This October, we celebrate British Black History and heritage. The South Asian Heritage Month team and I have been reflecting on this for the last few weeks and what this means for us as South Asians. It’s so important to remember that, while we are working towards creating space for our voices and stories, we are also visible and vocal allies for our neighbouring marginalised communities. Particularly, our Black brothers and sisters.
With this in mind, I’m incredibly mindful that this month is a time to centre and platform Black voices. So, in curating South Asian Writers‘ and South Asian Heritage Month‘s reading list for BHM, I sought the advice of the rather remarkable, Sofia Akel; researcher, writer, lecturer, and race and equality lead at London Metropolitan University’s Centre for Equity and Inclusion.
Sofia’s Black History Month Reading List centres books by Black British authors that explore both the historical context and personal and social commentary on the Black British experience.
If you, too, would like to take this time as an opportunity to celebrate Black culture, history, and heritage, or to better understand the rich and nuanced experiences of Black writers, storytellers, and educators; these books are an excellent start.
Click through each image for links to explore and buy:
About Our Curator
Sofia Akel is an education activist and researcher, campaigning and leading work to tackle institutional racism in education, including the awarding gap, academic pipeline and decolonising education. She has worked in a number of universities and students’ unions, holding various elected, specialist and consultancy roles. Currently, she is leading London Metropolitan University’s race equity work for the Centre of Equity and Inclusion.
In addition, Sofia also works in a number of public facing roles such as: journalism, historical and race-related research and consultancy with news outlets and production companies. Most recently she worked with BAFTA award-winning director Aneil Karia and actor and musician Kano on his short-film/performance ‘Teardrops,’ highlighting the disproportionate deaths of Black people in police custody in the UK.
Her recent report, Insider-Outsider (2019) examined the role of race in shaping the experiences of Black and minority ethnic students at Goldsmiths College and Students’ Union, which was covered nationally in the press. She has also written for international news publication gal-dem, on racism in education and the racially disproportionate deaths of COVID-19 in the UK. Some of her recent appearances and interviews include The Guardian, The Strategist (New York Magazine), Channel 4 News and BBC Radio London.
Most recently Sofia Akel launched a campaign to tackle barriers to accessing books through the Free Book Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to get books by authors of colour to those who cannot access them due to financial or other systemic barriers to access. So far she has raised over £4,500 and is receiving an ever-growing number of book donations from renowned publishers including Canongate, Penguin Random House, 4th Estate and Vintage.
Her work on race equality has won her multiple awards including the Powerlist’s Future Leaders Award and Campaign of the Year.