What Black history means to us now
Freelance writer, Mental Health at Work
Time is racing away – but extraordinarily we’re still in the midst of Black History Month! It’s been wonderful to see such a rich ancestorial heritage being so widely talked about, as well as lifting and celebrating the often-omitted achievements of the Black and Brown community.
I have not one but three professionals to share their field experiences with you, highlighting why the unreserved importance of education, representation and investment matters to an historically oppressed people who are not only striving for better, but are truly winning.
So without further ado….
Keisha King is a primary school teacher helping to inspire the next generation of youth to shine in their everyday.
What has been your learning from teaching Black History Month in school? Were you surprised by anything?
Teaching Black history to year 1 children is difficult as they sometimes don’t understand the concept of time. You need to be very clear, as explaining that dark skinned people were not allowed to mix with white people 50 years ago, is a concept that the majority may not grasp. Being visual, by using examples to support the knowledge that’s been gathered throughout the years, to differentiate the present made me really aware of how we mindfully share history with these young minds.
You’re teaching the next generation of engineers, coders, artists and all the other wonderful occupations under the sky! How important is instilling morale and confidence in all of your students, a majority of which are Black and Brown children?
Very important, and positive praise is a great way to do this. Things do not always come easily to some children so their efforts need to be recognised and rewarded – that is what increases confidence and builds morale. Mental health also needs to be recognised in schools because fear and worry are real emotions for children, and it’s that fear that may stop them from reaching their full potential, and naturally I want the very best for all of my students.
Tendai Moyo is an entrepreneur and founder of Ruka, a company which offers hair products/educational services, positively promoting what it means to proudly wear your crown wherever you are.
Five year old Josiah Sharpe was banned from a school for having a basic fade, hair categorised as ‘extreme’ by school officials.
In 2017 Destiny Tompkins who worked for a reputable retail store was told her braids looked ‘urban and unkempt’. She was told to take them out or risk less work.
Brittany Noble, 32, was fired as a news anchor because her hair was deemed ‘unprofessional’ and the list goes on…
If your company Ruka could talk, how would it describe the discrimination of what acceptable hair can look like in school or the workplace, for some Black and Brown people?
The definition of acceptability when it comes to Black and Brown people has somehow become a way of policing their hair and self-expression under the guise of wanting people to ‘conform’. I for one remember being told to have straight hair for a banking interview if I ever wanted to secure the job. And it’s often laughable when leadership in corporate environments tell you to ‘come as you are’ to the work environment, when a lot of the ‘norms’ in those environments mean a significant adjustment for Black people that often adds to the feeling of ‘impostor syndrome’.
Why is it important for Ruka to celebrate and educate how we speak about Black hair?
Celebration and education come hand in hand when it comes to Black hair, because so much of that has been stripped from us. Slavery set back hair innovation for Black people for centuries, and being forced to hide our hair associated it with shame and burden. We’re changing the narrative and celebrating our curls and coils for all their glory with Ruka! In the same way that skincare feels exploratory and exciting, we want to ensure that Black men and women feel the same way, when it comes to products that serve and nurture their own hair.
Dion Bramble is a business financing specialist and co-founder of Project Aid Alliouagana, with Doncia Athill who help the youth and underprivileged members of Montserrat -a Caribbean Island, which was disrupted between 95-97 by devastating volcanic eruptions.
You were born on the island of Montserrat which is a British colony – I’d love to know how Black history was taught there, in comparison to the states where you live now?
Growing up in Montserrat as far as I can remember, there was no such thing as Black history being taught on the curriculum. Most of my teachings of Black history during my childhood came from stories told by the village elders and our folk traditions such as Masquerade or Moko Jumbie dancing. In the states, I was taught American history, which focused on traditional events and achievements of mostly white figures, with the exception of the life and deaths of notable Black American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
You and your team have helped over 400 children with bags, books, school equipment and food. Now, it’s a silly question but we can all gain so much from the answer: why is it so important that the aid continue?
When a community that’s been plagued by such devastation and uncertainty of a better quality of life gets the necessary help, it can change just about everything.
As we know our children are the future. Our annual aid will ensure that each needy child will be fully equipped with the necessary school supplies, so they can return to school each year with bright smiles, feeling confident and secure that a lack of supplies will not be a deterrent to a stellar performance. Furthermore, the monies saved by a parent can go towards other vital essentials needed, and eventually help alleviate economic hardship.
Thank you all for joining Mind to share such meaningful stories, stories that can only help to progress and positively represent Black culture, Black history and undoubtedly Black lives.