School of English

Black History Month in the School of English

Welcome to Black History Month in the School of English! Black History Month is held every October and this is the hub for all our events each year.

A person working on a laptop. Text: Black History Month 2022


Artist Kim Thompson gives a presentation.
On Wednesday 26th October we welcomed illustrator Kim Thompson to deliver a fascinating workshop titled ‘Taking up Space: Growth, Identity, and the Importance of representation in Illustration’. The first hour was a detailed and inspiring account of how Kim went from a young person interested in art to a well-established illustrator (with many interesting detours in between). This was then followed by some exercises designed to promote inspiration and creativity by simply making art for yourself. This workshop was relatable and (at times) hilarious, with motivating advice for those wanting to pursue a creative career sprinkled throughout.
Drawings from Kim Thompson's workshop.
Drawings from Kim Thompson's workshop.
Drawings from Kim Thompson's workshop.

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Actress performing in Breaking the Silence.

A Talk from Dr Holly Maples and Dr Inge Dornan on 'Breaking the Silence'

Wednesday 20 October, 3pm (via Microsoft Teams)

Breaking the Silence is an immersive performance created by Collisions Theatre in partnership with Dr Holly Maples, educator and scholar at the University of Essex and Dr Inge Dornan, Historian at Brunel University London. Breaking the Silence fictionalises a meeting by key members of the 18th and early 19th-century British Abolitionist movement and tells the stories Black British Abolitionists in their own words. Dr Maples and Dr Dornan will join us to discuss the show before the performance in Nottingham on October 21.

Headshot of Theresa Lola.

Poetry Reading with Theresa Lola

Tuesday 26 October, 12noon (via Microsoft Teams)

We are delighted to host the award-winning poet Theresa Lola for a public lunchtime poetry reading, followed by a Q&A. Theresa has served as Young People's Laureate for London (2019-2020), was joint winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize; she appeared in the ‘Forces for Change’ issue of British Vogue (guest edited by Meghan Markle) and the Sunday Time Style Magazine, guest edited by Bernardine Evaristo. Her debut collection In Search of Equilibrium is published by Nine Arches Press.

Headshot of Dr Jessi Grieser.

“I’ve never known a white person to live on Hill Street:” Racializing Gentrification through Framing and Erasure

Wednesday 27 October, 3pm (via Microsoft Teams)

Dr Jessi Grieser, an Assistant Professor in Sociolinguistics at the University of Tennessee, joins us to discuss her research on the use of African American English (AAE) in constructing place identity for residents of a historically African American neighborhood of Washington, D.C. In this talk, Dr Jessi Grieser will discuss a project in Anacostia, Washington, D.C., an historically-Black neighborhood which has undergone rapid change in the 2010s. 

Image credits: Breaking the Silence © Collision Theatre, Theresa Lola © Hayley Madden, Dr Jessi Grieser © Jessi Grieser


Black History Month takes place every October. This page is an archive of the events in October 2020, including information about them and recordings of our online events.

Poetry Reading with Panya Banjoko

"Black people online are undefeated": African American language, culture and activism on social media

Reading Group

Text: Black History Month 2020 with bookshelves in the background and a blue gradient.

Full Events

Poetry Reading with Panya Banjoko

Panya Banjoko

On Tuesday 13 October we hosted poet Panya Banjoko for a poetry reading followed by a Q&A. Three readings from the event are available below.

Panya Banjoko is an award winning poet and performer whose most recent collection Some Things is published by Burning Eye Press. Panya’s writing has appeared in multiple anthologies and in 2018 she edited When We Speak: An Anthology of Black Writing in Nottingham. Panya is founder of the Nottingham Black Archive, and also acts as a Patron for Nottingham City of Literature; she is currently a postgraduate researcher in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.


When Carnival Came

One of a Kind

Hummingbird I


"Black people online are undefeated": African American language, culture and activism on social media

Kendra Calhoun

On Thursday 22 October we welcomed Kendra Calhoun for a talk on African American language, culture and activism on social media. This talk is now available in full below.

About this talk
African American culture is foundational to U.S. popular culture and is global in its influence. Through social media, African American cultural practices have become increasingly visible and technologically innovative, as well as increasingly appropriated by non-Black people. In this talk Kendra Calhoun will discuss how U.S. Black social media users continue to lead popular culture online through creative social media practices and the continuation of long-standing African American linguistic and cultural practices. She will discuss racial comedy as sociopolitical commentary on Vine, ‘everyday online activism’ on Tumblr and Twitter, and the digital documentation of African American culture on Twitter and TikTok.
About Kendra Calhoun
Kendra Calhoun is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She earned her B.A. in English Language & Literature and Psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2013. Her research explores the intersections of language, identity, and power in face-to-face and mediated contexts, focusing on race, social media, and institutional discourse. She has written about Black linguistic and cultural practices on Vine and Tumblr, and her PhD research analyses diversity discourses and practices in U.S. higher education and the impacts on graduate students of colour.


Reading Group

"The Black History Month reading group met weekly on Wednesdays during October 2020, bringing together a range of students at all levels, and academic and administrative staff from around the university. The group focused each week on very short texts – poems, short stories, short essays – most of which were published in 2020. These texts became the focus for a set of wide-ranging discussions around how Black authors have been responding to issues ranging from America’s carceral system to the psychological impact of COVID-19, from Black Lives Matter protests to Britain’s relationship to its involvement in the slave trade, and how different genres (speculative fiction, prison narratives, performance poetry) give voice to different articulations of experience." - Dr. Peter Kirwan (Organiser)

Reading List

October 7: Making New Myths

N.K. Jemisin, ‘The City Born Great’, Tor, 28 September 2016.

October 14: Calls to Awareness

Bernardine Evaristo, ‘The White Man’s Liberation Front’, New Statesman, 1 April 2020.

Zadie Smith, ‘Suffering Like Mel Gibson’ in Intimations (Penguin, 2020). [scan]

October 21: Challenges to White Supremacy

Vanessa Kisuule, ‘Hollow’, YouTube, 9 June 2020.

Bernardine Evaristo: ‘First, Do No Harm’, directed by Adrian Lester and performed by Sharon D. Clarke for the Old Vic, 5 July 2020.

October 28: Recovering Lost Histories

Colson Whitehead, ‘The Match’, New Yorker, 1 April 2019.


School of English

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