Birmingham’s Black churches honor the forgotten contributions of millions of African and Caribbean servicemen to WW1

Up to 1,000 people are expected at the New Testament Church of God, Lozells Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, B19 1NP from 5pm – 7pm on Sunday 2 July 2017 at a special WW1 centenary event to honor the often forgotten contributions of millions of African and Caribbean servicemen who contributed to World War 1, 1914 – 1918.  The service will take place in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Councilor Anne Underwood, with guest speaker The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to Her Majesty The Queen and The Speaker of the House of Commons.  Also gracing the service will be international operatic soprano Abigail Kelly and well-known poet Roy McFarlane.  It marks the end of the 18-month ‘They Also Served’ (TAS) research project led by historian Dr Angelina Osborne.

Dr Osborne said, ‘The evening of Remembrance at New Testament Church of God is a fitting close to a project that has sought to reposition the service of African, Black British, and Caribbean soldiers back into the narrative of the First World War. For too long, their exclusion has fed the assumption that it was a war that had only European participants, and consequently was a ‘white man’s war’. By uncovering stories of their courage, in the face of the enemy and of the discrimination they experienced by their own side, I hope that the awareness we have raised is a useful addition to the efforts undertaken by other historians, particularly at community level, to remember these brave men, and to remind us that Black British history is a global history, and a shared history, and should be regarded as such’.

TAS is one of several initiatives seeking to highlight contributions of WW1 combatants from outside Europe so communities understand better the contributions of their progenitors to the Great War.  Attendees at the service will view an exhibition of TAS research findings, and will take away complimentary CDs, booklets, Black Poppy Rose buttons, and other materials to aid public education about the contributions of African and Caribbean servicemen to WW1.

Speaking ahead of the commemorative event, guest speaker The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin said, ‘Last week I attended the unveiling of a permanent memorial in memory of those from Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to help Britain in its fight for the freedom of Europe. That event and this upcoming service marks a seminal moment in the history of this country, where we honor their contribution and give new meaning to the Kohima Epitaph: “When you go home, tell them for their tomorrow, we gave our today”’.

Lorraine Shannon

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