How Sheffield has celebrated Black History month over the years

October marks Black History month and since 1997 the celebration has sought to provide opportunities for people in Sheffield to learn about Black history, celebrate diversity and promote racial equality.

Thursday, 1st October 2020, 10:10 am

Although many events have taken place across the city for Black History month over the years, it was not until 2017 that Sheffield had its own Black History Festival.

MELANIN FEST is run by Our Mel, a not for profit group, which is dedicated to exploring cultural identity, Black history and what it means to be a person of colour in Britain today.

It says: “We recognise that black history is a history interconnected and so is not limited to a month or a time but has its roots interwoven within stories of pain, struggle, strength and beauty.

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Luganda Sibandar demonstrates Caribbean drums to pupils of Springfield School during the Afro-Caribbean Festival, February 1995.

“MELANIN FEST creates a space to showcase talent, discover what it means to be Black and British, explore a rich and vibrant culture and be proud of a deep and vast heritage.”

Records show that the first group of Black African and Caribbean immigrants came to London on The Empire Windrush in 1948.

Many individuals settled in Sheffield in the 50s and 60s to take up employment following a labour shortfall after the Second World War.

However, settling into a new city and a new country was not easy for some who experienced prejudice, as was reported in editions of the local press in the early 50s.

Game of dominoes at the launch of the third phase of an appeal to complete a Day Care Service for the Elderly and Disabled People, African Caribbean Enterprise Centre, Wicker - June 1996.

An example headline in the Sheffield Telegraph, February 28, 1952, read ‘Rule introduced by the Cutlers Company that ‘coloured people’ must take partners to dances in the Cutlers Hall’.

Now considered a highly offensive racial slur by some individuals today, most would describe ‘Black’ as being an acceptable term and which is more commonly used to celebrate the communities being represented in Black History month.

Our Mel uses music, film and arts to encourage and educate the Sheffield community about Black history.

Sheffield’s two universities also hold annual events throughout the month, including film screenings and guest speakers.

Second Year Celebrations for the Nursery, African Caribbean Centre, Wicker - April 1994.

Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA) is also a community hub for events too.

Developed from the West Indies Association in early 1955, a dedicated first generation African and Caribbean member of the community realised the social and family needs of the African and Caribbean community at the time and set up the group.

Over the years, SADACCA has supported members of the community in different ways, including its own library, The Library of Life - formerly Basil Griffith library - which offers a wide range of resources to anyone wanting to learn about Black history.

With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining more attention recently, organisations have pledged to celebrate more of Black History.

African Caribbean Carnival in September, 1993.

Last year, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue held an exhibition to celebrate their Black colleagues and to inspire future firefighters.

With Covid-19 restrictions in place this year, there may not be the usual festival kind of celebration but events may be held online instead.

More details on Sheffield’s Black History month events will follow.

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SADACCA on The Wicker in the 80s or 90s.