The Great Read’ anthology of short stories, which will be accessible with no charge all students and staff, and I do recommend it. You can download the anthology here.
There are events and activities taking place across the University and the city to help us engage with and understand Black culture and experience. This Saturday, I’m looking forward to hearing Malik Al Nasir, filmmaker, poet, author and graduate of the University of Liverpool discuss his memoir, Letters to Gil at the Liverpool Literary festival. There’s a full list of events here which will be updated regularly by the Diversity and Equality Team.
It’s so important to actively seek out literature by Black authors to broaden our knowledge, get different perspectives, and share in the joy that these works bring. Make sure you follow our @LivUniEquality account for ideas and inspiration – happy reading!
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Open Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm.