Respect for the Museum of London!
On Thursday 4th October Years 7, 8 and 9 were fortunate enough to attend a Black History Month performance put on by a group of actors from the Museum of London. The aim of the session was to recognise the contribution of black Londoners, starting with the arrival of black soldiers during the Roman Empire, to present day examples of prominent academics, writers and activists. To do so they combined rap, role play, music and key names and facts on slides to create an exciting and energetic performance from which the students could really engage and learn.
The performance focused on celebrating a diverse range of individuals across all areas of society. While acknowledging the immense achievements of Olympians, like Mo Farah, the actors were keen to promote the accomplishments of black sportswomen, for example the football player Eniola Aluko, who are not yet household names.
Another key message of the performance was the significance of black women who have risen to positions of power and authority, overcoming the barriers of gender as well as race. For example, Whitmore students learnt about Hope Powell, who was the first black person to coach an England football team, as well as being the first woman in the role. Other women who deserve acclaim included Claudia Jones, Malorie Blackman, and Dawn Butler, to name but a few.
The important role ordinary people play in standing up against discrimination was brought home through the stories of Blair Peach (a London teacher who was killed by police at an anti-racism protest in 1979) and the activism of Doreen Lawrence (the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence).
It seems that the role plays performed by the actors resonated strongly with the students: when asked what they found most memorable, a group of year 9 students responded by saying that the stories of Olaudah Equiano and Mary Seacole really struck a chord. Olaudah Eqiuano was a former slave who wrote books and was an active campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain in the 18th century. Mary Seacole was a Jamaican nurse who would not let racism and discrimination prevent her from helping wounded soldiers in the Crimean War in the 19th century. Both are powerful historical figures who deserve to be remembered.
All year groups responded brilliantly, singing along to the introductory rap, applauding the achievements of dozens of remarkable individuals, and reflecting in silence at some of the tragic consequences of racism and discrimination. As part of the performance, a few brave students had the opportunity to come up on stage to showcase their own singing talents and demonstrate that they too are capable of feats worthy of recognition and applause. The students left the hall with a wealth of inspiring role models so that one day their names might be part of the Black History Month ‘respect awards’ roll of honour.