We’re marking Black History Month by championing the people and places that have influenced our city over the course of history.


Time to dig deeper, look closer and think bigger this October.



Introducing culture…














As Sunderland’s port became increasingly busier during the late 20th century, more and more seafarers of Arabic, Middle Eastern and African heritage began docking at Sunderland.

This photo is from around 1889, and although it’s an unassuming building, this small church on Kayll Road is perhaps one of the first places of worship, refuge and learning for those from Africa.


Emile Ford

During the late 50s and 60s, Wearside welcomed chart-topping sensation, Emile Ford into the community after marrying a local lass from Hylton Castle.

Emile was a popular culture figure during the early 1960s; as the leader of Emile Ford & the Checkmates, Emile would regularly visit the North East, touring and entertaining.

He even visited Downhill and Pallion clubs in Sunderland!


Gary Bennett















Gary is a hero on Wearside. Having began his career with Manchester City, Gary joined the lads in 1984 and went on to make over 350 appearances for Sunderland – placing him fifth on the club’s all-time appearance list.

After giving 11 years of service to Wearside, Gary moved on to other local clubs in the North East before retiring. Nowadays, Gary is actively involved in better society.

He’s a vocal member of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign, he is a regular and loved member of the commentating team for Sunderland AFC’s live matches and he’s recently opened a football academy on Wearside for youngsters.


Kumbuka Collins

Kumbuka was the University of Sunderland’s first black Student Union president from 1999-2000 – helping thousands of students feel comfortable and find their voice during university life.

Originally from Zambia, Kumbuka settled in the region after graduating with a BA Business Administration degree, and now currently lives and works in the North East.


Roly Gregiore















In January 1978, Sunderland AFC signed Roly Gregoire for £5,000, becoming the first black player to play for the Black Cats.

Roly had impressed then manager, Jimmy Anderson, with a string of impressive performances during a trial period. Roly caught the attention of many scouts, but after scoring a hat-trick against Sunderland reserves – Jimmy Anderson signed him promptly after the full-time whistle.

Gregiore made his debut for Sunderland against Hull City later that season and spent two seasons on Wearside before retiring in 1980 due to injury.


Donna Chambers

Donna is another highly-intelligent intellectual that is changing the lives of students in the modern era.

Having joined the University of Sunderland in 2013, Donna is now head of the renowned Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism Research Institute in the city and leads cutting-edge research into postcolonial and decolonial tourism.


Emeli Sande















Sunderland-born Emeli Sande is another inspirational figure who is impacting the city.

The multi-platinum selling singer- songwriter is the chancellor of the University of Sunderland and works closely with the Uni’s various departments to enact positive change for students and residents alike.

Having been awarded an MBE in 2017, Emeli was thrust into the spotlight in 2012 when her debut album, Our Version of Events, spent 10 weeks at number one and broke a chart record set by The Beatles.


Black History Month

Time to dig deeper, look closer and think bigger this October by heading over to blackhistorymonth.org.uk and educating yourself with the issues and injustices faced by people with black and other minority ethnic backgrounds.

From poignant features, thought-provoking history segments about slavery and educational services on offer for those wanting to learn more, blackhistorymonth.org.uk is a vital tool for those wanting to educate, listen and understand this October.




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