The Past, Present and Future of Black History Month at H&E
With the only ‘celebration’ of Black History Month feeling a repetitive assembly focusing on Martin Luther King, Black History Month felt as though it was losing touch with modernity. However, at Herts and Essex, we are determined to ensure that Black History Month is celebrated across all aspects of its rich and powerful history.
We believe that powerful change can come from the students themselves, so we aim to enable and empower these voices. Annually, students set up a Black History Month Committee, open to students from all age ranges and ethnic groups; this group aims to tackle the very real issues of racism that students still face, but also celebrates the diversity and individuality of students from different backgrounds and cultures. The group truly establishes the sense of community that we aim to create at Herts and Essex.
Student-led assemblies have replaced PowerPoints full of reused content, enabling students to talk to other students on a personal level. Charity events are held to show support for organisations such as Show Racism the Red Card and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. In addition to this, tutor time activities, bake sales, and short sketches celebrating music are just a few of the many events that take place throughout the month. We also celebrate cultural foods, spending time collaborating with providers, planning and creating menus that will be served for the students to try and enjoy.
At Herts and Essex, the end of Black History month does not mark the end of our efforts. Soon after October ends, we will be expanding the Black History Month committee into a new Culture, Diversity, and Anti-Racism group which will continue working to better Herts and Essex’s progressive nature. We are taking an intersectional approach with this; after October, plans will be put into action that will tackle issues faced by all groups, exploring race, gender, sexuality, religion and many other factors.
The school’s work is not limited to student led efforts. As part of the ethos embodied in Black History Month the school has been working on a number of important reviews and reforms. This year’s October celebrations also include an update and audit on the work started last October. Curriculum reviews have been conducted and work continues in terms of making lesson content more representative of ethnic and cultural diversity. The schools behaviour policies are also being reviewed reformed by a dedicated staff research group set up last year to ensure we are bring proactive in terms of anti-racism. Efforts are often combined between staff and students and this year students led staff training on micro-aggressions an initiative born of Black History Month 2020.
In short, the celebration of Black History month is no longer something that is limited to the month of October at Herts and Essex. It’s now a spotlight we use to shine a light on of the efforts by staff and students the whole year round, whilst also giving us the opportunity to celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity. Though there is still much work that needs to be done, positive progression is undoubtedly being made, and Black History month continues to be a wonderful and inspiring point of the year that has certainly helped make our school a better place to be.
Words by Equality and Diversity Prefects: Samara Acheampong, Chloe Conway, Emilia Greffon, Erin Kavanagh, Moyofoluwa Ogungbemi, Emilia Shah alongside Mr Christophy (Culture, Diversity and Anti-Racism Group Leader