Why I’m proud to be black and British

After bronze at London 2012, Muhammad won Olympic taekwondo Silver at Rio 2016.
I noticed that this year, footballers have spoken out for Black History Month. Paul Pogba and others suggested that there should be no Black History Month. Instead, a humanity month. It's an idealistic scenario but not the reality we live in.

Although I don't intend to be a gun-slinging advocate for Pogba, I do sometimes see this attitude: "Oh, we shouldn’t have Black History Month" or that it's racist. And I think, "Well...no."

It is obvious to me why it exists. It was born out necessity. There are many stories that have yet to be told.

We are now revealing that there are so many incredible contributions by black people to British history that aren't told. This reality must be addressed.

Black History Month is essential until we reach a time when black history is taught in schools like Henry VIII. They would disappear into insignificance without it.

It's still a secret history at the moment. However, black British history is British History and it's not just for blacks to learn about these triumphs and important contributions to the country.

We should also talk about the Windrush generation, and how they came to this country after escaping World War Two.

My grandparents, and most of the generations that came here after them, were skilled. They were cobblers, welders, and people who came to rebuild this country.

According to what I learned from my grandparents, it took a while for the process to happen. Some members of that generation had 10-12 years to wait after the war ended before they were allowed to return home. They believed that if you protect the mother country, the reward will be citizenship. They still faced racism, hate, and struggle when they arrived in this country.

This was the reality that they had to face and it is a story that should be told. However, I believe that the recent migrant crisis - for lack of a better term - has revealed something about how immigration is generally depicted - many white British people don’t know this history.

They were not allowed to sneak in; they came and were invited. They had to work and faced racism while raising their families.

In those days, a black person couldn't get a loan or finance. This is how pardner was created - ethnic communities pooling resources. It was like a bank for the black community.

If you have 10 people who each pay in 20 per month, then one person will get the entire 200. The big lump sum is paid in by everyone. Because they couldn't laugh at black people in the bank back then, this was necessary. Pardner continues to work today. You'd still be able to find it if you went to Brixton or Moss Side.

Muhammad, who was injured and missed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is now training for Paris 2024

Also, I feel that the American version of the black British story is far more exposed than the American.

Talking to someone about black history and black leaders will get them talking. This is amazing. Both men are extremely critical, and there are many other people who have changed the course of history. But, I do not believe we should celebrate British black heroes on the same level.

If you bring up this point, it's difficult for me to say "Who should we talk about instead?" It's really difficult for me to do that. It's not because we don’t have a rich past, but because you need to do your research to find British stories.

You might have heard of some - Olaudah Equiiano shared the story of a slave to us, but those stories are not as widely known. We're terrible at celebrating and documenting things, like who was the first black MP. These are the moments that mark significant cultural achievements.

When we talk about black history, which I am guilty of, we tend to lean towards struggle. While I believe those stories should be told more often, I also want to hear about black success stories.

Daley Thompson won Olympic decathlon Gold in 1980 and 1984

Linford Christie and Daley Thompson were two of my British heroes growing-up. They were both my British heroes growing up. I was able to relate because they looked exactly like me.

Daley was so confident, and so eager to do it his way, it just inspired and it truly is the power and influence of representation.

This is what I love about the new generation of football: the representation that we see now.

Growing up, I can recall what England looked like back then. Although they were great players, it was sometimes a token presence of one or two black men on a team. We can see a truly diverse team when we look at the Euros.

It's amazing to me that young black children can identify with these stars and see them as a representation. It's amazing on a sporting and representational level. As a youngster, that would have blown my mind.

England celebrates beating Denmark to reach Euro 2020 final

My opinion is to get the most out of this month and hope that this can lead to something longer-term - a larger movement for black British stories to uncovered, uncovered, and shared with the next generation. Because I feel that there is a need and a desire to hear these stories now more than ever.

My pride is in the fact that my family, and a large portion of the black population, came from humble beginnings. It was foresight that led to the striving or perhaps the sacrifice to move to a better place for their children.

They didn't want to do it for selfish reasons like, "oh, I want to live in England", they simply wanted to provide their children with the same opportunities that they had. That is a good example of the serious and stern attitude that the older generation held. They were part of the war generation, and that affected them. Racism was also more outspoken, vicious, and directly in their faces.

I have the freedom and opportunities that my grandparents couldn't dream of. When I think of Black History Month, it's what I am most proud of. That's also what I think about when I'm alone and just thinking about my life.

It was an amazing sacrifice that my grandparents made. They gave their children the opportunity to live the life they wanted.

They didn't have that. They were given a job and a place, but there was a limit to the success they could achieve. However, they persevered despite what seemed like an impossible and small dream.

They made those dreams come true and I know my future children will have more of what they have, God willing.

This is what I see when I think about black and British.

I think about my ancestors and their sacrifice. That's why I believe it's important to remember your history and where you come from.

Lutalo Muhammad spoke to Richard Dore, BBC Sport.


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