By Beverley Glean MBE
CEO and Artistic Director of IRIE! dance theatre
I have a mantra: ‘Black History lives at IRIE! dance theatre’. Eleven years after it was founded in the USA, Black History Month (BHM) was launched in London in October 1987. The aim was for local communities to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about history that was not taught in schools. There is a school of thought that Black History is all our histories. Regardless of what you believe, it is undeniable that the history of black people is an integral part of the fabric of the UK. This BHM IRIE! will celebrate with a Children and Young People’s (CYP) programme funded by National Lottery Community Fund. Entitled COVID-Connect! the programme is designed to support local CYP and their parents in preparation for returning to school. Delivered face to face and remotely they will access general studies, black history, dance and drumming & percussion. In light of the challenges faced by young people during the lockdown period our aim is to encourage them to embrace and celebrate what makes us more similar than different.
2020 is particularly poignant, when the aim of 1987 is considered. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA in May 2020 fuelled the Black Live’s Matter movement (in which IRIE! stands in solidarity) all over the world giving rise to demonstrations, conversations and calls to action against racism and inequality. While there is still a long way to go in dismantling the systems that make BHM a necessary calendar activity in our society, we at IRIE! are hopeful that through the many voices, particularly of young people, they will be heard clearly that their lives matter!