North West Migrants Forum

Forum to host third annual Black History Summit this Saturday

Main photo, from left: Ken Odumukwu, his wife Adamma and their two sons Daniel and David with North West Migrants Forum Director Lilian Seenoi Barr and volunteer Seun Awonuga preparing for this Saturday’s Black History Summit, being held as part of Black History Month.

THE North West Migrants Forum will hold its annual Black History Summit in Derry this Saturday.

Supported by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund and the Housing Executive, this will be the charity’s third such Summit, held each year as part of Black History Month.

The theme will be ‘Decolonising Education’ and four high profile figures – Dr Ebun Joseph, Professor Charlotte Williams, Dr Hyab Yohannes and Donna Namukasa – have been invited to offer their thoughts and opinions on black history being taught in the classroom.

Naomi Green is Programmes Manager with the North West Migrants Forum and is leading its ‘Hidden History Project’ which explores black heritage in Northern Ireland.

Ms Green said the Summit – taking place in Ulster University’s Magee campus – promises to be an enlightening experience providing invaluable insights into black history, black studies and decolonising narratives as well as practical ways they can be introduced into the education system.

“Black history is not apart from Northern Ireland history but a part of it.

“It is important that we engage with the past in a way that acknowledges the contributions, struggles and achievements of black individuals and communities, ultimately promoting a more comprehensive understanding of our shared history and a more equitable future.”

Among the guest speakers will be Dr Hyab Yohannes, a research associate and academic coordinator who, through a decolonial lens, brings unique perspectives to policy development in migration and education.

Dr Hyab Yohannes.

Dr Yohannes described the Black History Summit as being part of a restorative process following a long history of heinous acts by colonial powers.

“The British state, like other former colonisers, has not only committed egregious crimes against racialised people but also continues to overlook the history and dignity of these people.

“However the question remains, how can we heal from these colonial wounds of raciality and coloniality?

“The Black History Summit, I would argue, is a part of this restorative process of intercultural, inter-epistemic and inter-subjective dialogue.”

Also addressing the audience will be Professor Charlotte Williams who has for many years been a leading voice in mainstreaming black and minority ethnic history in the Welsh curriculum and beyond.

Professor Charlotte Williams.

Donna Namukasa, a Belfast-based Ugandan musician with an extensive knowledge of African singing, dancing and culture, will also speak, as will Dr Ebun Joseph, a Nigerian-Irish lecturer and author.

Ugandan musician Donna Namukasa.

Dr Joseph is director and founder of the Institute of Anti-Racism and Black Studies.

She described black history as world history and said that it should absolutely be explored and taught in schools.

“If we think of it as a map. A map enables us to show where we have been and where we are going. If that map does not have black history in Ireland on it then that means the people of Ireland do not know where they have been or where they are going. It leaves us with blank spaces which are then filled with stereotypes,” Dr Joseph added.

Dr Ebun Joseph.

Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Ulster University, Dr Philip McDermott, said it was going to be an inspirational day of discussion.

“This promises to be an informative and enjoyable summit during which we will discuss the importance of an inclusive curriculum and how this might look in practice.”

Opening Saturday’s conference will be St Columb’s College student and campaigner for black history in the curriculum, TJ Mushapho.

He said, “We do learn a lot in school about our Irish heritage which is good but we do lack when it comes to learning about other aspects of our history, for example Africa.

“I have always been a big supporter of black history being taught in the curriculum and in 2023 I have been head spokesperson for it. So I am delighted to see the progress that is being made and I look forward to the day when black history is just another subject in school.”

Looking ahead to Saturday Director of Programmes at the North West Migrants Forum, Lilian Seenoi Barr, said it was going to be an informative day for anyone with an interest in history, education, Irish and international politics or just society in general.

Mrs Seenoi Barr said, “We will be examining the importance of an inclusive curriculum and exploring how black history can be taught in schools and embedded across the curriculum.

“We want to discuss how our view of the world shapes education and why we need to take a broader view of history and culture in Northern Ireland.

“Black history is not just for October, but all year around. How might this look like in practice? We are inviting everyone – educators, students, parents, members of the public – to come along and allow themselves to be inspired by our fantastic line-up of speakers.”

Registration for the Black History Summit is open now through Eventbrite: