October is Black History Month and celebrating the achievements of the black community is a key part of this. We want to kick off this celebration by highlighting a few members of the community who have made some enormous contributions to our lives.
Born into enslavement in Bermuda, Mary Prince went on to write one of the central texts to the British abolitionist movement. Written at a time when slavery was still legal in Britain itself The History of Mary Prince detailed the brutalities and hardships she experienced in vivid detail. After coming to London she found many White British people in a state of delusion regarding the lives of slaves in the colonies. Her direct and personal prose painted a truthful picture which shattered these delusions. A permanent tribute to her exists at the University of London, the parent university of King’s, in Bloomsbury.
Wilfred Wood became the first black bishop in the Church of England in 1985 when he became Bishop of Croydon. Not only did his appointment break new ground, he used his position to tirelessly push for racial justice both within the church and across society. He worked at all levels to improve race relations throughout his life, with his activities ranging from direct work to improve the welfare of vulnerable young people to directly advising government.
Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett
The only person on our list without an affiliation to London, Corbett has nonetheless contributed massively to our lives. The global effort to produce a COVID-19 vaccine has allowed in-person teaching to resume on campus this academic year. While this effort included a vast network of individuals, few can claim such a contribution as Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. Already leading a dazzling academic career, she rose to public prominence as a central figure in the development of the Moderna vaccine.
When Diane Abbott was elected to parliament in 1987 representing Hackney North and Stoke Newington she became the first ever black woman to serve as an MP. Since then she has campaigned with undeterred vigor for a more equal Britain in the face of significant prejudice. Born in Paddington to Jamaican parents, few would have expected her to go on to Cambridge and then to command one of the largest majorities in parliament. Her contributions to British politics have drawn praise from all corners, even from conservative outlets such as The Spectator.
Since Croydon-born Stormzy’s debut EP was released in 2014 he has had an incredible impact on modern British culture. His music continues to receive wide-spread adulation from critics as well as numerous awards, while his sales figures make him one of the most popular artists in the country. Beyond his music, he is one of the most recognisable figures in the continued fight against injustice and inequality. He puts his media profile to use in order to highlight pressing issues, while also committing to donate £10 million to British charities and causes.
Inspired by her experience of decolonization work in New Zealand, south-Londoner Lavinya Stennett developed the Black Curriculum to ensure British schools properly educate children about black British history. The Bristol and SOAS graduate is working to change the current state of the school curriculum where British Black History is little more than a footnote. Running pilot sessions and working with schools her organisation is now making tangible steps towards a curriculum that is more representative of modern British society.