To mark Black History Month, Highgate has hosted a series of activities across the Pre-Prep, Junior and Senior School: from theatrical workshops to assemblies on Black history and African drumming lessons.
Before half term, our Head of School and Y13 pupil, Tanya, led Black history assemblies across the Senior School with Partnership Teaching Co-Ordinator Dr Kwasi Agyei-Owusu.
Tanya’s assemblies focused on the influence of Black culture in the arts; she presented a history of Notting Hill Carnival (lead image) and addressed cultural debates from the fashion and music industry, concluding: “Every month should be BHM. In an ideal world we would see all the contributions of Black culture all year round. We would see the intersectionality of our experiences and celebrate our differences as well as what we accomplish together. When discussing Black History Month with Mike Wallace, Morgan Freeman asked incredulously “You’re going to relegate my history to a month?” This sparks the idea of Black History Month being a pacifier. If there was a real desire to have inclusive history in schools, there would be: the British government would work towards teaching the unromanticised colonial history. Understanding historically the implications and impact attached to the glorified colonial British history teaching is paramount.”
Dr Agyei-Owusu (staff member in charge of the African Caribbean Cultural Affinity Group) led assemblies on the history of the Anglo-Ashanti Wars, the colonisation of the Gold Coast and the contribution of men in the Gold Coast Regiment (part of the West African Division) in stopping the Japanese advance in Burma during WWII. He says: “to paraphrase Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it’s about “…telling the full story….” so all contributors to the building of a nation and its mythology are acknowledged and lessons learnt from actions in the past that a nation might not be so proud of.”
The School’s digital screens and Central Hall display featured influential Black Britons from the 4th century to the modern day, and all three schools prominently displayed TFL’s Black History tube map.
In the Junior School, Dr Enya Doyle, our Director of Inclusion, led an assembly on ‘shared journeys’ based on the TfL map, highlighting the contributions of 9 of the 272 Black people featured on the map. Pupils enjoyed a visit from Bigfoot Theatre Group who hosted their Black History Month workshop to contextualise the topic through powerful performances. Pupils have been exploring cultural connotations through debate, research, creative arts and collaborative reflections, whilst using a range of audio-visual resources, library reference books as well as fiction and non-fiction. Discussions around the school’s embedded values of mutual respect, tolerance, empathy and kindness for the diverse representation of cultural backgrounds within and beyond the school community will continue to take place in subsequent terms.
Our Pre-Prep learned about the importance of diversity through One World Week, an annual event to celebrate different cultures from across the School and beyond. Just before half term, the children took part in an African Drumming workshop along with the Junior School.
Dr Doyle says: “As a school community, we recognise the importance of giving Black British history prominence in October. At the same time, Black History Month is a great opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to embedding these stories and experiences all year round.”
Highgate is mid-way through a whole-school curriculum review, looking at subject matter, our classroom environments and our academic resources, to ensure they each represent and reflect the diversity we see in our society here in London. Last year, we rolled out some changes to the curriculum across all years and we are currently working with our pupils to assess progress and help identify areas to develop further.