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The Future is Ours: Afrofuturism in the AIU Centre

By Hattie

As part of Black History Month 2019, we hosted an event with writer, poet, and director Elmi Ali called ‘The Afrofuturist Toolkit’. During the workshop the participants explored the theories behind Afrofuturism and created some of their own work envisioning the future of society. Ali’s overarching message was that Afrofuturism can take any form and is all around us, demanding a space in the future for Black people defined by themselves. “It looks to the past to define and make sense of the future.” According to Ali, ‘ism’ can be understood to mean “how something could be”.

Events and Activities

Sketching for Black History Month

By Hannah

This post is a bit overdue, but back in October we teamed up with the BAME Staff Network at the University of Manchester to run a speaker and discussion event titled ’30 Years of Black History Month: Where are we now?’ You can read a report of the event from Berrisford Edwards, of the BAME Staff Network, below.

We commissioned artist Paul Gent to document the discussion. Looking through his sketches this afternoon has reminded me of just how intense and wide-ranging the discussion was that day, intensified by the noise of protesters outside the window, picketing the Conservative Party conference that was happening just over the road at the time.

Click on the images for a closer look…


Event report by Berrisford Edwards (originally published on the University of Manchester Library’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion blog)

I had the pleasure of attending the (now) annual Black History Month Event hosted by the University of Manchester Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Staff Network.  This year saw a collaboration between the BAME Staff Network and the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre (AIURRRC); and the event was held at the home of the AIURRRC – Manchester Central Library.

The event – titled “30 Years of Black History Month: Where are we now” started with registration, buffet lunch and networking from 12:30-13:00 and was very well attended notably by non-University affiliated individuals and organisations.  Georgina Lewis – Co-chair of the University BAME Staff network alongside Dr Claire Fox – Academic Director for the AIURRRC gave a brief introduction.  The welcome was then given by Prof James Thompson – Vice President for Social Responsibility at the University of Manchester.  Dr Kehinde Andrews – Associate Professor of Sociology at Birmingham City University was the keynote speaker.  He gave a thought-provoking view and analysis of Black History and Black History Month from the perspective of both the University and the “Mother State”.  This was followed by an engaging question and answer session.

After a short break, a panel discussion, chaired by Dr Hema Radhakrishnan – Associate Dean for Social Responsibility at the University of Manchester was had.  Panellists were:  Elizabeth Cameron – North West Region’s Black Members Committee Unison Chair, Atiha Chaudry – Greater Manchester BME Network Chair, Deej Malik-Johnson – University of Manchester Students’ Union, Patrick Johnson – Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Manchester and Wilf Sullivan – TUC Race Equality Officer.  A riveting and engaging session of question and answers ensued, which had to be abruptly terminated in the interest of time.  Prof. Claire Alexander – Director of Social Responsibility for the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester gave the closing remarks.

There were exhibitions from the AIURRRC, the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), the LGBT foundation, as well as promotional material from other bodies; and representatives from across Higher Education Institutions, the public and private sector.  The event was live tweeted using the hashtag: #UoMBHM30, photographed and curated by well-known documentary artist – Paul Gent.


Lewis Toumazou kindly photographed the event for us, read his reflections and see the photos here .

Great Lives Our library

Carter G Woodson: The Father of Black History

Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history – Carter G Woodson

Manchester is gearing up for Black History Month (BHM) in October – take a look at the programme of events happening across the city on the BHMGM website. Out of our own events this year I’m especially excited about The Different Voices of Nina Simone poetry workshop and You Hide Me: African Art in British Museums film screening.

Although BHM has a distinctly cultural flavour, it has always been about education. Back in 1987 Akyaaba Addai-Sebo explained that October had been chosen as the UK’s BHM because in Africa it is traditionally a time of plenty, of reconciliation and of bequeathing wealth and knowledge to the next generation. This coincides nicely with the start of the British school year, when children’s ‘minds are refreshed and revitalised, so they can take in a lot of instruction’. Quite right.

Source: David from Washington, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Source: David from Washington, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The education of children was at the heart of the work of Carter G Woodson (1875 – 1950), the so-called ‘Father of Black History’ and founder of Negro History Week, the precursor to today’s US and UK Black History Months.

Great Lives

Phenomenal Woman: Celebrating the life of Maya Angelou with poetry

In this post our resident wordsmith / Audience Development Officer Angela reflects on our recent Maya Angelou-inspired poetry event.

(This post was originally published on the Young Person’s University of Manchester blog.)

“Write for 5 minutes without stopping”, she said, and the stopwatch started. Easy-peasy, I thought. I can certainly talk for 5 minutes without stopping. The paper began to fill with my ramblings, but as the minutes ticked on my wrist started to ache and my brain began to freeze. I glanced around the table at the other workshop participants, each lost in his or her own thoughts and writing. They were a diverse group, in age, race and gender, brought together by one woman’s words.

Thinking about collections

Archives, history and Black footprints

There is a tendency to see the history of Black people in Britain as a 20th Century history, and certainly the post-war period saw a large number of West Indian (not to mention African, Asian, European) migrants arrive here, what we call the ‘Windrush Generation’.  And this period is the focus of our own archive – a repository for recent histories and living memories.

But a trip to the Lancashire Archives (for a CILIP Black History day school) has really put this into perspective for me.

Book Reviews Great Lives Roving Reader

Basil Davidson and African Elephant Book no 5

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

So here we are. It’s Black History Month. It’s 50 years since the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.  It’s 50 years (give or take a few) since many African countries gained independence.  So why, I hear you ask, talk about a dead white guy?

Well, Basil Davidson is no ordinary dead white guy (if any dead white guy is ordinary).  Writer, activist, spy, guerrilla fighter, academic, great explorer, media star – you name it, he did it. Without him would there have been any Black History Month as we know it today? Now there’s a question.