Award-winning Geography Department | Redmaids' High School
This October, we’ve been celebrating Black History Month and the theme for this year, Proud to Be. The campaign aims to make this year's celebrations personal and unique to individuals, families and communities, as well as marking the contributions and achievements of black people throughout history.
In school, we adapted this so that it is not only Proud to Be, but also, Proud to Spotlight and Proud to Teach. Below are some examples of how we have been Proud to Spotlight black individuals and communities across the curriculum this October:
Stephen is a British architectural artist who has an incredible talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representation of cities, sometimes after only having observed them briefly. He is UK born to West Indian parents and was a mute as a child and diagnosed autistic at the age of three. In 2006 Stephen was awarded an MBE for his service to the art world.
Zanele is a South African visual activist and photographer, who documents and celebrates the lives of South African LGTBI communities, responding to the continuing discrimination and violence these groups face. Through this positive imagery, they hope to offset the stigma and negativity attached to queer identity in African society.
The Bath Theatre Royal visited to perform Josephine, their play about the life of Josephine Baker, the Missouri born activist, campaigner, actor, dancer, spy and mother. From a youth spent in poverty, she found fame performing on Broadway and in Paris. She also worked for the French Resistance during World War II, and during the 1950s and '60s devoted herself to fighting segregation and racism in the United States.
Female inventors have been the theme in DT. Ten have been spotlighted, including Marie Van Brittan Brown, who in 1966, invented the first home security system and CCTV. Also, Valerie Thomas, who is a pioneer in the field of STEM. Valerie, who worked for NASA, invented a holographic image that is visible without the need for 3D glasses. Alice H Parker has also featured - in 1919 she filed her patent for what is now known to be the first ever central heating system, using natural gas instead of coal and wood.
In geography, we’ve looked at the role of black female explorers, and why there are so few of them. So much so that in 2019 a group called Black Girls Hike, was established to increase the participation of black women in engaging with the great outdoors.
We’ve also been examining Bristol as a divided city, and spotlighted Marvin Rees as the first black person to be a mayor of a major European city. And looking at Prof Chris Jackson who is one of the few black geologists around. He gave the 2020 Christmas Lecture at the Royal Society on how the earth’s rocks and fossils tell us about radical climate changes through history.
In history, we are spotlighting several key individuals that have had an impact through the ages. One in particular is Roy Hackett and his role in the Bristol Bus Boycott. In 1963, Roy saw a man crying in the street. He asked him what the matter was, and he said he had been told he couldn’t get an interview to drive a bus with Bristol Omnibus Company simply because he was black. Roy was instrumental in successfully overturning the company’s ban on employing black people. This was one of his many achievements in the fight against racism.
After half term, we will be having an assembly from artist Michelle Curtis who created the Seven Saints of St Paul's – portraits around the city of Black Bristolians known for founding St Paul's Carnival and advocating for equality – one of them is of Roy Hackett.
We have been watching and discussing videos from a blog by Nate Holder, who is currently serving as Professor and International Chair of Music Education at the Royal Northern College of Music. As part of his blog, he has been sharing performances by black musicians from a range of musical genres. Highlights so far include performances by American jazz drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, whose music combines 70s jazz with West African influences and her London upbringing, and even British rapper, songwriter and producer Ms Dynamite!
These are just a few highlights, and it is important to remember that studying the impact of black and other minority groups throughout history is not something that only happens in October, but naturally features in our curriculum here at Redmaids’ High.