Salford-based poet ‘J’ Ahmed hosted a three-part series of virtual events in October titled ‘Black to the Future’ to mark Black History Month.
J said he hoped to spread his love of poetry throughout and make people think about the content of the shows.
“I knew I wanted to engage with people in the community and hopefully get a few more people writing poetry and sharing poetry because that’s always been my goal,” he said.
“My focus has always been on promoting the art of poetry within other people, and to that degree, this has been a massive success because it’s done that on so many levels.”
He added: “Some of the issues [in the poems] we were dealing with were not easy, and I love the fact that people from all walks of life were open to discussion.”
He previously hosted ‘Words of Hope‘, an event focusing on suicide prevention. ‘Black to the Future’ was his second event to be hosted digitally.
Part one included race-related poetry from J himself, as he shared his experiences of race issues he has faced.
Part two was an inclusive workshop that examined relevant themes and allowed contributors to write their own poem.
Part three was a conclusion to the virtual events, where contributors performed their own creative pieces in relation to race and equality-related work.
Part one and three are available to watch on Facebook here.
One contributor, Elizabeth Cameron, said she felt events like these are especially important in Salford.
“Sometimes, some of the young people I worked with (at a youth centre), they would get to a point where they would talk about racism and I’d be educating them around that […] And they would say very openly racist things (about Black people).
“And I would say, ‘how can you say that to me? Do you not see me?’. And they would just say ‘but you’re not like that’.
“And I realised there was this point where people get to know you, they really can just see the inner you and who you are, and I just really believe that when you create a relationship with people, it’s a very good way to deal with racism. And I think the arts is a very good way to express quite polarised views and make people see things through the way you experience them.”
Another contributor, Colleen Donovan-Togo, says why she feels it is important to celebrate Black History Month in Salford.
“Especially in Salford, especially this year, it’s more relevant than ever. You know, with the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement and how it became much more widespread and mainstream.
“I think this year’s Black History Month became more important than ever.”
Talking about the Black Lives Matters movement, J discussed about the importance of being educated on the matter.
“More Black history should be taught, especially with such diverse communities.
“More Black history should be taught in schools and we should really be developing a society of greater acceptance, and that should start from a very early age, and that starts with the education we give people.
“If anything, one thing Black History Month has taught me is it shouldn’t be just an isolated thing celebrated by Black people at a certain time of the year, it should be for everyone because it is for everyone, and that fight for equality is everyone’s fight because it does affect us all, whether we realise it or not.
“Black History Month is one of those things which we should embrace when it comes around because we don’t often get the chance to be heard as clearly as we do through Black History Month.”
To stay updated with future live streams, follow the Words of Hope Facebook page. To be directly involved in future events, contact J on his email: ‘email@example.com’.
Featured image © Allie Crewe