Celebrating Black Excellence
Christ’s Hospital’s Afro-Caribbean Society in 2020 has banded together with various teams and departments within our School community to Celebrate Black Excellence! Our student body is incredibly diverse and in order to celebrate that diversity, the ACS has set up a range of events throughout the academic year – from panel discussions with highly celebrated authors and Saturday night events, to collaborating with the catering team and hearing from other university Afro-Caribbean Societies.
We primarily want to consciously effect change within our school – especially in the way that we confront issues around race. The ACS is a safe, open and welcoming space for those who want to talk about experiences and others who want to learn from them, and we hope, that by having these conversations, we can make an impact on attitudes towards racial discrimination.
Christ’s Hospital is a diverse and inclusive institution, so it is only natural that it celebrates this within all walks of the school. Black History Month has been enhanced this year by a collaboration between the History Department and other areas of school.
Celebrating Black Excellence does not simply include history, it includes all parts of scholastic life. This extends, of course, to the Music Department.
I have worked assiduously with Mr Thompson (Assistant Director of Music (Performance)) and Mr Hodgkinson (Director of Music) to confront the underrepresentation of black composers in the musical world. Pupil performances have aided us in achieving this goal, and I am pleased to announce a Christ’s Hospital ‘Celebrating Black Excellence’ virtual concert. Adrian (Grecians West).
- Tora, Grecians West (Thornton A)
- Daniella, Grecians East (Leigh Hunt A)
- Esther, Grecians East (Leigh Hunt A)
- Adrian, Grecians West (Middleton A)
- Max, Grecians East (Lamb B)
- Maria, Deputy Grecian (Barnes B)
- Christ’s Hospital Grecians’ Gospel Choir
- Christ’s Hospital 3rd Form Boys’ Choir
Born in Holborn on the 15 August 1875, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer, commonly referred to as the “African Mahler”, during and after his three tours of the United States in the early twentieth century. One of his most notable works include the ‘Hiawatha Overture’ and ‘Deep River’. He has arranged works for voice, piano and violin, and many of his scores are inspired by the fervent influence he received from African traditional music. At the Royal College of Music, which he attended at just fifteen, he perfected his technique and wrote many compositions.
Funnily enough, Coleridge-Taylor’s name is inspired by the famous poet Samuel Taylor-Coleridge, an Old Blue (Christ’s Hospital alumnus), bringing Coleridge-Taylor even closer to home.
Many of his compositions were politicised in order to fight racial prejudice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He sadly died on the 1st September 1912 from pneumonia.
Another contemporary artist! Stephen Lee Bruner was born on October 19th 1984. The Los Angeles native specialises in Funk, Contemporary R&B, Jazz, Soul and Electronica.
He often performs with his guitar (pictured) and has produced works such as ‘Them Changes’ and ‘Show You the Way’ throughout his singer-songwriter career, both reasonable successes. He received a Grammy award in 2016 for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
As a religious person, he incorporates many religious themes into his music.
Making her debut in 2000 with ‘Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, a platinum album, the native Philadelphian soprano, raised by her mother and grandmother, specialises in soul, hip hop and R&B. She now resides in Tennessee.
Philanthropically speaking, she currently conducts her charitable foundation, the ‘Blue Babes Foundation’, which aids young minorities in paying for their university expenses.
She has also pursued a career in acting, with her films including ‘Flint’ and ‘Hounddog’.
Sadly, the late Bill Withers made it 80s before passing away this year. The West Virginian’s most famous works include ‘Lean On Me’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and ‘Just the Two of Us’. He won three Grammy awards throughout his life.
His songs have been used for films such as: ‘Looking for Mr Goodbar’, ‘Jerry Maguire’, ‘Jackie Brown’, ‘Notting Hill’, ‘The Bodyguard’ and ‘American Beauty’.
He died in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Gladys Knight is, at the time of writing, 76 years old. She has three children, Shanga Hankerson, Kenya Newman and James Newman III. The Georgian native is known commonly as the “Empress of Soul” and specialises in not just this genre, but R&B, pop, gospel and jazz. She recorded several hits from the 60s straight through to the 80s with her group, ‘Gladys Knight and the Pips’, with whom she has won three Grammy Awards. She has won an additional four as a solo artist. Her theme song for the 1989 James Bond film
I was approached on LinkedIn by the President of the Warwick Inspire organisation and she asked me to be one of the keynote speakers at a webinar she was hosting called the 'The UK Curriculum: Our fight for education equality'.
Over the lockdown period, I launched an initiative/campaign on my social media called Black History Matters. It aimed to shed light on forgotten stories and encourage people to celebrate their vibrant history in volatile times.
In my segment, I delved deeper into what had inspired me to start my campaign. I had been interested in history in general from a young age, but was disappointed with the fact that none of the figures in my history book looked like me. I mentioned that within black history, there is a lack of ‘intersectional inclusion’. Not just including black women, but also Black British History and pre-Windrush African history and how there is a lack of awareness when it comes to these areas.
I also spoke about the inequality in the education system and the concept of ‘selective inclusion’ and emphasised how we are only taught the black figures that are widely known and accepted. There are many examples of this concept such as Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. As these are the figures we are used to when referring to black history I realised that they had the same message.
We aren't taught about the more ‘controversial’ figures such as Malcolm X or Assata Shakur and Steve Biko. When it comes to white history, we learn about the good and the bad characters, about Hitler and Churchill and Henry VIII and Stalin. We are given the freedom to judge whether their characters are acceptable or unacceptable. However, there is no choice of or exposure to more diverse figures in black history.
I had such an incredible experience. Although I was nervous to talk at my first webinar, I knew that this was an opportunity to make a positive difference and represent my School and family extremely well and I am confident that I did just that. The response was phenomenal and everyone that watched was remarkably receptive to the message that I was trying to convey.
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.