What Black History Month means to Derby’s Black community

We spoke to several local residents about what the month means to them

Black History Month is celebrated across the country throughout the month of October, recognising the culture and achievements made by those of Black heritage over the years.

Derby’s Black community have achieved many things over the years, despite the challenges they may face.

Some members of the Black community have shared with us what the month means to them.

Donna Briscoe-Green is the landlady of the Maypole on Brook Street, Derby.

Originally, Donna was discouraged from pursuing a career in Derby because of a lack of opportunities for Black people in the city.

She said: “I moved out of Derby because there wasn’t enough of a cultural offer, there was some but not enough to go around.

“There wasn’t enough available to me as a Black actress or a Black singer.

“Now, there’s some new Black-owned businesses coming up in Derby that are younger and more vibrant which is what we need.”

“The older generation are getting tired and feel like they can’t continue in trying to amplify the voice.

“The younger generation also are a lot more ready to take risks after Black Lives Matter and realised we needed a voice and representation.”

She believes that Black History Month is vital in order to protect the heritage and culture of Derby’s Black community.

She said: “To have a month where we can feel seen and enabled, to amplify our voices without judgement, I’ll take it.

“My heritage is not a weapon to be used in a negative, it’s just who I am. I’m happy to be my mother’s daughter and my father’s daughter, but it offends because my culture may not be the same.

“People who get it and talk about it to death this month, I’ll welcome it.”

Cecile Wright, Chair of Derby Black Lives Matter and a professor at the University of Nottingham, explained how important she believes it is to recognise the month.

She added that the events of the past year surrounding the death of George Floyd has made it more important than ever.

She said: “Last year globally, nationally, locally, in addition to the pandemic we saw another crisis that happened which was the death of George Floyd.

“The way it happened, the outcome, highlighted in a stark way the scourge of racism, racial prejudice and racial discrimination, and it’s impact on all societies.

“Black History Month was a way to highlight the Black people in the community and how they came to be here.

“It’s a history that has been a painful one, born out of colonialism, imperialism and slavery.”

As the Chair of Derby Black Lives Matter, she has helped organise some of this year’s events across the county.

She believes it is vital to celebrate Derby’s Black community and to protect and celebrate their culture.

She added: “It’s about celebrating the enormous contribution that people of that demographic make to this country.

“They came and helped build major sectors and made enormous contributions to the cultural industry, and it’s about recognising that.

“We need to celebrate the achievements of Black people in this country and beyond, many people of Black heritage and descent have achieved.

“We have to recognise the history, the contribution and the achievements of these people.”

Monique Murphy, from Allenton, who owns a hair and beauty salon specialising in Afro-Caribbean type hair, also shared her views on the month.

She first set up her business, Monique Hair and Beauty, a year ago and was immediately popular with customers who wanted a hair stylist who specialised in braiding.

Monique set up her own business during the pandemic last year. (Image: Monique Murphy)

She believes Black History Month is about celebrating her culture and the sacrifices of those that came before us.

She said: “Black History Month to me is appreciating and recognising the positive impact of black people in the world and remembering those who came before us who made it possible to have the freedom we have today.

“I think it’s important we recognise Black History Month to shine a light on what black people have faced in the past whilst also acknowledging how far we’ve come as a community. It brings people together.

“But, I do think Derby needs more Black-owned businesses.

“I think Derby is full of great black-owned businesses that probably don’t get the recognition they deserve.”

“I do think we have made improvements over the years to support black owned companies but we still have a long way to go.”