Celebrating Black Excellence
Christ’s Hospital’s African Caribbean Society, one of CHEDI’s (Christ’s Hospital’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) many branch groups, provides all pupils and staff with an opportunity to openly and honestly discuss issues regarding race both within school, and the wider world. As a student-led organisation, we aim to make the experiences of African-Caribbean pupils and staff much better through discussion, education and fun! From career-oriented events and curriculum reforms, to ACS-led Saturday night entertainment and collaborations with the catering team, the ACS aims to have a positive impact on attitudes towards racial discrimination and discussions about race by encouraging honesty, inclusion, respect and equity.
This month, the ACS has collaborated with various teams and departments within the school community for Black History Month, in a program called Celebrating Black Excellence – supported by the History Department in particular. This is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible diversity we are lucky to have, as well as the many valuable contributions made by the African and Caribbean communities to society. A series of competitions and events will be taking place from October, until the end of the Michaelmas term to celebrate this.
BLACK BRITISH HISTORY MATTERS
In recent years, there has been an increasing acceptance of the view that Black History is not represented well enough in school curricula and even when it is, it is reduced to motivating but repetitive and brief stories about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and various abolitionist and civil rights movements. Whilst this is important, there is much more to black history that goes untaught, unread, and is equally deserving of being studied in school. Not only is it assumed that black people have some sort of innate knowledge of black history, we are often left with the additional challenge of educating others about black history.
Another thing that was noticed was that the black history discussed in school was often about American figures such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, leaving British students with a lack of knowledge of important figures in British black history, and enabling the perception that racism is predominantly an ‘American issue’: this is certainly not the case.
With this in mind, the ACS have worked with the History Department as well as the teachers in charge of the Learning for Life programme, to implement teaching about important black British figures in history, as well as other black people who have achieved great and inspiring things. The aim of this is to provide students with a more accurate depiction of history and the role black people have played in making it, despite the obstacles laid before them. Black history shouldn’t just be about the more ‘palatable’ heroes, but the villains and others behind the scenes too.
Over the summer term of lock down the History department began to take an objective look at its curriculum. Events of 2020 had sparked healthy conversations relating to the subject material that was being delivered. The department’s audit suggested that a reasonably broad range of the history of a variety of cultures and peoples was being delivered from the Great Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates of Africa and the Middle East to Chinese Nationalism in the 1930s. Nevertheless, the department felt that it could do better. In order to facilitate a broader history of ‘otherness’ members of the department selected various themes that our curricula focussed on and took the opportunity to plan enquiries that were contemporary to the periods that were already followed. A wonderful range of topics began to emerge, from the Haitian Revolution, to the Non Aligned Movement, Islamic and Asian scientific discovery as well as the Mughal Empire. The intention was to see these histories in their own context without outside influence.
Black History month and Christ's Hospital’s celebration of Black Excellence further afforded the department the opportunity to diversify its curriculum and broaden the scope of ‘otherness’. Investigations into Black Tudors have enabled the 03 form to learn about John Blanke, court trumpeter to Henry VIII, Jacques Francis, salvage diver on the Mary Rose and the first African to give evidence in an English court. Grecian and Deputy Grecian Historians investigated ‘Who was Toussaint L’Overture?’ A hero of the Haitian revolution but hitherto a real enigma. Enquires uncovered a cultivated, cultured articulate and inspirational leader driven by a revolutionary zeal and equality. Later on this term to coincide with the broader celebration of Black Excellence, LE historians will enquire about the role of Black colonial forces during the First World War. Our IGCSE Historians will place the Cold War in a proper global context by learning about conflicts in Africa such as Angola.
The move towards a History of otherness and looking at history elsewhere has been a hugely rewarding one that we, as a department, will continue to enjoy as part of our developments in the future.