Paul Stephenson OBE shared his experiences of race discrimination and encouraged pupils to fight for a good life in a special assembly with Stephenson House.
We are a very diverse school community and have been proud to celebrate Black History Month with a wide range of events and activities to develop students’ knowledge and understanding about the achievements and contributions of the black community to life and society in the UK. The month showcases and celebrates the diverse histories of citizens from African and Caribbean descent which, historically, were often ignored because people of colour were not treated has as equals members of UK society.
Mrs Maringo led a varied series of events including weekly film screenings of The Pursuit of Happyness and Malcom X; tutorial activities to encourage student to reflect on contributions made by black people and diversity in our school; the opportunity to broaden knowledge about different cultures at Arabic and Somali club and workshops on African-Caribbean music and African culture and fashion.
We’ve also had some fantastic, inspiring visits. Dr Shawn Sobers (Associate Professor of Lens Media at UWE) met Year 10 students studying Priestley’s An Inspector Calls which tells the story of a marginalised, oppressed character . Dr Sobers told students how his art explores his own identity and the experiences of marginalised peoples. Students were particularly affected by Dr Sobers’ self portrait triptych with an empowered image of himself bracketed by rare copies of slave portraits from the nineteenth century.
Black History Month culminated in a visit by a true legend – community worker, activist and lifelong civil rights campaigner, Paul Stephenson. Dr Stephenson met students and staff of Stephenson House in an unforgettable assembly when he spoke about his life and the continued struggle for colour equality in UK society. Memorably he told students ‘to use their brains’ in the fight for equality and said he was ‘overwhelmed’ to have a St Katherine’s House named in his honour.
Mrs Robinson, our Engage Centre Leader arranged Dr Stephenson’s visit: “Growing up I saw Paul Stephenson on the news countless times and I was always in awe of the sheer determination he demonstrated during such a difficult time for the black population of the UK. As the daughter of an West Indian immigrant, watching him on the news brought to life the struggles my father, aunts and uncles would have gone through when they first came to the UK. I plucked up the courage to contact Dr Stephenson and told him we had unanimously decided to name a house after him since he is such an inspirational trailblazer and how much it would mean to the Stephenson House students if he was able to visit us. Although he doesn’t do public engagements any more I was thrilled when he said he would come along to meet the students. The whole experience has been extremely emotional for me. One I shall treasure forever.”
Mrs Maringo with Paul Stephenson – his visit was one of the highlights of Black History Month
Mrs Maringo, Associate Headteacher, who co-ordinated Black History Month added, “It’s been a real success and the feedback from staff, students and parents has been overwhelming. As an African-Caribbean woman I was proud to organise and celebrate this event at St Katherine’s. I am also extremely proud of the diversity we have in our school. We should all embrace these different cultures and apply them to our daily lives. Our aim is to develop our cultural competence as a school therefore celebrating Black History Month for the first time at St Katherine’s is the beginning of a journey.”