Autumn Voices celebrates Black History Month 2021

* This blog post is intended as a very broad starting point for our older white audience members who are keen to learn how they can be an ally, and as an act of solidarity with older Black people, who we very much hope to welcome to the Autumn Voices community. It was written by a white Autumn Voices staff member. The word ‘we’ is largely intended to mean ‘we at Autumn Voices’ but could mean the broader ‘we’. 

Autumn Voices, like many other organisations and communities around the UK, takes some extra time every October to reflect on how we can support, celebrate and honour Black Britons. This can take many forms. We can participate in activism and stand in solidarity against racism and hate crime. We can learn about Black history and cultures and educate ourselves about structural racism and the systemic ways in which Black people are excluded, marginalised, or erased from history. We can become more fluent in inclusive language. 

We can also look inwardly. It’s easy to hop on social media and use a well-timed hashtag, but we need to consider these issues all year around and not just in October. We should understand the difference between tokenism and meaningful change. We should know what genuine inclusion is and not settle for the bare minimum and long-overdue steps. We need to be able to admit any mistakes we make and learn from them and be able to say things about ourselves that are perhaps uncomfortable to admit.

At Autumn Voices we are working to expand our online community, staff and Steering Group to connect with people aged over 60 who share our inclusive values and want to join us. We are aware that as a community for older people, it might feel natural to assume that such values and mindsets are less prevalent here. It’s our job to persuade you otherwise, and so we continue our own ongoing learning process by sharing some useful signposting with you, as we try to help our online community grow and welcome new members.

Over the course of October, you’ll see us posting some specially themed content to celebrate Black History Month and the achievements, innovations and contributions of Black Britons aged 60 and over. We’ll be working with and reaching out to Black people and people of colour aged 60 or over to publish more inclusive content year-round – not just for October. We strongly encourage you to spend time looking through the Black History Month website as it has an abundance of news, resources and profiles to read, educate and inspire.   

For now, here are some general pointers to get you started.

Allyship

Being a good ally is more than providing someone with a platform at an opportune juncture or standing next to someone while they are experiencing racism. It’s a long-term process involving trust and consistency. It’s about intersectionality when a person faces the trauma of prejudice for being a member of more than one marginalised community. It involves both our physical and digital worlds and our professional and personal spaces. It’s about being accountable for your own knowledge and learning to support a Black person or member of another marginalised community instead of expecting them to provide all the answers.

Useful links:
Books to read:
  • How To Be An AntiRacist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
  • Me And White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

White Privilege

We won’t fully explain white privilege to you here, because if you are a white person reading this, we hope that you understand the term and are mindful of what it means. We understand that white privilege means many things – one of them being that we’ve perhaps never had to properly examine our privilege or consider the true extent of it. It also means that it’s our turn to do the work, even if the work feels uncomfortable. If you need one, you can start with a definition here. It’s a long article and we encourage you to read it as fully as possible to consider all the different elements and implications.

Useful links:
Books to read:
  • White Privilege: The Myth Of A Post-Racial Society by Kalwant Bhopal
  • The Uncomfortable Truth About Racism by John Barnes

And these are good general lists:


Anti-Racism Charities

A great way to show solidarity with Black people in the UK (and around the world) is to donate money to charities that do excellent work around the following: combating racism, celebrating Black cultures and identities, supporting Black people with access to education and employment, providing financial support for Black businesses and initiatives, improving access for Black leadership, and profiling the intersectional needs and issues of older, working class, disabled or LGBTQ+ Black people.

Here are some charities you might like to add to your donation list:


Black-owned Businesses

Another excellent way to be a good ally is to support Black-owned businesses through your spending power. The profile and range of Black-owned businesses has sadly only been spotlighted very recently through the lens of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and they are often misunderstood to only sell products and services to Black people.

Here are some lists of UK Black-owned businesses that would love your support:


Supporting Older Black People

We’d be remiss if we didn’t have a section here for our target audience of older people aged over 60! We very much hope that any organisations, creative ventures or support services are as inclusive for older Black people as they are for any other demographic group, but we’d like to signpost some that you may not know about:


And finally …

We’ve only just scratched the surface here and know that there are things we haven’t talked about yet – like Black British writers, comedians, actors, artists, musicians, scientists, politicians and more. Or who to follow on Twitter, or what films to watch or novels to read. We’ll do some more of that next week. We also know there will be organisations and resources we may have missed or don’t yet know about: please get in touch and tell us; we’d love to hear from you and welcome you to our website.

We also want to hear about your stories – as older Black Britons or Scots. If you are aged 60 or over and you’d like to send a piece of writing to admin@autumnvoices.co.uk with the subject line ‘Proud To Be’, we’d be delighted to hear from you. You could send us a flash memoir, a short story, a poem, or a brief essay about you. While we are reaching out to a particular community in this blog post, we’d like to say that we don’t expect you to centre race as part of what you write. The subject matter is up to you.

At the end of October, we’ll pick our favourite piece, and its author will receive a copy of The Lamplighter and Trumpet by Scotland’s former Makar (National Poet), Jackie Kay. 

With love and solidarity,

Autumn Voices ✊🏿 🤎 🍂 🍁

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