See how a variety of HMC schools have marked Black History Month in 2023:
Black History Month at Canford School saw a full programme of assemblies, talks and tutor-time activities, alongside the publication of a wide-ranging reading list, a debate and a school meal selected specially to celebrate the heritage of pupils at the school.
There were also subject-specific activities that enabled pupils to learn about and celebrate numerous Black people who have contributed so much to society, such as the physicist, Katherine Johnson; John Edmonstone, a former enslaved person who taught Darwin to do taxidermy; and mathematician, Benjamin Banneker.
Pupils across the Coventry School Foundation marked Black History month with a range of faculty-specific activities to celebrate the role of influential black people in British society. Both schools created displays to engage and raise awareness amongst pupils and at King Henry VIII School they also held year group and whole school assemblies about this year’s theme of ‘Saluting our Sisters’.
Cranleigh School welcomed award-winning publisher, Serlina Boyd, to talk about entrepreneurship and starting Cocoa publishing; as well as the award-winning Nigerian poet, Yomi Sode, who shared a range of poems from his debut collection, Manorism, which explored family, survival, generational trauma, the complexities of belonging and the ongoing pressure of code-switching, and pupils were able to participate in a Q&A session which enabled a deeper look at the writer behind the work.
Black History Month has also been embedded throughout the curriculum at Cranleigh School, with a view to maintaining the momentum of celebration of Black excellence and Black contribution and ‘globalising’ their curriculum to consider a wider range of stories and cultural perspectives.
In Art: U6th artists visited the Courtauld Gallery to see work by Claudette Johnson. In English: pupils have entered into the National Black History Month poetry competition. In History: pupils conducted a project on abolition and held a Knoller Society talk on race relations in Britain post WW2. In IT: an interactive timeline of Black History and Historical figures was produced. In the library: books showcasing Black women and their stories were displayed. In Music: a special BHM daily essential listening playlist has been published and there was a Cranleigh Live! concert with the theme of Funk and Soul, which involved pupil performances of music from Black musicians from around the world. There was also a screening of ‘Chevalier’, the true story of Black Composer, Joseph Bologne, and the string quartet performed his String Quartet Movement at a special concert. In PE: a sporting icons display was produced. In Spanish: pupils were introduced to Cuban African and Hispanic culture learning about poems and music from Cuba.
A poster competition to research and recognise Black women in their respective disciplines was held in both Science and French and, at Cranleigh Prep School, they also held an assembly on Black History Month and Space Week, and talked about the NASA computers Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson and other prominent Black Female NASA astronauts, including Dr Mae Jemison, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham and Dr Sian Proctor.
A recognition of Black History Month was also held in the school’s regular Diversity Alliance group meeting of the Anti-Racism Society where pupils were pleased to be offered traditional Caribbean snacks and drinks that they recognised but were not used to having at school; and BHM 2023 videos and messages and films such as Hidden Figures and the live action version of The Little Mermaid were also shown on screens throughout the school and boarding houses to keep pupils interested in the theme.
A variety of activities took place at Dulwich College, many of which were designed to teach pupils and raise awareness of HMT Empire Windrush and the Windrush generation. The spirit of the Windrush generation was celebrated with a visit from Arthur Torrington CBE, co-founder of the Windrush Foundation, who shared the history and ongoing legacy of Windrush; a workshop with visiting artist Joshua Obichere from Skin Deep Education, where they created canvases in response to Windrush; and by creating an interactive space charting the journey and arrival of HMT Windrush, including archival and contemporary photographic portraits that explored shifting notions of identity and Britain’s transformation into a multicultural society.
Award-winning writer, Patrice Lawrence, also spoke to pupils about her childhood growing up in a multicultural family and the importance of seeing (or not seeing) herself in the books she read; the library created displays and hosted Ms Whittington, Head of Wellbeing and the African & Caribbean Society, to recommend one of her favourite novels: Small Island by Andrea Levy, ‘the definitive fiction account of the Windrush Generation’; and pupils in the Senior School made excellent role models for children in DUCKS as they volunteered to read books that displayed the diverse nature of their classrooms.
One of the highlights of Black History Month at Ipswich School was a thought-provoking talk on identity by Jeffrey Boakye. Students were encouraged to introspect and consider the labels they carry and how they often leave certain aspects of themselves behind to establish connections or gain acceptance. The Q&A session that followed allowed students to delve deeper into important issues as they asked about the potential eradication of discrimination and how we can navigate conversations without fear of causing offense, ensuring that important dialogues can take place.
In addition, the school library featured recommended books, lunchtime screenings showcasing episodes from black heritage series, and a vibrant playlist of music by Black British artists created by students and staff. A student-driven project was also launched, inviting creative expressions such as art, poetry, or biographical explanations of prominent figures in black history, and these works have been proudly displayed throughout the school.
Many of the activities for Black History Month at Repton School were led by the pupil EDI champions and community action group, Vis Div. The pupils started by decorating the school with images and quotes that reflected the theme of “Saluting our Sisters” and by asking the grounds team to help them feature the important month in the school grounds.
Food played an important role, with each House having a themed meal that celebrated Black History Month, including one where one of the pupils shared his special family recipe for Nigerian Jolloff rice with the House chef. Pupils from all year groups also enjoyed a pop-up café, where they were able to discuss the exceptional achievements of Black women; and the Grubber (school tuck shop) also hosted a special display created by the Vis Div team following their research into both the impact of Black authors and the contributions made by members of the Commonwealth to the World Wars. The latter of which remained on display to mark the school’s Remembrance events too.
Black History has also been celebrated throughout the curriculum at Repton School, particularly in History; in the school theatre where Hidden Figures was shown; and in tutor time, where pupils had the chance to discuss the October edition of the school’s internal publication ‘Wellbeing Matters’, which included a focus on celebrating diversity. In addition, notices with a spotlight each day on a different woman were sent round to all the pupils throughout the month.
At At St Paul’s the school community celebrated diversity and reflected on the contributions and experiences of Black people within society today and from across history by hosting to a range of exciting events. Pupils heard from ex-England rugby player, Maggie Alphonsi, who talked about her career and the importance of resilience and goal setting; as well as Melina Irawo GB powerlifter who even provided a training session, and Soul Sanctuary Gospel choir, who performed a set of spirituals. There were also a range of thought-provoking pupil-led talks on everything from literature, to sport, to politics.St Paul’s the school community celebrated diversity and reflected on the contributions and experiences of Black people within society today and from across history by hosting to a range of exciting events. Pupils heard from ex-England rugby player, Maggie Alphonsi, who talked about her career and the importance of resilience and goal setting; as well as Melina Irawo GB powerlifter who even provided a training session, and Soul Sanctuary Gospel choir, who performed a set of spirituals. There were also a range of thought-provoking pupil-led talks on everything from literature, to sport, to politics.
See a collection of social media activity from HMC schools that highlights how they have been marking Black History Month 2023 here.