Steve Smithies, FA national Coach Development Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, explores what the initiative is, why it’s important.

What is Black History Month?

The Bootroom
Steve Smithies, FA national Coach Development Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, explores what the initiative is, why it’s important.

With today marking the start of Black History Month, Steve Smithies, FA national coach development lead for diversity and inclusion, explores what the initiative is, why it’s important and what plans The FA have in place to help coaches celebrate it this year.

Every year the month of October is dedicated to raising awareness and commemorating black history in the UK. Since 1987, it has been a vitally important celebration of what black history is and the contributions black people have made to British society.

The celebration first originated in London, after a special projects officer from Greater London Council, Akyaaba Addai Sebo, ventured to the U.S.A in the 1970’s. Once Akyaaba recognised that the Black History Month concept had such a substantial and positive impact on recognising black history, he founded the UK version. This coincided with a time when community activism was challenging systemic racism within British society and the need for substantial change through this movement.

It was originally recognised that October would be a suitable month, as it was the month known for African chiefs and leaders gathering to understand their differences. Akyaaba recognised that this was the month to reconnect with African roots. Given that October is at the beginning of the school year, this was also considered when dictating the month to celebrate black history; this would enlighten black children with a sense of pride and identity entering the rest of the school year and raise awareness amongst their white classmates.

It’s a celebration of the past but also an opportunity to stand still, to reflect and to look forward to a different world.
- Butch Fazal, Coach Inclusion and Diversity Manager

As well as promoting and celebrating the black contribution to British society, Black History Month also showcases an understanding of what black history is in general.

Within the UK, black people have played an important role in history, yet there’s still a clear lack of representation within history books and teachings throughout British academia and other educational settings.

Therefore, it’s imperative to celebrate and remember those people that helped shape and build the United Kingdom. This is a great opportunity to honour and recognise the neglected accomplishments and history of black people in the UK going as far back as the early 16th century.

During this month-long initiative, schools dedicate time to the teaching of black history and the importance of key influential black men and women. This includes the history of the many black people who fought, served and died for their country in World War One and World War Two.

Integrity, bravery and leadership - the three things that I always reflect on when reading the stories of the many black pioneers in history who did many great things to change the way we live today.
- Sarah Lowden, Diversity and Inclusion Coach Development Officer

A whole host of events are taking place throughout the month, albeit this year most of these will be virtual.

What is Black History Month - Looking Back to Move Forward an Evening with Viv Anderson and Luther Blissett

Despite the current pandemic, there will still be a strong emphasis for people to get involved during Black History Month. It’s expected that establishments, media and the government will come together to support black history by providing seminars and officially recognising black history.

The FA are proud to celebrate a rich history of black, Asian and dual heritage footballers, coaches, referees, volunteers and administrators. From Emma Clarke and Arthur Wharton to Hope Powell, Viv Anderson, Cyril Regis, Uriah Rennie, Alex Scott, Frank Soo, Anwar Uddin, Tony Collins, Jon Gittens and Paul Davis.

It’s a time to ensure that we’re moving forward year on year. We must also show pride in ourselves, our achievements and be unashamedly true to ourselves.
- Peter Augustine, Diversity and Inclusion Coach Development Officer

This year The FA are proud to be offering several online initiatives for our coaching community to help celebrate, educate and inspire the current and future generations of coaches. 

As well as special Black History Month content, stories, role model features and discussions, they also have four keynote webinars with special guest speakers:

Each webinar with be hosted by FA coach inclusion and diversity manager, Butch Fazal, and will feature a Q&A and information about some new initiatives to support the black and Asian coaching community. 

If you're interested in tuning in, click the links below to register for the FA webinars.

Monday 5th October - Looking back to move forward
Sunday 11th October - Young, gifted and black
Wednesday 21st October - More than a coach
Tuesday 27th October - If you have a dream make it a goal

Ultimately, Black History Month is a time for reflection and celebration of the achievements of people with black, Asian and mixed heritage, to recognise their contribution to our society.

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