Black History Month: The importance of 'celebrating and amplifying' black voices

Black History Month: The importance of 'celebrating and amplifying' black voices

October is Black History Month - the theme this year is celebrating black voices.

The Derry News has therefore taken the opportunity to share interviews with black men and women based in the city.

Today, Naomi Mutolo speaks about inspirational role models, none moreso than her parents.

She also the politicisation of black hair and the importance of amplifying black voices.

British citizen Naomi Mutolo (25) is a contract analyst from Zambia who has been living in Derry for 11 years.
Describe blackness in one word: "ART. With art there isn’t a good or bad artist it is all subjective and perspective."

Black voices readers should look out for: “A podcast and book called 'Why I am not talking to white people about race'. It’s on Spotify. It invites people working in areas of policy, transitional justice, the justice system and academics and so on.

“It is educational and a great way to get through the day."
Inspiring black leaders: "My parents. It is because of them I have the interest in politics and the functioning of society. They instilled those values in me." 

Who has something to say about being black in Northern Ireland or further afield?: “I like people who bring facts and evidence to conversations. I aspire to be like the activist, model and lecturer Amy Sall. A beautiful, intelligent, creative woman who does everything she likes plus so much more."

Naomi said she was keen to be involved in highlighting the importance of Black History Month.
“This is the first year I have really acknowledged it in this way. I want to continue to lend a hand in the future in this kind of work."

She is "black every day" so "my existence is a celebration" of being a black person. 
“I think it is important to continue to hear from people that are working through various issues of blackness and creating or innovating," she said.

"If they are not being celebrated or talked about how are we going to learn that people are advancing in various areas?"
Naomi has been using BHM to look up black literature books, and learn more about Zambian history.


She speaks passionately about her beautiful hair and how black hair has become "such a politicised issue". 

Naomi describes her hair - she changes the style of monthly and is currently worn in corn rows - as "resilient" and of being glad her mother taught her how to braid and take care of her hair from an early age. 

"It is the most resilient thing for me and my body," she said. 
"You can create so much with it. It has been ridiculed in the past. It is such a part of African history. The meaning is sometimes lost in how it is politicised. It is beautiful in various cultures.

"In summer I will have it natural. When it’s raining I will have it in colourful braids and sometimes I will use a wig."

Naomi does not have a conclusive view about commemorating BHM. She says it is about educating people about Black history but acknowledges for some it can feel like one month of celebration and then "there is the rest of the 11 months it is either just bad news or complaints about immigrants". 


She would like to see British colonial history taught in depth to give everyone a good understanding of this topic and its impact on Africa, India and other paces.  

"If that history was included that is more important than a month. We want to add something new."

Amplifying Black voices should be a priority for public and private institutions. 
"If you cannot see you cannot aspire," she said.

"For me to see something to see a Black barrister, a Black lawyer, a woman leading the WTO, it makes girls and women think I can do that. "It is not limiting to black people. We can do it for all women. Organisations amplifying voices in various avenues could be an inspiration for Black children, for all children anywhere, really."

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