Borough Accused Of 'Watering Down' Black History Month

Council stands by Diversity Month introduced in 2014 to better reflect residents' heritage

Black History Month was first celebrated in the United Kingdom in 1987. It was organised through the leadership of Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, who had served as a coordinator of special projects for the Greater London Council (GLC) and created a collaboration to get it underway.

Local borough libraries have celebrated the month over the years with events for all age groups. However this month the event is being referred to as 'Diversity Month'. Labour Councillor Candida Jones told this website, "For the first time in Wandsworth, rather than focusing on the experiences of black residents, according to the “Better” website, this month will be a celebration of 'the many and varied experiences and cultures within our borough', including Polish, Indian, Spanish and Chinese as well as African and Caribbean cultures."

The rebranding exercise has also drawn criticism from representatives of the black community. Dawn Butler, Labour’s equality Shadow Equalities Minister, responded to the rebranding exercise by saying, “It is important that [Black History Month] remains focused on the contribution of African-Caribbean people. It makes a huge difference to hear black history spoken about positively.” Marsha deCordova, Battersea’s MP, described the decision as 'shameful'."

Cllr Maurice Mcleod

Wandsworth Labour Cllr Maurice Mcleod, one of only two black Councillors in Wandsworth, echoes these sentiments. He believes that in an ideal world, there would be no reason to celebrate Black History Month, because the history taught in schools would be representative of all cultures but, he says, “We do not live in an ideal world. In terms of the teaching of history in schools, the default power is the default story and that means the story of upper and middle-class white men, which is why Black History Month remains an important way for teachers to offer their children new ways of thinking about their past.”

Cllr Mcleod points to rising knife crime in the borough – and across London – which disproportionately impacts the black community, as an important reason why now is not the right time to dilute the message of Black History Month. “One of the factors in rising knife crime is a lack of self-worth generated at least in part by the absence of an alternative narrative. Without that alternative narrative, there is little wonder why young black kids feel erased – their experiences and their cultures are not being reflected in the good stuff that has happened – and by rebranding Black History Month that alienation will continue.”

He continues, “If Wandsworth were doing a great job at supporting the back community then it wouldn’t matter, but Wandsworth’s black community feels there is little for them in the borough. They feel marginalised by Wandsworth Council – it’s evident if you look at any part of civil society in the borough, from Residents Associations and the borough’s Residents’ Forum, to the Council itself where only two black councillors out of 60 are black; white men dominate all these structures.” According to the most recent census, 11% of Wandsworth’s population is black and 11% is of Asian origin.

The social commentator Patrick Vernon, who edits Black History Month magazine, told The Guardian newspaper this week that rebrandings of the event were “shameful”.

He said, “Black History Month was established 30 years ago because the black experience in Britain was not recognised in the national curriculum and in mainstream society. Unfortunately we do not live in a post-racial Britain. If we did, perhaps we would not need Black History Month.”

Cllr Mcleod sees a parallel in Wandsworth’s rebranding exercise with the changes that were made to the Commission for Racial Equality. The CRE was established in 1976 but disbanded in 2007 when its functions were taken over by the newly created Equality and Human Rights Commission. Mr Mcleod says, “If we don’t actively make sure that black voices are heard, our voices get lost – my fear is that by watering down Black History Month and rebranding it as Diversity Month, it will end up meaning less, or meaning nothing.”

A council spokesman said, “We are proud to celebrate the historical achievements and successes of all the diverse communities that make up our borough and who all contribute so much to life in our city.

“We continue to recognise and celebrate black history month with a large number of specific events, and while exploring black history remains the main focus of the many events being staged, there are also others that celebrate all the different faiths, ethnicities and cultures of other communities who also live in our borough.

“This is simply a name change that was made in 2014 which has not affected the wide-ranging celebration of black history but which is better able to reflect the 180 languages spoken in our schools, the fact that many cultures overlap and are shared, and that by celebrating diversity and inclusiveness in this way we hope to bring all our communities closer together.”

Events across the borough:
All events are free but booking is essential – please call or visit the hosting library to secure your place.

The full programme of events for adults and children is listed below.


Beautiful and intricate Henna (Mehendi) Workshop
Ayesha Hafeez and group
Saturday 6 October Tooting Library 12.30-2pm
Wednesday 10 October Putney Library 11am
Saturday 13 October Roehampton Library 11am
Monday 15 October Balham Library 11am
Henna is a form of body art from Ancient India, in which decorative designs are created on a person's body, using a paste, made from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. It is typically applied in the Indian sub continent and Asia during weddings - for brides and at most festivities, both by Hindus and Muslims alike. This workshop invites you to learn, discover and experiment with Henna.
Free – booking essential
Putney - 020 8780 3085
Roehampton - 020 8246 6979
Tooting - 020 8767 0543
Balham - 020 8673 1129

Journeys – Screening of the film
Stories of migration to South West London 1948-1971

Monday 8 October 6.30-8 pm
Battersea Library
A film made by young people from CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and children from Furzedown Primary School with arts and education charity digital:works
In 1948 the British Nationality Act was passed inviting people from the Commonwealth to come to the UK. In this film some of the people who made this journey tell their stories of leaving home to seek a new life in this corner of London. These are stories of excitement, hope and pain, the challenges of their journeys; setting up home; finding work; and going to school. Participants in the film will be present at the screening and they will join in a discussion on the themes brought out by the film.
Free - booking essential
020 7223 2334

1919: Riots, racism and resistance in Imperial Britain
Iqbal Husain and Michael Mahoney for The National Archives
Tuesday 9 October 6.30-8pm
Battersea Library
This talk and workshop is framed around the ‘race riots’ that took place in the UK in 1919 in various UK seaports such as Liverpool and Cardiff. Using copies of original documents from The National Archives, those attending will be able to explore more about what triggered the riots, what happened during the riots and what were the immediate impacts and on-going legacy. Learning about this period provides historical context on some topical issues that audiences will find interesting today.
Free - booking essential
020 7223 2334

My Journey – An evening of words and song
Brian Bertscher
Wednesday 10 October
6.30- 8pm Putney Library
Brian, a singer, dancer, ballet tutor and choreographer, tells the heart-warming story of his immigration, being raised in Berlin, living in Johannesburg and moving to London. Enjoy an evening of songs from Gershwin to Hollander, from Sondheim to De Curtis via the Royal ballet and Germany. He will be accompanied on the piano by Richard Calder.
Free – no need to book
020 8780 3085
Refreshments served.

Tracing Afro Caribbean Ancestry
Kathleen Chater
Friday 12 October 6.30-8pm
Battersea Library
It is often assumed that it is difficult or impossible to research Black ancestors in the former British colonies in the Caribbean. However there are many records in this country and increasingly online that can enable people to trace their family history.
Free - booking essential
020 7223 2334

Translating the richness of Polish literature
Antonia Lloyd Jones
Wednesday 17 October 7.15pm
Wandsworth Town Library
Join us on a whirlwind tour of modern Polish literature!
Come and meet translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones, who will introduce you to a selection of Polish writers and read short extracts from their recent work published in English translation. If you like racy thrillers, lyrical fiction, gripping true life stories, historical crime novels, moving poetry or amusing tales for children there will be something for you. Here's your chance to find out more about what your Polish friends are reading and to discover their amazingly diverse modern literature.
Free - booking essential
020 8877 1742

Celebrating London’s Women of Colour
Joyce Fraser & Pamela Yvonne Cole
Wednesday 17 October 6.30 – 8 pm
Battersea Library
An exciting and interactive event presented by the Black Heroes Foundation - Joyce Fraser FRSA with Pamela Yvonne-Cole, international singer, songwriter and host. It presents some amazing work in relation to Black Female Londoners of note, with open mic available for audience participation. The audience is invited to bring their spoken word or songs that they wish to share.
Free – booking essential
020 7223 2334

Untold Histories
Kathleen Chater
Friday 19 October 6.30-8pm
Earlsfield Library
Black people have been part of the British population for centuries, long before the Windrush generation. This is a whistle-stop tour from Roman Times to the World Wars in the 20th century, encompassing soldiers, sailors, servants, shopkeepers, students, escaped slaves and their myriad histories.
Free - booking essential
020 8946 2088

African headwrap workshop
Sylvia Emodi
Saturday 20 October 11am-1pm Battersea Library
Thursday 25 October 2-4 pm York Gardens Library
The richness of African textiles, the variety of materials, the combination of colours and its use as an expression of rituals, communication and art is something that is conventional as well as contemporary. Learn about African textiles with fashion designer and textile artist, Sylvia Emodi. As part of the session, the workshop will give you an opportunity to get practical with a range of craft techniques. Suitable for the entire family.
Free – booking essential
Battersea Library – 020 7223 2334
York Gardens – 020 7223 2341

South Asian fashion and food
Therese Rajadurai and group
Saturday 20 October 2-4pm
Tooting Library
The vibrant and colourful region of South Asia comprises of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. The richness of the region is seen in the clothing and the warmth is experienced in the food. A combination of both provides for an aesthetic and culinary treat embracing the wealth and elegance of this diverse community.
Free – no booking needed
020 8767 0543

Re-imaging Mother Goose through the ages
Exhibition by Andrea Anderson and talk by Ferelith Hordon
Wednesday 24 October 6.30 -8pm
Putney Library
This unique exhibition takes a personal look at a traditional children's classic - Mother Goose; the imaginary author of a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The exhibition by Andrea Anderson showcases a diverse and multicultural Mother Goose with children from mixed race heritage and immigrant communities. The talk by Ferelith Hordon centres on the beginnings and interesting history of this much loved character and its fascination for children and parents alike.
Free – book at the library
020 8780 3085

Know your herbs – workshop
Eureka Shabazz
Friday 26 October 2-4pm
Battersea Library
From ancient times, herbs have been known to have savoury, aromatic and medicinal properties. Herbs are easy to procure or grow, cost-effective and safe. This workshop will help you discover what herbs you can use for different medical conditions and beauty therapy.
This session invites every member of the family to come and discover the hidden treasures of herbs. What tried and tested herbs are used in your family? Share your stories and experiences with others.
Free – book at the library
020 7223 2334


Mother Goose through the Ages
Exhibition by Andrea Anderson and talk by Ferelith Hordon
Tuesday 2 October Battersea Library 11am
Get ready to get carried away into a land of animals, elves and amazing characters as you unravel the stories of its beginnings of your favourite nursery rhymes!
Free – booking essential
Battersea - 020 7223 2334

Black History Inventors Workshop by Ruth Edmondson
Tuesday 2 October Battersea Park Library 2pm
Wednesday 3 October York Gardens Library 2pm
Every-day we use things, often without wondering how they came to be. Join us at the Black History Inventors workshop and learn about some of the Inventors behind the things we use every-day.
Ruth Edmondson is a qualified Psychotherapist and Author She has created fun and interactive activity books, games and educational resources that are aimed at helping children discover more about black history.
Free - booking essential
Battersea Park 020 7720 4122
York Gardens 020 7223 2341

Fun crafts and story time
Wednesday 3 October Southfields Library 10.15am
Thursday 4 October Tooting Library 2pm
Friday 19 October Roehampton Library 11am
Friday 19 October Wandsworth Town Library 2pm
With Children’s Librarian Patrick.
Free – booking essential
Southfields - 020 8780 1945
Tooting - 020 8767 0543
Roehampton - 020 8246 6979
Wandsworth Town - 020 8877 1742

Spanish Story Time and singing with Anusca Aylagas-Lafuente
Thursday 4 October Putney Library 11am
Tuesday 9 October Tooting Library 4.30pm
Stories and songs in Spanish.
Free -no need to book
Putney Library -020 8780 3085
Tooting Library -020 8767 0543

Learning Mandarin and Calligraphy with Haiyun Rosa Wang
Friday 5 October Battersea Park 9.30am
Friday 12 October Balham 9.30am
Friday 19 October Northcote 9.30am
Mandarin is spoken by more than 730 million people in China, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Haiyun Rosa will teach you a few words in Mandarin and explain about calligraphy. You can then have a go at some lettering and designs yourself.
Free – booking essential
Battersea Park - 020 7720 4122
Balham - 020 8673 1129
Northcote - 020 7223 2336

Learn to make African masks – Melissa
Saturday 6 October Roehampton Library 11am
Saturday 6 October Wandsworth Town library 2pm
Saturday 13 October Earlsfield 11am-12pm
Unleash your creativity and have fun!
Free – booking essential
Roehampton - 020 8246 6979
Wandsworth Town - 020 8877 1742
Earlsfield - 020 8946 2088

French Singing With Marjorie
Tuesday 16 October Battersea Library 11am
Thursday 18 October Northcote Library 11am
30 minutes of French songs with Marjorie Guest
Free -no need to book.
Battersea -020 7223 2334
Northcote -020 223 2336

Handa's Surprise
Friday 19 October Battersea Park Library 2pm
Friday 19 October York Gardens Library 3.45pm
Come and join Librarian Amma Poku as she brings to life the delights of Handa’s Surprise and illustrates the cultural richness of Africa. For children aged 3–7
Free no need to book.
Battersea Park -020 7720 4122
York Gardens -020 7223 2341

What makes a mobile phone ring - workshop
Jacqueline Mwanza
Monday 22 October Balham Library 11am
Thursday 25 October Putney library 1pm
Story telling with singing and print making bringing to life the tale of a brother and sister from The Democratic Republic of Congo and how they discover what makes mobile phones ring. ​Suitable for ages 3-7
Free – booking essential
Balham - 020 8673 1129
Putney - 020 8780 3085

Indian block printing with Andrea Anderson
Tuesday 23 October Southfields Library 11am
Tuesday 23 October Wandsworth Town Library 3pm
Wednesday 24 October Balham Library 11am
Wednesday 24 October York Gardens Library 2pm
Bring a white tee shirt and get dressed to be messy! Suitable for ages 4+
Free – booking essential
Southfields - 020 8780 1945
Wandsworth Town -020 8877 1742
Balham - 020 8673 1129
York Gardens - 020 7233 2341

The Greatest African Heroes workshop
Jacqueline Mwanza
Tuesday 23 October Tooting Library 1pm
Thursday 25 October Putney Library 1pm
Create a comic strip inspired by Marvel's comic book heroes from Black Panther. With ready made templates and also cut out of real life African Icons (past and present) like Mandela or Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie, add your own dialogue to your very own epic saga! Ka Pow! Suitable for ages 8+
Free – booking essential
Tooting -020 8767 0543
Putney -020 8780 3085

Traditional tales from around the world
Tuesday 23 October 2.30-3.30pm
Tooting Library
With Children’s Librarian Heather
Free- no booking required
20 8767 0543

What colour is nude for you?
Jacqueline Mwanza
Wednesday 24 October 11am
Roehampton Library
The Nude Gallery is a collection of items that are deliberately made to mimic skin tones i.e. plasters, make up foundation, prosthetics, ballet shoes etc...Opportunity to discuss and create Emoji style portraits that best represent you (skin tone & all) and what the colour 'nude' says about the commercial world and its' values regarding race and diversity. ​Suitable for ages 10+, Youth Clubs, Team Building, Family & Community Groups
Free – book at the library
020 8246 6979

What makes electric cars go? - Workshop
Jacqueline Mwanza
Friday 26 October York Gardens Library 3pm
Story telling with dance and collage in a tale of a young woman who learns the art of peace making through dance from a tribe in the rain forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. What will she do when she discovers that electric cars might be putting her home town in danger? ​Suitable for ages 5 - 9
Free – book at the library
020 7223 2341

Indian dance workshop
Ragini Rajgopal and Natiya Alaya Academy
Friday 26 October - Tooting Library 10.30 am
Friday 26 October - Balham Library 2.30pm
Raghini Rajgopal and her students will perform classical and folk dances from India. Folk dances are numerous in number and style and vary according to the local traditions of the respective state, ethnic or geographic regions. Contemporary dances include refined and experimental fusions of classical, folk and Western forms. You will get the opportunity to join the group of dancers and try your dancing skills in the library!
Free – booking essential
Tooting Library 020 8767 0543
Balham Library 020 8673 1129

Story time and Rhyme time for children in different languages:

Italian story time with Carlotta
Friday 5 October 11-11.30 Putney Library
Thursday 11 October 4-4.30 Northcote Library
Thursday 18 October 4.30-5 Wandsworth Town Library

Enchanting story times with Anna
Saturday 6 October Earlsfield Library 10.30am (Italian Story Time)
Friday 12 October Southfields Library 10am (French Story Time)
Friday 12 October Earlsfield Library 2pm (Spanish Story Time)
Friday 19 October Southfields Library 10am (Spanish Story Time)

Polish story time with Kate
Wednesday 10 October 4-4.30 Battersea Library
Friday 12 October 4pm Battersea Park Library
Saturday 13 11am Wandsworth Town Library (plus craft activity)

French story time with Claudine
Monday 15 October Earlsfield Library 10.30am
Monday 22 October Tooting Library 4pm
Monday 22 October TIME TBA Battersea Library
Friday 26 October Wandsworth Town Library 2.30pm

Polish story time with Dorota
Thursday 18 October Tooting Library 4pm
Wednesday 24 October Balham Library 2pm
Friday 26 October Roehampton Library 4pm

October 2, 2018