THE biggest celebration of Black History Month ever held in Scotland will take place in October, led by the Black community for the first time.

A full programme of online events has been organised by the African Caribbean Society of Scotland (ACSS) whose members organised the Edinburgh in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter protest which took place in June.

Organisers Cynthia Gentle and Naledi Herman told the Sunday National that they were particularly excited about the fact that it is Black-led and said they hoped the event would grow bigger still.

“This year we decided to host Black History Month and make it a community led, Black-led project,” said Herman. “Who better to tell our story than the Black Scottish people living here? It is going to be a really big celebration of us and our contribution to Scottish culture.”

They said one of the reasons for the celebration was to show the Black community in a positive light as opposed to how it is often portrayed in the media.

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“We are only talked about when it comes to crime, asylum issues and inequality so it is important to highlight all the positives as well as the struggle,” said Gentle. “And there are many positives. Our contribution to Scottish society in all the different sectors including business, education and the arts doesn’t really get much of a mention so we are trying to bring that to the fore.”

She said the idea was to also increase the volume of the Black voice.

“For a long time we have not really been consulted on issues that concern us. We have had people speaking for us, we have had people making assumptions for us and we have had people making prescriptions for us rather than actually consulting us and finding out what we think and what our real experience is of being black in Scotland.”

Herman added: “I think as well with the current situation there have been so many comments about Black Lives Matter being only an American issue and we want to shed light on what the Scottish experience is of being Black because it is a different one but there are issues for us here that we do face.

“We want to shed a positive light on the good things that are happening in the community and also tell stories from history that might not be known because, as we know, a lot of Black history in this country has been erased to some extent.

“The story of Black people in Scotland has not really been told so we have gathered people from the community who have been here for a long time and given them the opportunity to tell their story so people can learn about that.”

Events include an interview with Etienne Kubwabo who has made the first Black superhero comic in Scotland.

“There has not been a Black superhero based in Scotland before and Etienne is doing really well with the comic,” said Herman. “We are going to interview him to find out his inspiration for that and what his plans are for the future for this project. I think that will be really cool.

“We are also looking forward to having some people who have knowledge of colonial and Black history in Scotland who are going to produce a short online video tour of Edinburgh and Glasgow and their connections to the slave trade and shed a bit of light on that because that has been a big conversation this year. They are being made by Glasgow SNP councillor Graham Campbell and Lisa Williams who runs a walking tour in Edinburgh and knows a lot about the subject.”

The importance of Black mental health awareness will be highlighted during the month.

“We are going to be hosting workshops run by Black therapists who will be trying to give people support with Black mental health issues as we think these issues have got worse during Covid,” said Gentle “There is not enough support and not enough representation in the therapy field.”

Herman said people were finding it hard to witness some of the backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It is quite frustrating to watch as we just want things to get better,” she said. “We just want people to understand that Black people are facing issues in this world and want to move forward but we are seeing a lot of negative comments online that these issues don’t exist any more and this situation is not relevant in Scotland.

“I think people find that really hard and that has had an impact on mental health. To be understood would be a good step so we can move forward together.”

There is also a feature on parenting for families with children of mixed heritage and how the cultures come together.

“That is something that could be very useful for people in our community and our allies,” said Gentle.

This year, because of the pandemic, Black History Month Live! will be online.

New videos suitable for all ages and background will be streamed each night from October 1 to 23 on ACSS Facebook and YouTube pages, with an all-day celebration of Black culture livestreamed from midday to midnight on YouTube and Facebook on October 24, featuring chefs, musicians, historians, poets, dancers and finishing off with a live DJ set.

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Events include cooking demonstrations, hair and beauty tutorials, music, poetry, storytelling, fashion and art, interspersed with Black history and inspirational stories. Each week will have a different theme, from Black Scottish personalities to languages and arts.

“We are celebrating Black culture in Scotland and making it visible to everyone,” said Gentle. “This is us introducing ourselves to society. This is who we are and this is what we do.

“We want to be engaged and involved in discussions about race and equality. We want to be involved in anything to do with our culture. We are talented, we have experience and we can speak for ourselves.”

ACSS was launched this summer to bring the community in Scotland together and work towards supporting African Caribbean people in all areas and aspects of their lives, from family to employment, culture, community, education, language, health and mental health.

It grew out of the need for folk with African and Caribbean heritage in Scotland to continue to make change happen here.

The organisation says it is committed to building cultural competence, understanding and relationships between the African Caribbean community and Scottish society, working towards an equality where people of African and Caribbean heritage can make meaningful contributions to Scotland and be part of the wider community.

Gentle said: “What I am most excited about is this Black History Month being more visible.

‘‘This celebration is all about bringing the Black community together and actively taking steps to change the colonial mindset.

‘‘We want to flip the colonial script on Black people, change people’s perceptions and encourage them to understand our culture.

“After this summer, when racism really hit the headlines with the huge surge in the movement for Black Lives, it feels really important for the Black community to be front and centre visible this Black History Month.

‘‘When we were organising the Black Lives Matter Solidarity Rally in Edinburgh in June, people seemed to be surprised that there were Black people in Scotland.

‘‘So, this is us showing up, presenting our culture and everything we are bringing to Scottish society – and what we would like to see change. We want to be part of the conversation!

‘‘This is why we’re organising four weeks of daily videos (dropping online at 6pm), and a full day live streamed event on October 24 celebrating our culture, learning our history and building partnerships and relationships.

‘‘The 24th will feature musicians, poets, history, dance tutorials and performances, cooking demos and hair and beauty tutorials." Folks can tune in on Facebook and YouTube to watch with the whole family.



IN week one, we’ll be focusing on the oral histories of Black people in Scotland. We begin with the history being made right now, opening the month of celebration in partnership with the University of Edinburgh BlackED, when we will celebrate and learn about the renaming of David Hume Tower.

Then throughout week one, we will be hearing from people with African and Caribbean heritage who have been in Scotland for a long time, some since the 60s. We want to find out first-hand what their experiences have been, what it was like when they first came to Scotland and how things have changed.

We want to know what their hopes for the future are, for the next generation. We are also really pleased and excited to welcome the amazing mixed heritage historian Bruce Fummey (who runs Scottish History Tours) ScotlandHistoryTours, who will be telling us all about the history of migration of People of Colour to Scotland.


IN week two, we’ll be talking about raising families with cultural differences, discussing what it is like to be brought up in one culture and then enter into a totally different one, learning and adjusting as you go.

We’ll also be talking about raising families in a culturally different way while living in Scotland. We’ll be hearing what it is like to bring up a child far away from your family, often in a very different way to how you yourself were brought up.

Then in week four, we’ll be giving tutorials in fashion and cooking from all over Africa and the Caribbean.


IN week three, we will be showcasing small Black businesses in Scotland and encouraging networking. We want to offer Black businesses the opportunity to reach new audiences and build partnerships with allies.

We will be creating space where people can talk to one another and network. We want to encourage collaborative and creative relationships between all people living in Scotland. We also want to build networks within the Black community in Scotland.