October marks Black History Month in the UK and to celebrate, this year’s theme is ‘dig deeper, look closer, think bigger’.

Black History Month offers us the chance to celebrate and learn about black culture and black people’s contribution to life in Britain. It’s also an opportunity to help people understand more about Britain’s role in colonialism, slavery and recognising patterns of migration.

Whilst it shouldn’t be the only time we explore these issues here are some ways you can celebrate Black History Month in East Sussex.

Learn about black history with our libraries

Our libraries have compiled a long list of books about race and ethnicity or that are written by authors from ethnic minorities. You can visit one of our libraries or download them as e-books.

You could also join the online book club. As part of Black History Month their October pick is Belonging by Umi Sinha. Belonging tells the interwoven story of three generations and their struggles to understand and free themselves from a troubled history steeped in colonial violence. It is a novel of secrets that unwind from the darkest days of the British Raj to East Sussex. There are unlimited copies to download and read on the Libby app and we will be holding a virtual Q&A with Umi Sinha later this month so there is still time to read the book and think of a question for the author.

Explore black history in Sussex with The Keep

Throughout October The Keep will be sharing material representing black history and culture in their archives, on their blog and on Twitter.

What are we doing as a council?

Educating future generations about black history

Our schools have been encouraged to use various resources to help pupils explore issues of identity and belonging and discuss issues such as prejudice-based bullying and racism. Colleagues working in Children’s Services at the council are also launching a Race Equality Guidance specifically for schools. Recognising that a better understanding of difference, diversity and the impact of racism on wellbeing are key to helping foster good relationships between children of different backgrounds.

There is also a great reading list about anti-racism, that is available to all: the Guardian’s reading list for anti-racism.

Putting equality and inclusion at the heart of what we do

The Council has set up a Race Equality working group which will look at how we work as a council, how we support our staff and how we provide services making changes where they are needed. We will develop and provide support to our staff at all levels through training, guidance and information sharing to progress race equality throughout the council. We will also take into consideration the lessons we have learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic and the disproportionate impact it has had on some communities.

Our Adult Social Care and health and Children’s Services are developing an Equality and Inclusion Strategy that will place citizen engagement at the heart of our planning and commissioning of services and offer enhanced engagement opportunities particularly with our ethnic minority communities.

Throughout October we will be encouraging our staff to participate in a series of webinars about equality data monitoring and about anti-racism.