Sky Sports recently interviewed some of the Premier League’s top Black players. They asked them what Black History meant to them.
My children play for two top premier league teams, so football is topical in our household. I watched the program with interest, as the likes of England full back Kyle Walker, Manchester United midfielder, Paul Pogba and other prominent footballers all expressed regret that Black History Month was not part of British everyday life.
Our history is our visibility
This made me wonder for the very first time why there needs to be a Black History Month. It didn’t take me long to realise that without it, a generation of people growing up in Britain might not learn a thing about their history because of its noticeable absence in the school curriculum.
In the absence of stories relating to their own cultural identity, Black people can inadvertently feel ‘not British enough’. This leads to generations of people who don’t own their place in society.
This identity crisis fosters a lack of visibility. Whilst lack of visibility further drives the divide in health and social inequalities, as Black people get comfortable with being invisible.
Visibility in research matters
You may be forgiven for thinking this invisibility applies only to history, but this isn’t the case. Of the tens of thousands of articles published about multiple sclerosis, only 0.2% focus on Black people.
This means that this group will likely be prescribed medicines for which safety and efficacy data doesn’t exist.
Black people, not just in the UK but worldwide, have a crucial role in redressing inequalities like this through constructive dialogue and challenge.
Our commitment to representation
As an MS Society trustee, I would be the first to say that we have a way to go to be truly representative of our MS community. Which is why the charity is working to improve representation at every level of our organisation and provide services and support for everyone in our community.
In line with this year’s Black History Month theme, ‘Proud to be’ it’s important to celebrate the stories of the many Black people in our MS community. And to highlight the unique challenges they face. So we can work together to improve the quality of life of everyone living with MS.
Be part of the story
The stories we tell ourselves and others matter. The stories we hear can cause us to include or exclude others.
To borrow a quote from the critically acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
“Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair the dignity of a people."
For some, Black History Month will be the motivation to keep fighting for what they believe is right. For others, it will make them believe that they belong and their voice matters. For yet others, it may help them to understand that they can make a difference.
Whichever camp you fall into, together we can create a society where everyone feels included and gets the same quality of care.