This year St Matthias School has gone all out to celebrate Black History Month. A packed programme throughout the month has provided our students with an opportunity to celebrate the stories and achievements of black individuals, and their innovative contributions to the development of the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.
The month was launched with a series of assemblies for each year group lead by students. The students spoke enthusiastically about the reasons why they felt it was important to celebrate Black History Month and gave examples of people who had inspired them.
Following the assembly students completed quizzes and challenges during form time designed to test their knowledge of ‘who’s who’ in black history. Subjects’ across the school also got involved throughout the month and took the opportunity to share with students the diverse contributions that have been made in their subject areas. For example the Science department had a focus on black scientists and Food had a Caribbean cookery demonstration. Students were also given the opportunity during PSHE lessons to research a black person who inspires them with Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Mary Seacole and Martin Luther King featuring highly in students’ estimations.
The school catering team got involved in proceedings and on the 14th October they put on a themed lunch of chicken, rice and peas, jerk gravy, plantain, Jamaican ‘mac n cheese’ and pineapple cake. This caused a great deal of excitement amongst students and the lunch was incredibly well supported by everyone.
Students were treated to some very significant visitors throughout the month. The visitors were superb role models and showcased a wide range of achievements.
Loleita Higgins: Staffordshire’s first black police woman
There was a visit from Loleita Higgins, Staffordshire’s first black police woman and the second police woman in the UK, who spoke with students about her journey from challenges to success. She shared a very personal story of her emigration to England at the age of 7 including her experiences in school. She was rightly proud of her achievements from being told that she would never be able to join the police force to not giving up until she made it. Her story was certainly inspirational, especially when she told us that she had been awarded an MBE for her services to the community!
Caron: Caribbean Chef
Caron, a chef at De Wright Flava Caribbean Takeaway and Catering Company, visited school to lead a cooking lesson for year 10 GCSE Food students. Caron shared her journey into the catering industry and how she first developed a passion for cooking. She also shared her knowledge of business standards and hygiene in the kitchen. Under her guidance the students made Caribbean Curried Chicken. The finished dishes tasted authentic and were fantastic. The students’ behaviour, conduct and enthusiasm was exemplary and a return visit by Caron has already been planned! Since Caron’s visit one student has even been home and recreated the dish for her family, lucky them!
Omar Beckles: Professional footballer
Omar Beckles, Shrewsbury Town footballer and Grenadian International, visited school and spoke with students about the importance of having a growth mindset and reaching for the stars to achieve greatness. He answered a range of questions for students including:
· What it was like growing up and what were the challenges through school?
· What were the things that inspired you to keep going even when the going got tough and you didn’t think you would make it?
· Does you put much work into playing football or does it just naturally happen?
· What is the best part of being a footballer?
· What do you think of when you hear ‘black history month.’
· Is there a specific black person from history that inspires you? How and why.
· What piece of advice would you give to the students today?
Omar was a fantastic speaker and the students were totally engaged. His answers to their questions will encourage our students to continue to strive to be their very best. Omar certainly made a huge impact and at the end of each session students took the opportunity to take selfies and get autographs!
Bishop Gilmore Grant
Bishop Gilmore Grant visited Year 9 Sociology students to talk about different cultures. He compared the British culture with the African culture of Kenya to enhance the students’ studies in social stratification. The visit was a great success! Students’ asked questions and interacted well with the quiz that he had prepared.
Dr Derrick Campbell: Regional director of the IPCC
Dr Derrick Campbell spoke with students in year 8 and year 11 about his journey to success from very humble beginnings to his current roles as a University lecturer, Advisor to the Royal Shakespeare Company and as the regional director of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Derrick is a devout Christian and also shared the ethic that he lives by, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians4:13). He shared with students his perspective on the importance of education and gave the students some survival tools including:
· You determine your own future
· Let other people deal with their own problems
· Hard work brings rewards so invest in you. Remember, the only one that can stop me…is me!
As the month of October drew to a close our students shared with us and each other how the activities that have taken place throughout Black History Month have inspired them. Here are some of their reflections:
‘Dr Derrick Campbell is the most inspirational person I have ever met!’ Praise
‘It was excellent because it has motivated me to work hard to get my best grades in the future’Owen
‘I want to be determined about myself and achieve my goals’ John
‘Dr Derrick Campbell made me listen and made me feel unstoppable, he’s very motivational’ Davina
‘I found Dr Campbell story was very inspiring and emotional’ Joud
“I think Omar was really good because he has helped me to understand that I need to put hard work into everything that I do. I learnt do not let other people opinions affect you at any point,” Temple
‘Dr Campbell made me feel proud to be black and to embrace my culture’ Talia
‘I have learnt don’t ever give up on yourself’ Aneeka
‘I have learnt that you determine your own future’ Chanelle
“It took Omar a lot of determination and courage to get where he is today and it took a lot of self-care and a level head. Omar didn’t listen to the negativity in society, it empowered him to be better” Charlie
‘To be the first at something when people tell you that can’t do it, like Mrs Higgins, is brilliant’ Makenzie
‘Bishop Grant was inspiring and kind, he set up charities and created sponsorship for orphaned children’ Harleen