It’s in the US and Canada. So what does it mean to be black? There are many answers.

Much is made of the aspects of black history that are about resistance – how we survived and continue to survive elaborate violence. But that isn’t our whole story. How can it be?

Our sparkling bodies were crossing river Joliba for generations before European eyes ever "discovered" it. We lived in and traversed We stacked We spoke multiple languages to one another and to our ancestors.

Black history is being made every day because we are alive to ourselves and to the world. If we resist, it is because we understand intimately that we are here to live well, and live free. 

To be black is to irrevocably shape the future. and who we’ll always be.

A history of Ethiopia – without the white saviours Idling over a streaming service, I selected a movie called the Red Sea Diving Resort to watch while I ate dinner. Within minutes I found myself keeping morbid count of how many times the central characters might save the downtrodden, skinny Ethiopian Jewish characters who were fleeing. For different US American perspectives on this theme – a decidedly non-Hollywood version – I’d recommend this article from the literary and political journal The Boston Review, which ran a review of Maaza Mengiste’s most recent novel. The Ethiopian-American writer’s other body of work delves ‘deeper into what life was like through the century of war and dictatorship that created today’s Ethiopian diaspora’ - something you do not hear about in the movie.  I want to know how the outside world has depicted Ethiopia, told by the few members of the diaspora who I have had the chance to meet. We can do our bit by reading up. Why not start with Mengiste? (Nabeelah, conversation editor) The Boston Review: ‘The private history of Ethiopia’s wars’ (reading time: nine minutes)
A fan confronts the fall of an icon – and her own denial Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland, an account of growing up bourgeois and black in a racially divided America, is a rare insight into black lives, showing them in all their complexity, stratified by colour, class, money, and slave background. Too often, the black experience is essentialised as one-dimensional victimhood. But that narrative doesn’t give space to the detail of life in a minority community, which has its own privilege, problems and inequalities that are not always caused by that status as a minority. Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic, is also worth reading on Michael Jackson, as is her follow up, where she questions whether she was entirely clear-eyed in her appraisal of him. (Nesrine, Better Politics correspondent) The Guardian: ‘Was I in denial? Margo Jefferson on Michael Jackson’s legacy’ (reading time: eight minutes)
The world’s great 20th-century writers in a two-room house in Serowe, Botswana Nanjala Nyabola’s remarkable essay on the letters of the South African novelist Bessie Head is one of those tabs on my browser that returns at frequent intervals. If that tab was a paperback, it would be worn and dog-eared by now. Nyabola tells the story of Head’s decades exiled from apartheid South Africa in Botswana from the 1960s to the 1980s, her struggles for recognition and adequate reward for her remarkable writing, and her efforts to construct a community of writerly friends and colleagues through an astounding programme of letter-writing. She writes to Langston Hughes aged just 23, but that’s only the beginning. Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer, Nikki Giovanni, Gabriel García Márquez, Langston Hughes, Ngugi wa Thiong’o all receive letters, and many write back. In Nyabola’s skilful hands, Head’s letters bring out a story of courage and frustration that’s poignant and full of truth. (Elliot, Everyday Colonialism correspondent) Popula: ‘Bessie Head: a life of letters’ (reading time: 12 minutes)
Slightly racially biased triangles The Parable of the Polygons is a story that has a powerful yet nuanced message. It shows how our small biases – which aren’t necessarily out-and-out racism – have dramatic effects on how our societies take shape (literally). Do read to the end because this piece is as hopeful as it is insightful! (Daan, membership analyst) Ncase: ‘Parable of the polygons: a playable post on the shape of society’ (playing time: as long as you want!)

The best of The Correspondent for Black History Month

Illustrated avatar of a womans face wearing glasses, a close up of her eye - on an orange background Illustrated avatar of a womans face wearing glasses, a close up of her eye - on an orange background The case against civility: who is your niceness really helping? Let’s imagine that you have your foot on my neck. To say you’ll consider removing it but first I must ask nicely is to ignore my discomfort – and to maintain your power over me. Even if I obliged you, what sort of relationship could we then have? Read Eliza Anyangwe’s article here First rule of fight club: power concedes nothing without a struggle In an interview that spans continents and centuries, Cambridge University academic Priyamvada Gopal connects the legacies of empire to present day struggles – be they to prevent climate catastrophe, or win self-determination. Class is in session! Read Elliot Ross’s interview with Priyamvada Gopal here Photograph showing human remains in the form of black and white ash Photograph showing human remains in the form of black and white ash Death is a good way to gauge who we think deserves to live People die violent deaths in both the US and Nigeria – why do I fear it there and not here? Where people have little power, they become more vulnerable. Read OluTimehin Adegbeye’s article here