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  • Deanna Lyncook

Birmingham Metropolitan College: The Black Liberation Front Exhibition

As a History student and long time lover of the subject, it’s often hard to imagine that there are young people who are somewhat ambivalent to History, find it boring or completely dislike the subject. At the start of Black History Month we went to Birmingham Metropolitan College to exhibit and present our research on ‘The Black Liberation Front’ (BLF) and speak about YHP’s work more broadly. The majority of the students we presented to did not currently study history and hadn’t for some time. Whilst, some had little interest in History, we were able to find ways to link the knowledge they did have, to the work of the BLF and the wider work of YHP.

The BLF was founded in 1971 and played a key role in the Black political landscape in Britain until the early 1990s. The movement organised and engaged with the communities it aimed to serve. They did this through anti-racism campaigns, protests, supplementary schools, community bookshops, publications and supported Black people with the variety of issues they were facing in Britain. The movement focused on developing a Pan-African consciousness and pushing back against the racism meted out by British society and the state. The project was developed to raise awareness of the history of Black political activism in the UK by focusing on the historical contribution of the BLF.

During our visit to Birmingham Metropolitan College we aimed to share these histories alongside some of the findings from our ‘African women in healthcare’ project. Most students could identify the US Civil Rights movement, as a movement for the liberation of Black people. They understood some of the key components of Black Power and some of the leading figures within that movement. Our job was to use this pre-existing knowledge and link it to one of the influences on the BLF and other Black Power movements and organisations in Britain.

We spoke to students about how these histories link with contemporary issues such as the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and longer history of Black people in Britain. In order to share our research on the BLF we had to contextualise the large waves of migration in the post war era, this allowed them to pick apart some of the issues Black people may have faced during this time. They were also able to share their own experiences of their communities in Birmingham and thought about how the communities they are from were built.

Overall, the workshop was a great experience and allowed us to share our research with students who ordinarily may not get a chance to learn about. Our work at the Young Historians Project will continue with our newest projects on the ‘History of Black British History’ and ‘Housing Black Britain’ projects. We look forward to sharing our work in future workshops.

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