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Black History - a perspective from TLG
01st October 2020
As we kick off Black History Month this year, I am conscious that we are in an era where Black history month could be deemed ‘old school’ and outdated. It was most likely deemed necessary at a time when Black people were specifically targeted because of their race during post war migration. But we have moved on immensely since then. We are a more inclusive society and celebrating diversity should be high on everybody’s agenda 365 days a year.
For many, Black History Month is a way of reflecting on the diverse histories of those from African and Caribbean descent, taking note of the achievements and contributions of the social, political, economic and cultural development in the UK. It focuses on the history, experiences, and accomplishments of black people. An opportunity, especially in school, to learn about what figures like Mary Seacole, Lilian Bader, John Kent, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and many others have achieved.
It is an inspiring lesson for us all to learn, reflecting on the courage of people like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, once enslaved but who went on to defy their country’s status quo. They left a legacy that allows Black people to continue to strive for equity, to gain an education inside of the classroom, and to thank God inside of His church.
As we celebrate the achievements of black trailblazers such as these throughout this month and beyond, I am reminded that every day is Black history month.
Recent times have emphasised the importance of taking time to consider the role of the black community in our past and present. The Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd has turned up the pressure on all areas of the UK society to confront its colonial legacy.
In particular, as a children’s charity, we see the urgent need for a diverse and inclusive curriculum that reflects the diversity we see in the world. This in turn will help confront and break the racial injustice experienced by children and young people of colour, particularly black boys, who are disproportionately excluded from school.
We need to continue to celebrate every opportunity we have to help children overcome injustice of every kind, including racism. A need to reposition British history to reflect diverse identities and for pupils to be able to see themselves and their histories reflected in the curriculum.
For TLG, it was clear that we could play our own role in calling for and moving towards this change. We needed to respond with appropriate professional learning for Education Centre staff across the country and to lead by example by decolonising our curriculum.
We are currently working with the New Testament Church of God (NTCG) and other organisations, such as the Evangelical Alliance's One People’s Commission, in campaigning for the school curriculum to fully reflect today’s multi-cultural society.
We also have a separate piece of work underway to upskill all of our education centre teams to challenge racial injustice and teach a more extensive black history curriculum. The key texts being studied throughout the year have shifted to include themes of displacement, equity and exploitation. Books including ‘Holes’, and ‘Noughts and Crosses’ allow these themes to be unpacked within wider curriculum lessons, to give our students a safe space to fully debate and understand views and perspectives that are different to their own. We must encourage young people to engage in these discussions, without fear of judgement or condemnation, if we are to change the values of our future leaders and policy makers.
In addition to this, we are building in regular opportunities for all students to celebrate the rich diversity that we are blessed with in the UK. This includes a particular focus on students researching and sharing their discoveries on racial justice, as well as a more extensive black history curriculum.
It is our hope that the work that we will do within our organisation and our education centres can contribute positively to bring about lasting change for our young people for generations to come.
So many Black people contributed to this country we live in. Instead of waiting until October to celebrate our rich Black British History, we should celebrate the diversity in our country every day.
Deborah Barnett is School Development Manager and Education Policy Lead, she is London based and has worked in mainstream education, special schools and alternative provision for over twenty years. Deborah has a broad and in depth knowledge of national education policy and passionate about social and racial justice in education. She is committed to structural change to ensure all children can achieve more in schools. Her values in education are firmly linked to an inclusive, comprehensive system where all learners are valued equally.