Black History Month

People from African and Caribbean backgrounds have been a fundamental part of British history for centuries, however, their value and contribution to society is often overlooked, ignored or distorted. The founder of The Black Curriculum, Lavinya Stennett says "We have existed in Britain and been pioneers, inventors, icons. And then colonialism happened, and that has shaped the experiences of black people - but that is not all we are." The lack of education about black British history and the British Empire plays a part in racism still existing in the UK and our discussions about it. There are more campaigners calling for black history to be included in the curriculum in England, not just celebrated in October.

Mostly the black history we are taught in UK schools involves the transatlatic slave trade or the US civil rights movement which is usually taught during October as a part of Black History Month. But as Melody Triumph of The Black Curriculum states: "lf you're omitting different histories and narratives, you're saying that these people aren't part of this country, this nation, this heritage - or they're not important enough to be taught as common knowledge". Commonly, a school's history curriculum focuses on the traditional events and achievements of white figures, but it is so important to discuss the stories that have not been told. Far too often we are not taught the dark history endured by so many black people.

Though we are striving to learn more about black history throughout the entirety of a pupil's educational life, it is still acceptable to celebrate Black History Month and the opportunities it gives everyone to share, celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture. Intended to recognise the contribution and achievements of black heritage, it is also an opportunity for people to learn more about the effects of racism and how they can challenge it. Black History Month is not just celebrated in places of education, it is also celebrated within communities in places such as museums, care homes and workplaces with a wide range of topics covered, including Britain's colonial past, migration and music.

This year Black History Month Magazine has launched a new campaign ‘Proud To Be’. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement from the previous year, the campaign will invite black and brown people to share what they are proud to be e.g. Proud To Be Black and LGBTQ+, Proud To Be Me. The campaign intends to make this year's Black History Month personal and unique to not only individuals, but also families and whole communities, aiming to to focus on how history is being made in our own way.

“It’s been a challenging time for many Black and Brown people, with so much in the media about racism, inequality and injustice. We wanted the theme of Black History Month 2021 to focus on celebrating being Black or Brown, and to inspire and share the pride people have in their heritage and culture – in their own way, in their own words.” - Catherine Ross, Editor of Black History Month ME

There are new resources available to schools to integrate black history across the whole curriculum, all year round in addition to Black History Month 2021 and supporting teachers and young people to talk about and understand issues of race and equality. The resource pack also includes ‘Proud To Be’ sheets for students to fill in and share what they are proud of. If you are interested in learning more about Proud To Be or would like to share what makes you proud, you can do so here:

At Terra Nova this term, our pupils have spent time learning about black history throughout most of their curriculum. Our teaching faculty have integrated black history throughout their subjects in order to celebrate Black History Month.

In a whole school assembly at the beginning of October Mr Campbell put a quote on the screen “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”, he asked everyone to think about this in regards to Black History Month. He then informed everybody of the Caribbean passengers of the Empire Windrush who were invited to come to England as citizens, to get fantastic jobs, start new lives and help to rebuild England after the Second World War. However, this was not the reality that the Windrush generation found when they arrived in England, they were forced to live underground in abandoned stations that were used as bomb shelters, they were not allowed to leave until they found jobs. They were kept in poor conditions and treated unfairly, the accommodation was described as "primitive and unwelcoming, like a sparsely furnished rabbit's warren". Pupils then reflected on how the story of Windrush related to the quote they heard prior, and the current situation refugees are facing.

In her sessions with our Scholars, Mrs Westall has also spent time talking about some of the amazing figures from black history. “One of the scariest things our pupils have to face is their interview with a future school. The expectations placed on scholars is huge, so in our weekly meetings this term, we have looked at strategies that help us articulate our opinion in a deep and meaningful way, using impressive vocabulary. As it is Black History Month, what better topic is there to form opinions about! We looked at some key people including Rosa Parks, Mary Bowser and Mary Seacole, along with Bill Richmond and Martin Luther King. Their determination and tenacity, at great risk to themselves and others, were inspiring and triggered passionate discussion.” - Mrs Westall, Deputy Head. Such bravery encouraged our Scholars to put their nerves to one side and share their carefully articulated opinions with new confidence:

"I agree with Rosa Parks that all people, whatever their skin colour, should be treated equally. Rosa started a boycott against segregation which brought about new legislation"

Camilla BB

"When arrested, Rosa Parks fought back - what she did was imperative for our lives today" Helena CL.

Another example comes from our Year 4 pupils, who with their teachers Mrs Gerrard and Miss Dowds looked at the story of Harriet Tubman and the incredible journey she endured with the help of the underground railroads network. Pupils identified key moments throughout Tubman’s life on a timeline. They then watched film clips educating them on both Tubman and Rosa Parks making comparisons between these incredible influential figures. They were also treated as one pupil, Sophia D, brought in a lovely book from home ‘Henry’s Freedom Box’ by Ellen Levine, which follows the life of a slave who mailed himself to freedom, Year 4 used the book to make further connections to Tubman’s journey. In their history lessons, our Year 5 pupils have been looking at John Blanke the Trumpeter, a famous black Tudor. They have explored several sources which described his status and influence in Tudor Britain, following this pupils had to explain why it is important to remember that there were Black people who were influential in Tudor England. Miss Hark has also made sure the whole of the Year 8 curriculum seamlessly incorporates black history throughout.

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