Why do we need Black History Month?

The answer is simple for Dame Denise Lewis - it’s a unique opportunity to celebrate and re-educate.

A pioneer in sport and President of Commonwealth Games England, Lewis is passionate about the importance of this month for the next generation.

“I love this month, I really do,” said the double Commonwealth champion.

“I'd say Black History Month is very much an opportunity to celebrate. There’s a lot going on every day of the year but this is a month where we can celebrate and re-educate in a lot of ways.

“I wouldn't want to lose that focus, that concentrated focus that we get at this moment with our young people, because we're shaping the next generation.

“We can impact them in a positive way and demystify some of the mis-education that has definitely happened, particularly from my generation, and to teach them about their ancestry.

“There are positive, strong role models across a plethora of industries that don't get taught in schools.

“It is an opportunity to champion the sisterhood and the diverse black talent within organisations that otherwise possibly would just be taken for granted.”

The theme of 2023 UK Black History Month is ‘celebrating our sisters’ with a particular emphasis on recognising the contributions of black women down the years.

There is no better flagbearer for this than Lewis, the first black, British and European woman to win an Olympic gold medal in heptathlon.

For Lewis, like so many, the events of 2020 changed her feelings about Black History Month and the power of testimony.

“Society has had to start to listen, and whether we like it or not,” she said. “The murder of George Floyd and the ramifications of that has forced everyone to really look at themselves, not only our white counterparts, but us as black people.

“I don't think we've been comfortable enough, sharing some of those stories and putting them in the public domain. I do think it's really powerful now that we can each hear how we have been affected, or what has shaped us or how we've had to dig deep to rise above some of the racism.”

Lewis believes that sport is one of the most powerful tools there is to level up society and build a brighter future.

“Sport has been integral to my life,” she said. “All of the lessons that you learn about teamwork have been integral to shaping who I am. It's given me a voice, it's given me a new opportunity.

“If you choose life in sport, that you know it's possible and I’ve been able to move my socio-economic circumstances through sport.

“You know, the places I've been and seen - would I have got that through any other vehicle? Possibly not. So why wouldn’t I champion sport?”