Berkhamsted Group | 20.10.2020

Black History Month at Berkhamsted School

Black History Month at Berkhamsted School

While Black History Month marks an extra opportunity to raise awareness, the Berkhamsted School community are striving to make a year-round commitment to learning about the past to help shape the future.  Black History Month has reminded us that Black History is British History too which stems far beyond racism and slavery. 

Pupils and staff throughout the school have been actively engaged in Black History Month. From research in academic lessons to impromptu discussions at lunch time, students and staff are talking, considering and enhancing their understanding across a variety of historical topics and prominent key figures in black history.  School assemblies (virtual or socially distant) and chapel services have been a big part of this. 

Learning from history

I feel strongly about Black History Month because it is a time where successful black people are recognised for what they have contributed to their communities. It is important for the Berkhamsted community so that they recognise the importance of black people.” Shanique, Year 12.  

As humans we learn from history, the good aspects but mainly the mistakes so not to make them again. I believe it is integral that we all know about black history; we learn from mistakes made in the past and how we can eliminate stigmas and racism in the modern world.” Jonah, Year 12. 

Black History Month – getting people talking

I believe it is necessary to learn about Black History Month, as it will have a positive impact on the school in making pupils realise one of the different races that make up a large population of the UK’s, and the worlds, population structure. There is always an impact when you start a conversation, so just by the school initiating a conversation about black history I’ve certainly overheard discussions and debates throughout the school. The general aim of this campaign is to get people talking and I believe that is exactly the impact it has had on Berkhamsted School.”  JonahYear 12.  

Black Lives Matter

“This year more than ever I think everyone is keen to learn about Black History following the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this summer. The institutionalised bias in our society needs to be abolished but Black History Month is important so that we can learn more about the history and existence of racism. I think it is crucial that we learn more about black history so we can have a more rounded view of British history from the perspectives of all people. Ismay, Year 12.  

Artwork: A paper weave that has been drawn into as a creative interpretation of the Kente fabric woven by the Akan people of Ghana. By Molly, Year 7

Art and Culture: Cher frère blanc

Throughout the school there will be countless examples where academic studies relate to black history. Ismay recalls a recent French lesson that gave the opportunity for students to think deeply about the prejudice of the past.  

“Cher frère blanc’ a poem which explains how the poet remains black at each stage of his life, at birth, at death and when sick and in the sun. The piece continues by describing how the white man can be pink, red, blue, green and grey. The poem closes posing a thought-provoking question: ‘so who really is the man of colour?’ This question aims to undermine prejudice and helps to remind us of the humanity beneath the colour of our skin. One of the key messages I have taken from Black History Month has been to look at things more deeply and this has encouraged me to wonder how many people we celebrate today have taken credit for the work of others, not just for racial reasons.”  Ismay, Year 12.

Decolonise our understanding of history and looking to the future

By learning about Black History this month we can help decolonise our understanding of history in order to properly understand the issues of today. We live in a country where the achievements and histories of our black community have been heavily omitted and not properly recognised. For this reason, it is our responsibility to ‘fill in the gaps’.  

This month we can look to both the past and the future. We should be thinking about the past – how the voices of the black community have been erased from our British history, but also how we are going to contribute to a multi-cultural inclusive future. Being informed about the past helps us understand the weight of issues in the present, including the daily realities of institutional and systemic racism. Hopefully we can also all remember to take the lessons we learn this month and apply them throughout the rest of the year. Black history is about both excellence and diversity two themes that are universal. This is why we should all take the opportunity to inform ourselves about black history. Sam, Year 13.  

Aiming for an equal society

“Black history is an extremely sensitive and important topic that should be covered in our curriculums. It is essential for us to learn from the mistakes we made in the past that have harmed the black community such as slavery, oppression, and segregation. By learning from the mistakes we have made in the past and perhaps even still in the present, by knowing what went wrong instead of being ignorant about the hundreds of years of cruelness, we can finally build a benevolent, equal society which still doesn’t exist to this day. 

“I hope after the Black History Month, Berkhamstedians will be able to gain a better understanding of a different part of history we had never paid attention to previously. I hope that with this new knowledge the community can do an even better job of accepting diversity despite one’s race or ethnicity.” Tara Year 13.  

Black History Month Activities at Berkhamsted

  • History Department – A menu of options for pupils to engage with on Black History. An in-depth course for Y9 on the transatlantic slave trade and the abolitionists linking to modern anti-racist movements. Year 10 studied Jesse Owens. Y12 will are studing the Civil Rights movement in preparation for coursework next year. There was a course on Drake, Hawkins and Slavery for Y13 to complement their A-Level studies 
  • Library – a daily bulletin to all staff and pupils proviided recommended titles for younger readers, more mature ones, as well as adult reads that will help develop their thinking on Black History 
  • Religion & Philosophy Department – IGCSE pupils are delivering presentations on the historical fight for racial equality
  • PSHE – A three week citizenship course for Year 9 followed a course taught explicitly to all classes in Yrs 8-10 last summer on the Back Lives Matter movement and our responsibility to educate ourselves meaningfully 
  • Geography – A range of resources and lessons on diversity to be used across the year groups  
  • Maths – Plenaries are being delivered to educate pupils on the contribution of BAME mathematicians 
  • Physics –  BHM activities have been delivered on OneNote for each year group this term. The activities consider current BAME contributors to science and historical advancements that have a BAME background that is perhaps lesser known.
  • Sociology – Activities to enable pupils to consider the contribution that BAME communities have made to society at large  
  • Music – Celebrating black artists, musicians and movements that have made a significant contribution to the development of modern music
  • Chemistry – Pupils were set a starter on a BAME scientist and their biography in all classes to highlight their important achievements 
  • Art – The department have been delivering an African Pattern SoW to Y7. This includes exploration of a range of textile traditions such as Nigerian wax prints and Kente woven cloth from Ghana and Ivory Coast. The are including videos and music, as well as excerpts from the BBC’s ‘Handmade in Africa’ and a section from an episode of the Netflix documentary ‘Abstract – the Art of Design’ focusing on the practice of Ruth Carter – the first black costume designer to win an Oscar for her work on the film ‘Black Panther’ 
  • Psychology students have been looking at conformity and obedience which enables discrimination against minorities to spread. They have also explored the psychological roots which can lead to social change such as the Suffragettes, Civil Rights movement, the environmental movement, Me Too Movement and Black Lives Matter movement.

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Serving others -Berkhamsted School values

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