This year, we took our first step in striving toward a more eloquent, inclusive, and open national narrative, starting with Black History Month.
While Black History Month maintains the essential job of highlighting the contributions and experiences of African and Caribbean heritage people in this country, it should not be a substitute for striving toward a more eloquent, inclusive, and open national narrative.
We are part of increasingly interconnected communities. The intersectionality of these communities means that it is becoming more obviously flawed to draw boundaries around groups' contributions, experiences, and actions. Our choices - and the relics of those choices - don't seem to follow the boundaries of calendars or single categories of identity. Through decades of campaigns, struggles, and growth in the UK, we are making good strides in acknowledging and writing a more inclusive narrative of our history. This has been done in part by unearthing, augmenting, and reconstructing derelict voices and experiences. We've also diversified the voices that write and teach these histories.
This year, in a deliberate act, we decided to elevate the narrative to move past the reliance on one month as a 'catch-all' to represent the experiences, contributions, and voices of African and Caribbean heritage.
We did this by building on the work of activists, teachers, historians, and everyday people. We ask why we tell the stories we tell and what impact these stories have on young people? For example, as part of our Character Development Programme, starting in September and leading up to Black History Month - students explored topics of identity (Year 7), our obligation to others (Year 8), standing up for justice (Year 9) and human hights (Year 10).
We ask who or what is missing when we think our stories are complete? We asked questions about our own identities and biases in the histories we create and share. Finally, we asked why do we gravitate to stories of specific individuals, groups, and events? And, who might be left out of those preferences?
This year we amplified the stories of local people. Students listened to the Michael Phillips Chief Crown Prosecutor tell his story, and Sixth Form students heard from a former student, Tremaine Richard-Noel, Head of Emerging Technology and Automotive Acceleration Programme Director, who recounted his journey.
We elevated the narrative by asking students to advocate for more voices from diverse backgrounds while deconstructing the 'norm' against which we measure such diversity. For example, in our DEAR Programme (Drop Everything And Read), students read about inspirational, powerful, and positive young black role models. In addition, during October, we celebrated black music and culture in our 'Lunchtime Extravaganzas'. For example, students sang and danced to music from Afro-beats, Reggae, American R&B and Hip-Hop. In addition, students read poems by Maya Angelo and Amanda Gorman.
Finally, we elevated the narrative by allowing students to capture the moment in Art. We had a competition with the title 'Our Differences Unite Us' and below are the winning and second place entries.
First place is a soundtrack created by Ethan C in Year 7, click to listen >>>
Joint second place is this abstract piece by Esther T (Year 10)
And Poem Cocoa by Makeda S in Year 10