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News > School News > Black History Month takes Centre Stage at School

Black History Month takes Centre Stage at School

5 Oct 2020
School News

The events surrounding the murder of George Floyd earlier this year shone a spotlight on racial prejudice within and beyond the US, since when the Black Lives Matter movement has become a prominent feature of our society. From mass gatherings in city centres to Premiership footballers taking a knee before kick-off, awareness of this important issue has undoubtedly been raised. The School and OB community has not shied away from this matter: in July, a group of OBs contacted Headmaster Michael Bond and forwarded the views and experiences of former and current students.

Over the summer, Michael Bond met with four OBs to discuss how the School had worked in recent years to improve diversity. This work has included a significant rewrite of the School’s History curriculum and the growing celebration of Black History month, an annual commemoration of the history, achievements and contributions of black people, which has taken on more prominence than ever in the School calendar.

Throughout October, pupils across Brentwood School, in both the Senior School and the Preparatory, are marking the occasion with special assemblies, themed art competitions, posters and Form time discussions. In fact, the digital art for this news article was created from scratch by Fourth Year student Hannah A.

One student-led project sees a daily tribute to an influential black person, including an image, biography and inspirational story, being highlighted on TV screens across the campus, displayed on a daily bulletin and posted across social media platforms.

The month of social media posts and tributes kicked off with American poet Langston Hughes, who wrote novels, short stories, plays, and poetry, and is particularly known for his insightful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through to the sixties. 

Others, whose contribution will be noted include Malcolm X, British-Canadian boxer Lennox Lewis, British-Jamaican community leader and activist Olive Morris, and Rosa Parks, an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott.

In the whole School assembly on Monday 5th October, the School celebrated the life and work of Mary Jackson, the first African-American female engineer at NASA, whose HQ is being renamed in her honour. Staff are also being invited to wear black lanyards to encourage discussion of Black History month, following a successful initiative in February that involved rainbow lanyards in celebration of LGBT month.

The Senior School’s special timetable also includes: 

  • Stephen Lawrence: The murder that changed a nation - video and discussion via Zoom on Wednesday 7th October

  • Where are the Black Artists? - Lecture via Zoom on Tuesday 13th October  

  • A Fine Arts Competition, inspired by Black History Month.

In Humanities classes at the Preparatory School, pupils are studying a particular person or historical event: Year 3 are looking at the life of Mary Jane Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse, healer and businesswoman; Year 4 are studying the Windrush and Jocelyn Barrow, the first black woman to serve on the BBC Board of Governors.

Year 5 pupils are discovering more about writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, and Year 6 are getting to grips with the Haitian Revolution. On Friday 16th October, Prep pupils will also be asked to wear something red to mark Show Racism the Red Card Day; and over the half-term break, children will be invited to produce a poster about an Inspirational Black Briton.

The School’s caterers, Holroyd Howe, will also be treating staff and pupils to a special lunchtime feast of Afro-Caribbean cuisine on Wednesday 14th October.

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