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Look black with pride

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:43 03 March 2010

ON first impression Black History Month may sound like a school trip through the entrails of time and a lesson in oppression and hardship. Prepare to be shocked.

ON first impression Black History Month may sound like a school trip through the entrails of time and a lesson in oppression and hardship. Prepare to be shocked.

This is a chance to celebrate.

It is upbeat and positive, with a wealth of knowledge laid bare for anyone to embrace.

All rounded off with a rousing gospel choir just to finalise the point that Black History Month is about inclusion – from the journeys of great men and women who changed the world to cultural diversity in the kitchen.

Del White is full of enthusiasm for the events she hopes will capture the imagination and bring inclusion to the forefront of people's minds.

Nia means "purpose" or "with meaning" in Swahili and these sentiments are echoed in Ms White's determination and passion.

She said: "We want to take the community outside itself and let them experience it. Black History Month is full of colour and life and there really is something to appeal to everyone.

"Hopefully this will have the power to inspire and unite people in a way little else can. We have brought together a kaleidoscope of activities and people to enrich a community.

"Black History Month is taking shape in Suffolk and is becoming very successful, giving expression to diverse histories, life experiences and cultural contributions.

"It is very different bringing Black History Month to Suffolk in comparison to London and other major cities and you have to take a different approach – but it is working.

"Our aim is to enrich the community through our mission statement – 'celebrating community, shaping

culture, embracing art'.

To launch the month in Suffolk, Lord Herman Ouseley will be speaking at the Nia Memorial Lecture to be held at The New Wolsey Theatre on September 30.

Lord Ouseley is the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. He was also the driving force behind the report into race relations in Bradford.

The study was completed months before riots took hold of the city during summer last year.

At the time he said we needed a programme which "creates social harmony, rejects racial hatred, brings communities together and shows them how to value people of all backgrounds."

There will also be some fantastic exhibitions celebrating the life and achievements of important black figures.

They range from Garrett Morgan, who invented traffic lights, to Mary Seacole, a Jamaican herbalist and nurse and a contemporary of Florence Nightingale.

These people struggled for recognition in a way most of us would find hard to comprehend. Brilliant minds and creative souls were suffocated under other people's fears and deep-seated prejudice.

Sporting prowess is also celebrated, with an exhibition at Tower Ramparts to include such faces as Titus Bramble.

Then there is the sports performance academy roadshow at Gainsborough Sports and Community Centre.

From funky hip-hop to a karate demonstration by England international Milo Hodge and a basketball challenge, there is something for everyone to get involved in.

From sport to cooking with Brenda Davies, Suffolk will come alive to the tastes and smells of the Caribbean Islands during this four-week course which celebrates diversity in the kitchen.

If all that baking and sporting exertion has left you worn out then sit back and relax with a film.

The Nia Project, in conjunction with Black Filmmaker magazine, will be showing two films at the Ipswich Film Theatre.

The first is Look For Me in the Whirlwind, a powerful and critical look at the life of Marcus Garvey, who preceded America's own black nationalist movement by 50 years with his ideas of self-reliance.

The second is The Rosa Parks Story, starring Angela Bassett. This inspiring film traces the life of one of the civil rights movement's most remarkable social activists.

Films, theatre, food and sport all come together to mark Black History Month.

It is not about exploiting differences but about celebrating diversity.

It is a chance to take yourself outside the world you may be used to and experience a wealth of culture and achievement.

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