Norfolk Black History Month launches on Saturday, and the theme for this 20th anniversary year is ‘Celebrating our Sisters’. Chair Eunice Kokrasset explains why this year’s event could be the biggest and best yet
Eunice Kokrasset is no stranger to getting involved in her community. After moving to England from the Ivory Coast in 2010, she became the landlady of The Crown in Smallburgh, between 2014 and 2018. That four-year stint helped Eunice to become ‘a little bit bolder. When I moved to the UK, I didn’t have any family – just my husband. I had to integrate – I couldn’t stay in my own bubble.
‘Running a pub helped me a lot. I came from a different culture where we spoke French. In a pub, you can find British culture all in one place.’ As well as understanding the language, she also started understanding the British sense of humour. ‘I started joking back. I did learn a lot being at the pub,’ says Eunice, who lives in Catfield, near Stalham. She adds: ‘I love my village. I’ve joined the environmental group.’
The mission for the Norfolk Black History Month (NBHM) team of volunteers is to provide and curate events for and by the Black community, to celebrate being Black all year round. Eunice took over from Danny Keen as Chair of NBHM after being tasked with organising the 2021 launch event. ‘When I took over, I told people: “you’re not Black for one month of the year, you are Black every day”.
‘Last year we organised the Party in the Park in Eaton Park, in June, which was a great success and was the first event we organised outside of NBHM in October.’
Due to ill-health, Eunice had to take a back seat when it came to organising last October’s event, but on April 21 of this year, the team got together with other associations and groups, including the Police, to organise Stephen Lawrence Day, a celebration of his life and legacy, 30 years on. Eunice says of the event held at The Forum: ‘For me it was one of the best events we’ve organised.’
On Saturday, the team will be back at The Forum for NBHM23’s Launch Event. ‘This year is really exciting, as it is 20 years of Norfolk Black History Month.
The theme this year is “Celebrating Our Sisters”. ‘It’s so fitting,’ says Eunice. Joining the Launch Event will be Marva Carty, author of Mari loves mangoes, as well as Laura Henry Allain MBE. Laura will be posing the question: how can we educate children about anti-racism? Eunice says: ‘It’s good to have the authors, to bring that element of education.’
Eunice is particularly looking forward to the ‘Building on the Talking Circle’ event in the Auditorium, a collaboration between the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Racism and Youth Justice. ‘I’m really looking forward to having the time to speak to other people about their own experiences,’ says Eunice. ‘As soon as you start talking it breaks down barriers.’
In the Atrium and outside The Forum there will be Afro Caribbean market stalls, food and performances. ‘We are taking you on a journey,’ says Eunice, ‘bringing black history – in terms of food, clothing, accessories and music – to Norwich.’
This will be the beginning of a month of celebrations. For example, on October 14 there will be a Fashion Show at The Halls in Norwich, and on October 15 there will be a Young Changemakers Event at Waterloo Park Pavilion Café. Eunice says: ‘It’s our 20th anniversary year so we wanted to make it special and do things that are a little bit outside of the box.’
Norfolk Black History Month 2023 launches on Saturday September 30 at The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1TF. The event will start from 9am and run until 5pm. The theme for this 20th anniversary year is ‘Celebrating our Sisters’. For details of the launch and all the events throughout the month of October, visit Norfolk Black History Month; Facebook, and Instagram.
Featured image of Eunice Kokrasset by Emma Outten