Ana Co, 3FF

Black History Month is being celebrated throughout the month of October in the United Kingdom. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the UK’s Black History month. Unlike its American counterpart, it was only in 1976 that the UK first dedicated a whole month to honour the achievements of black people, to remember their history and to recognise the contributions African and Afro-Caribbean diaspora communities have made to the British society.

For 21 years, 3FF has been working to bring diverse communities together. Through our youth leadership, arts and culture and education programmes we have worked with young people, teachers, students, faith leaders, members of faith communities and politicians to build a more inclusive society: a society that we envision will become less prejudiced and intolerant and full of equality and acceptance.

3FF’s work has become more important within these last few years with rising intolerance, racism, xenophobia and hate-crime.  Nonetheless, 3FF continues to work hard in breaking down these barriers and finding ways for people to work together to improve our communities and societies.

As the Programmes Assistant for the schools team, I work directly with teachers and students in making sure that 3FF’s educational workshops are delivered and that students get the most out of them. In our workshops we explore identity, language and communication skills and in turn, students and teachers also learn about who they are in relation to others which, usually starts with accepting the physical traits that make us who we are.  Our methods acknowledge that identity is a very complex topic, as it is made of many layers that we can choose to reveal or not – well at least some of us – depending on the situations and environments we are in. And that doesn’t make us less of who we are.

This personally resonates with me because I am Afro-Portuguese, I was born and raised in Portugal but my parents are from Guinea-Bissau in West Africa.  While growing up, I was always aware of my blackness, I knew I was different and I never figured out where my identity sat within my Catholic faith and upbringing. With hindsight, perhaps I never identified with most people that went to the same church as I did – Portugal is a majority white country, for those who don’t know.  Regardless, the first thing you will find out about me is that I am from Portugal and quite proud of it!

At 3FF, the month of October will be dedicated to thinking about parts of our visible identity – our skin colour, our race. We will be focussing on the intersectionality of race and faith and on how these two are related (or not?). How do these two aspects of our identities conciliate? Are race and faith a monolith? Can you distinguish one from the other? These are some of the questions we may cover with the help of some 3FF friends and ParliaMentors alumni all who have been invited to contribute to 3FF’s blog and podcast on this theme.

To celebrate and recognise the voices of communities that are not always heard from so much in the interfaith world, we are aiming to share with you a series of weekly blog posts and a podcast that will give you more insight and food-for-thought on how race and faith come together. Hopefully, this will be the start of 3FF’s work on race and faith.

Thank you for reading this blog and feel free to share any thoughts, ideas, questions that come to mind! I would love to hear from you!