Black History Month at Foundation of Light

10 October 2022

Every October in the UK since 1987, the country and the Foundation of Light has celebrated Black History Month, an opportunity which allows the nation to celebrate the accomplishments of black Britons. As well as being able to promote and celebrate black contributions to British society, Black History Month also allows us to foster a further understanding of black history in general.

Black History Month allows the community to champion the people that have influenced the City of Sunderland over the course of history. One individual who has made a huge impact both on and off the football pitch is Black Cats legend and former Sunderland captain, Gary Bennett.

Bennett became only the second black player to play for Sunderland, making over 350 appearances for the club, placing him fifth on the club’s all-time appearance list. The Manchester-born defender has also played a pivotal role in Show Racism the Red Card’s success – an anti-racism education charity that was established in 1996, originally starting in the North East. The charity was set up to harness the high-profile nature of footballers as anti-racist role models to educate against racism throughout society in the United Kingdom.

For more than 20 years, Bennett has played a crucial role in educating the young people of the North East working tirelessly and highlighting the importance of being anti-racist. As a result of all his hard endeavour, Bennett was awarded an MBE earlier this year in tribute to his hard work as an-racism campaigner.

“Black History Month is huge for me. It’s something which I’ve touched base on before regarding, I don’t just wake up on the first of October and think it’s Black History Month, great, we do it for the whole of October, get to the end of October, shutdown, that’s it and it goes away.”(…) “Black history is something which happens in my life daily. When we say it’s just Black History Month, I would change that. It’s not just about a month, yes, it’s great to celebrate but we should be able to celebrate that all year round.”

Black Cats legend and former Sunderland captain, Gary Bennett

Bennett also played tribute to Sunderland AFC’s official charity, praising the impact that the Foundation has made within the community and the opportunities the Beacon of Light provides.

“A lot of different organisations get involved with the Foundation of Light, and I think with partnerships, it’s great that we can all learn of each other and when you come here (Beacon of Light) you can see how diverse it is.”(…) “You’ve got different activities, different people, different cultures, different diversities, different nationalities and different religions who are coming together on one roof (4G Indoor Barn) and engaging in different things. You’ve got to give a thumbs up to the Foundation of Light for the job they are doing in the community.”

Black Cats legend and former Sunderland captain, Gary Bennett

Reflecting on his playing days, Bennett admits he is very impressed with how far the beautiful game has come in the way of adversity through racism and diversity

“I think it’s fantastic. It’s better for the sport. Not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well, you look at supporters who come to the games, it’s very diverse and it’s important we continue that journey.”

Black Cats legend and former Sunderland captain, Gary Bennett

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