Campaigners visit local secondary school encouraging open talks about race issues

  • The Kids of Colour campaign have been visiting schools across manchetser
  • The group recently visited a school in Gorton to discuss issues surrounding racial stereotypes and prejudice
  • The group is partnered with Black Lawyers Matter and the Salam Project

Representatives of the Kids of Colour campaign visited Cedar Mount Academy in Gorton to a hold face-to face workshops exploring idenities and challenging sterotypical and prejudice views.

Described as a day of solidarity“, the students are shown PowerPoints and relevant YouTube videos  in these in-person day long workshops, as well as creating an open space for  these students to have discussions.

Laura Morris, a teacher from Cedar Mount Academy, talked to NQ about the scheme and the work the school does to combat prejudicial narratives and harmful stereotypes.

She said: “When lockdown started last March, I signed our school up for fortnightly lectures with The Black Curriculum.

“The students loved these and got a lot out of taking part, but I realised that as much as they enjoyed learning about things they hadn’t before, they also really valued the conversations that followed the session (particularly after the death of George Floyd).”

The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise founded in 2019 with the aim of providing black history programmes, campaigning and teacher training.

Laura said: “Having spoken to Roxy Legane (the founder), she offered us the opportunity to have weekly sessions on Zoom with our students.

“These continued during the summer holidays through to present day. Now we’ve been able to have a few in-person meetings too which have been great. 

“The aim, from the school’s perspective, was to give students a space to have important conversations.

“The students love the sessions and look forward to them every week.

“I attend each week and it gives me a greater understanding of the common issues the students deal with at school so I can do something about it.”

A variety of themes and topics are discussed in these workshops such as race and racism. However, current events in the world also shape what is discussed. Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah or the Indian famers’ protest have featured in the workshops, for example.

Students are also encouraged to speak about their own personal experiences.

Asking if these workshops should be made mandatory to all secondary schools, Laura stressed their importance. 

She said: “Certainly. If there was someone appropriately skilled in school to lead on conversations about race, that would be great, but often that won’t be the case (and could lead to an increased workload, usually for teachers of colour).

“Having an external agency, like Kids of Colour, lead on the discussion allows students to feel they can express themselves fully without fear of consequences if they say something negative about how they were treated in school.”

Laura went on to stress the need for the school curriculum to be updated to reflect a more ethnically diverse Great Britain, especially in humanity subjects such as English Literature and History.

She said: “I think the curriculum, in all subjects, should reflect the students it is being delivered to. While making changes in English and History would be a start, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”

Mea Atiken, a project officer from ‘Kids of colour’, said: “We think it is really important for young people to have a space to talk about race and racism because so often in institutions young people are silenced and encouraged against being political, they are often gaslit when they talk about their experiences too. 

“Having a space to talk about world issues is so important because seeing and experiencing racism and marginalisation can be really traumatic, holding that trauma within yourself without having a space to speak about it can be extremely damaging to people’s mental wellbeing.

“Holding regular sessions, workshops and events that open up this space is one of the ways we can help prevent young people of colour from being overwhelmed and whilst we know that these spaces are not the only way to support young people, we see first hand how much they can help.”

‘Kids of Colour’, currently run weekly sessions with The East Manchester Academy, and are exploring with two other schools how they can support similar groups for them. 

Mea went on to say: “We wanted to have this discussion not because we shouldn’t celebrate things that are associated with black culture but to emphasise that we shouldn’t pass judgement on black people who don’t present themselves in a specific way.

“We reflected in particular on music and how young black people can be judged if they prefer genres of music like pop over rap or R&B because they will be seen to be closer to whiteness, whilst also talking about how people of colour will be judged for talking in a certain way if they sound ‘posh’, as again they are judged for being seen to be closer to whiteness.

“It felt really important to have this discussion because it is important to celebrate blackness in all the many beautiful, endless ways that blackness is and is expressed, and that we shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that you are ‘selling out’ your blackness if you like certain things or dress/ speak in a specific way.”

Cedar Mount Academy has also worked with Black Lawyers Matter (UoM) and The Salam Project in the past.