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News > School News > Black History Month 2022

Black History Month 2022

A series of events and activities have been held throughout October to mark Black History Month.
20 Oct 2022
Written by Grace Chaston (Cather)
School News

We started the month with an incredible talk from Baroness Floella Benjamin. The whole school attended the talk, either in person in the Theatre, or through a live stream to their tutor room, and we were also joined by 50 students from local schools who are part of the Roedean Academy. It was such a privilege to hear Baroness Benjamin speak at Roedean. She shared how she believes that Black History Month should be every month, and that it should be a catalyst for everyone to learn more and to think about what others have been through. She radiated positivity throughout the talk, and her passion and enthusiasm were both powerful and infectious.

Floella shared some of her own story about coming to England from Trinidad, as part of the Windrush, to join her parents after a fifteen-month separation. Floella described how she was amazingly proud to be part of the commonwealth, yet, when she arrived, her experience was very different to what she had exptected. She hated the poor treatment she endured because she is black, and the very injustice of it. This made her childhood very difficult as she was bullied and ignored. However, when she was 14, she had an epiphany and heard a voice telling her to stop fighting and to love the colour of her skin. From then on, she determined to react positively, and she said 'my smile is my armour.

Her mesage will have chimed with many in our community. Afterwards many students remained behind to speak to Floella, and she made time to speak to each one of them.

Following this, we also held a special Chapel service celebrating Black and Brown people in the fields of Art and Design Technology. During this, staff and students spoke about their own heritage, why Black History Month is so important, and the stories of incredible people of Black heritage:

I would like to introduce you to Undine Moore Smith, an African-American composer and Professor of Music in the 20th Century. She went on to become the first student from Frisk (an all-black school) to attain a scholarship to the presitgious Julliard arts School. However, in lieu of pursuring this opportunity, she chose to take jobs as a music supervisor in public schools located in California. As a result, her teaching efforts cultivated the likes of Camilla Williams, Leon Thompson, Bill Taylor, Phil Medley and Robert Fryson.

Eni (Yr12)

Debra Babalola, from Nigerian heritage, a London-based designer, and Shefali Bohra, from Indian hertiage, are two graduate design engineer students from Imperial College, who have won the 2022 James Dyson Award. They won this award for creating a deivce called the Dotplot, which allows for women to check for lumps in their breast more efficiently at home. This innovative deivce will aid in the early diagnosis of breast cancer, helping millions of women across the world.

Fadillah (Yr13)

The final highlight of the events, was an intimate play reading of Emelia. This took place in Keswick Hall, to a full audience of students, parents and staff, who were treated to powerful performances with strong characterisation from a small tight-knit cast. 

The play tells the real-life story of Emilia Bassano Lanier, who was of mixed heritage, and was a member of Elizabethan Court Society. She faced many challenges and was the first woman to assert herself as a professional poet. The play is a modern version of her life and uses humour, music, dance and poetry to recreate her story. 

This was a wonderful afternoon that gave us a chance to reclaim Black history and experience innovative theatre styles. Congratulations to the cast, the Director, Olly (Yr 12), and Mrs Woodbridge.

Smaller events that have also taken place include the library celebrating this year's theme of Time for Change: Action Not Words with some fantastic reading suggestions such as The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Black Spartacus by Sudhir Hazareesingh and of course What are you Doing Here by Floella Benjamin.

We have also been holding video conference calls with the National Archive, such as Year 7's workshop with them, where they examined census records and aphotographs, to learn about the lives of Black people in Victorian Britain. 

 

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