Lords celebrates Black History Month
1 October 2020 (updated on 1 October 2020)
October is Black History Month, an annual celebration of African and Caribbean history, culture and the contributions of Black people across the UK.
As part of our celebration of Black History Month this year, we asked Black members of the House of Lords to share their stories, as well as what Black History Month means to them. Here’s what some of them had to say:
Baroness Benjamin, actress, presenter, writer and Liberal Democrat life peer, shared that she initially had dreams of becoming a teacher:
“I loved my teachers at school. I suppose I ended up teaching the nation’s children through my Playschool programmes where I reached millions. Many who watched the shows 44 years ago still tell me how much I influenced their lives. I call them my ‘Playschool Babies’ and always say childhood lasts a lifetime!”
When asked about Black History Month, she said:
“It’s a time to celebrate and reflect on part of British History that is often neglected and forgotten and to show how this part of our history should be represented throughout the year.”
Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, Labour life peer and director of the Steven Lawrence Charitable Trust said:
“Growing up in a small village in Jamaica, my grandmother was the matriarch, always helping people. They would come to her for advice, she was honest and everyone loved her.
[Black History Month means] Learning about the great people who are Black inventors that are never mentioned when history is talked about in school. There is so much that we all can learn if only we lift the covers of the colonial past.”
Baroness Young of Hornsey, Crossbench peer, expert in arts and culture and social justice campaigner shared who she was inspired by:
“All those people who despite setbacks, abuse, and physical and emotional barriers continue to struggle for social and environmental justice. It’s about their strength and resilience, even when their very existence is threatened.
Black history in and related to this country is British history and the sooner we can all grasp what that means about where we’ve come from and how we’ve reached this difficult moment, the better for everyone.”
This Black History Month we are also commemorating Lord Constantine. Born in Trinidad in 1901, Learie Constantine became the first black member of the House of Lords in 1969. As a life peer, he made a lasting impact on attitudes towards race relations and discrimination.
Lord Fowler, Lord Speaker said of Lord Constantine:
‘Lord Constantine marked a watershed for the House of Lords. His arrival as the first Black life peer paved the way for the many brilliant Black and minority ethnic members.'