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Black History Month


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#16 John Simkin

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 09:43 AM

There is an interesting article attacking the idea of the Black History Month in today’s Guardian. It includes the following:

My 12-year-old sister looks forward to black history month. She has enjoyed learning about Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman and her underground railroad. But while emotive stories of a great orator or a narcoleptic who smuggled slaves into Canada are fascinating, they are little more than bedtime stories. It's a bit of heart-warming trivia from a bygone era that fails to provide a context for today's black teenagers. Teaching rarely rises to the challenge of dealing with more recent heroes and heroines, or events such as the race riots, police brutality, and apartheid in South Africa.

And it certainly doesn't attempt to bring things up-to-date by talking about the case of Stephen Lawrence and the history of the troubled relationship between black people and the police. It is vital that we discuss slavery, but we should be wary of a tendency to discuss dead issues and dead people rather than to address the travesties still being enacted.

Black history month, by its very label, ghettoises black history. If it is an event that is supposed to include the Irish, Asians, Chinese, Vietnamese and others, then why is it still called "black"? Even if it hearkens back to its aims of raising self-esteem among black teenagers, to define people's cultural identity not in terms of their colour but in terms of where they come from would be a positive first step. Defining black experience in terms of race generalises it, and opens the door to negative stereotypes. Whether it's black on black crime, or black history month, it's an easy label that does no good. There is no such thing as "white" history. By putting black experience into an isolation tank, we de-politicise it. By focusing on race, we nourish the idea that this issue is not of universal interest.


http://www.guardian....1051722,00.html

Edited by John Simkin, 29 September 2003 - 09:48 AM.


#17 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 08:39 PM

At the debate that I attended last year by Radio London on BHM there was alot of negative feeling about BHM being appropriated by 'white liberals' (I presume that I was included under this label). I defended myself by arguing that at the moment we do not have a situation where the majority or even a substantial minority of schools are addressing the multicultural aspects of British History and therefore BHM was a vital ELEMENT in challenging this. However I also agreed with many of the speakers and the author of the article quoted by John that BHM does not mean that we should just pigeonhole 'Black' history into October. My position on this was put forward in the seminar that I led on this board. I am now even more convinced (particularly by the lack of responses to this posting) that something needs to be done to increase the amount of multicultural history in the curriculum and that the only way to overcome the tokenism of BHM is to have this integrated into the National Curriculum through schemes of work.

Whilst I do have some sympathy for the writer's claim that BHM in schools has been limited to MLK / HArriet Tubman and 'edutainment' I would absolutely challenge that in the context of my school, where I have organised a variety of different events including using 'role models' to talk to students about current issues affecting Black and Asian people in contemporary Britain as well as including an archivist from the London Metropolitan Archives who has researched the Black Presence in Brixton over the last 250 years.
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#18 Andrew Field

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 08:42 PM

Due to the contents of this thread (and the previous seminar) I have gone to those in power at my school and we will hopefully have genuine representation of Black History month rather than 'edutainment' at my school. I'll report more when it happens.

It is essential to increase the amount of multiculturalism in the whole school curriculum and I fully agree with your comments about the ways to remove the tokenism that is Black History Month.


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#19 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 29 September 2003 - 09:00 PM

That's great to hear and I look forward to reading about your celebrations. I have written to the Guardian and to the author of the article citing the discussions on the forum as one way of challenging some of her assumptions.
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#20 Malarvilie

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 08:57 AM

A month ago I said that as I am starting a new HOD post at a new school that I wont be able to do as much as I did last year. Well the snowball has turned into an avalanche and I think it is already bigger than last year at my old school.

I have around thirty kids (that I know about) preparing to sing, dance, write poems.... I have a very vocal and enthusiastic working party of kids that are organising Black Movie day, and a rapping competition. The hall is covered in the most amazing display. Every assembly has a theme with a poem being read out. The dept has inspired other teachers who are clamouring for materials to put up. All the kids are talking about it and are so excited which is rubbing off on the staff.

We are going to have a traditional dress day (kids have to pay 50p and the proceeds go to an African charity of their choice) and we will have a presentation evening. I am already exhausted and it is only day 3!!

What am I thinking?? I am loving every minute. My classroom turns into fame academy every lunchtime which fills me with pride. :teacher:
......I have the body of a weak and feeble woman
but I have the heart and stomach of a King!

#21 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 03 October 2003 - 09:05 AM

.... bit of a side-bar here, and hope Dan won't think I am trivialising his thread.

WI is not all 'Jam and Jerusalem' B) - last night the meeting in my village had a talk on 'Bristol and the Slave Trade'. Unfortunately I couldn't go but I was well pleased to see the talk was happening.

#22 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 04 October 2003 - 09:20 AM

.... bit of a side-bar here, and hope Dan won't think I am trivialising his thread.

WI is not all 'Jam and Jerusalem'  B) - last night the meeting in my village had a talk on 'Bristol and the Slave Trade'. Unfortunately I couldn't go but I was well pleased to see the talk was happening.

Not in the slightest Carole. I think that it is fantastic that BHM is really beginning to take off, and if it can penetrate the WI then surely that is a cause of celebration. I have been spending a bit of time in Bristol recently (my partner has just started teaching Politics at the University) and last Sunday went for a walk along the river and was picturing what it must have been like seeing those slave ships docked. Certainly different from the multitude of bars that have sprung up there now.

To return to BHM, it is lovely to read Enigma's posting about how exciting and motivating it can be to organise events that really get the whole school buzzing. I am very excited about the forthcoming events at my school and have 'landed' some really excellent speakers for one of the events; a policy analyst (with a Masters in History) from the Council for Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations, a member of the management council of the Institute of Race relations, a historian from the London Metropolitan Archives, who has researched on the Black Presence in Brixton over the last 500 years as well as 2 speakers from the Army, a former pupil who is a very successful playwright and the director of the Young Writer's programme at the Royal Court Theatre , a product designer, and a journalist/web designer. With the exception of two, all of the rest responded to emails that I sent out. It just goes to show how willing most people are to come into schools to talk to our students and I would really recommend that people try it - you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
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#23 Jerome Monahan

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 10:04 AM

Dear Dan -

I am a journalist writing about Black History month for the resources section of the Guardian. It would be great to talk to you either via this forum or direct about the value of Black History month and the difficulties or otherwise of including a sense of black people's contribution to UK history in lessons given the crammed nature of the curriculum. Have things become harder? It would also be great to get some thoughts from you (and any other History teachers) about why including this perspective is important. The piece I am writing is meant to be for consumption by Key Stage 3 students.

Best wishes - Jerome Monahan

[Edit by Andrew Field: ... and just to note, Jerome contacted me this morning and I directed him to this topic. If such articles can encourage more history teachers to become involved it can only be a good thing.]

Edited by Andrew Field, 05 October 2003 - 10:08 AM.


#24 Andrew Field

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 10:23 AM

You could certainly get a lot of good ideas and information from Dan's 'seminar' he did a few months ago. Titled Teaching Black and Asian History in Schools - http://www.schoolhis...?showtopic=1518


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#25 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 06:47 PM

I have been spending a bit of time in Bristol recently (my partner has just started teaching Politics at the University) and last Sunday went for a walk along the river and was picturing what it must have been like seeing those slave ships docked. Certainly different from the multitude of bars that have sprung up there now.

I expect you know about the Empire and Commonwealth Museum then? It's at Temple Meads Station Approach (in Brunel's original terminus I think - or was the building the worksheds?) so it should be convenient for you if you come over by train. Have you been able to go yet?

They have events for BHM, but unfortunately the one I really wanted to go to is on the same day as the Lincoln meeting :(

#26 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 07:43 PM

I have heard about the museum, but haven't been there yet - the website looks great (thanks for the link) and I can feel a visit coming on very soon.
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
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#27 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 09 October 2003 - 08:51 PM

I expect those better informed than I am already know this BBC Multicultural History site but I have only just found it. There are links to all sorts of interesting articles
eg on: The First Black Britons
The discovery of the Slave Burial Ground in New York
Martin Luther King's Leadership Style


..... lots of useful and interesting information.

#28 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 09 October 2003 - 09:07 PM

This is a really great site, can't believe I haven't come across it before. Am going to the Empire and Commonwealth Museum on Saturday, should be great.
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
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#29 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 09 October 2003 - 09:17 PM

The 100 Great Black Britonssite is running a competition for schools which runs til the end of this year.

All the details are here..

There's also a Black History Challenge for 12-14 year olds living in London+suburbs.

Also posted in Try This Out

#30 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 12 October 2003 - 07:32 PM

I visited the Empire and Commonwealth Museum on Saturday and thought it was very interesting. I particularly liked the kinaesthetic touches that they had put in - lots of things you could turn, pull out, morse code tappers etc and the different approaches to the displays eg using images as well as text to describe the objects. I also thought the general presentation was excellent and there was enough material to keep you going for a good hour. The criticisms that I woud make was the lack of material about Bristol's role in the Slave Trade, sure there was some, but considering the huge impact it had on the development of the city, I expected more. I was also a bit disappointed about the limited section on the contribution of etnic minorities to the world wars. Overall I woud strongly recommend it and for any teachers who are in Bristol schools I would be very interested to hear any feedback from you!
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
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