BASINGSTOKE'S heart is beating to the rhythm of Black History Month with the start of a month-long celebration of culture, resilience, and remarkable achievements.

Under the theme 'Saluting Our Sisters,' this year's celebration promises to be a tapestry of engaging events that highlight the rich contributions of Black individuals to the town and beyond.

The festivities kicked off in grand style on Sunday, October 1, with a heartfelt Thanksgiving Service led by the Basingstoke African Caribbean and Catholic Association (BACCA) at St Bede's Church in Popley.

The highlight of the day was a sumptuous feast of African cuisine, including beloved dishes like jollof rice, pounded yam, and Egusi soup, a true culinary delight.

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Attendees adorned themselves in traditional attire, creating a vivid display of colours that celebrated the essence of Black History Month.

Monday, October 2, marked a historic moment for Basingstoke as the town witnessed its inaugural flag-raising ceremony at the Civic Offices in honour of Black History Month.

The flag-raising ceremony was the result of dedicated campaigning from the Black History Month Basingstoke team since their formation in 2020.

Effie Blankson, who leads the team, said: "It’s been a long wait but it’s finally here. It’s wonderful to see action being taken by the council leadership.

"Back in the summer, we sat down with the leadership to outline the things that we’ve been campaigning on and how proactive we expect them to be. By the end of the month, a plaque will be unveiled to celebrate one of our own too, aligned with the theme of ‘saluting our sisters’.

"It’s historic but more so the conversations and needed action around social justice be it in health, education, or the criminal justice system are happening. We are honoured to be a part of it and thank the leadership team and everyone that’s made the day a success."

An evening of music, canapés, insightful speakers, and the unveiling of '21 Portraits' addressing racism and discrimination followed the flag-raising ceremony.

The 21 Portraits initiative, presented by Basingstoke Unites Against Racism (BUAR), honours 21 Black women from the town and neighboring counties.

These women will have their portraits taken, and their invaluable contributions to society will be highlighted.

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This year's Community Achiever Awards will celebrate Black excellence, recognising talented individuals, including young achievers, at a special awards and celebration night scheduled for October 30, at the Ark Conference Centre.

Preceding this event, a plaque will be unveiled to honour a sister who has made monumental contributions to healthcare, in collaboration with Black History Month Basingstoke, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

On the night of the celebration, a consortium of predominantly Black-led minority groups will unveil its new name, website, and merchandise.