Black History Month – an interview with Vanessa and Courtney from GLH

October 9, 2020

Black History Month is a time to celebrate, educate and raise awareness of the African and Caribbean culture across society.

Vanessa McFarquhar and Courtney Watson from Golden Lane Housing talk about their culture and what it means to them.

What does Black History Month mean to Vanessa and Courtney?

Vanessa and Courtney explain, “We’ve always been brought up to be proud of who we are as people and to embrace our roots. We live and breathe our culture daily, this has been passed down through generations.

Black History Month is relatively new. It’s a time to celebrate our culture and it’s educational – social media also helps with raising awareness as so many more people can find out about it. There are lots of different events happening for everyone to get involved in too.

There are injustices in the world and we’re always striving for equality. Slavery is a huge part of our history but there is so much that happened before and after. Black people lived in the UK long before slavery. We were kings, queens, inventors, musicians, fashion designers to name a few.

“I remember sitting in a history lesson at school and my teacher talked of the inventor of the traffic lights – Lester Farnsworth Wire. One interesting fact I’d remembered reading in one of my many black history books at home, was that the inventor of the first traffic signal was an African-American man by the name of Garret Morgan, he also invented one of the first gas masks. I remember feeling a tinge of sadness that not even my history teacher had heard of him but also a sense of pride and power in knowing the truth,” said Vanessa.

Courtney and Vanessa explain, “We also have events outside of Black History Month. Our carnivals happen during the summer months, it’s time to party! People come together to celebrate, there’s music, dancing and great food.”

Vanessa said, “Both my grandparents came over from Jamaica in the 50’s. Jamaica was under British rule, and they were invited over to help rebuild the UK after the war. My grandfathers both worked hard. Once they’d set up home, then my grandmothers came over followed by their children several years after. My grandparents always worked, are very proud people and achieved so much.

There is a real love for traditional Jamaican food in our house. Back in history, the produce came from the ground and the trees as well as what was available and affordable. Salt was used to preserve meat and fish. People used spices to flavour the dishes. Curry goat, jerk chicken and Ackee and salt fish are a few family favourites!”

Courtney and Vanessa said, “Our culture is a part of who we are and we embrace other people’s cultures, whether it’s our friends, neighbours or work colleagues. One of the reasons we work at Golden Lane Housing is because of the equality and diverse workforce, everyone is treated equally. It’s the first organisation we’ve worked for where this is the case.”