Cllr Anntoinette Bramble looks at how the Council teaches young residents about Black British History and celebrates Black culture

As Hackney Black History Season draws to a close, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care, looks back at how the Council is teaching its young residents about Black British History and celebrating Black culture.

As another Black History Season comes to an end, this is the perfect time to reflect on the work the Council have been doing over the last year to reach out to our younger generation, and support Hackney’s commitment to being an anti-racist borough. 

I was delighted to celebrate the end of our Black History Season by attending an exhibition of the S.M.I.L.E-ing Boy portraits at Hackney Bridge and meeting artist Kay Rufai and some of the boys who took part in the project. 

The pictures of local Black boys smiling warmly at the camera, which have been on display on billboards across the borough, are part of a wider campaign which aims to challenge the sometimes negative portrayal of young Black boys through positive representation. 

Kay’s project also addresses the concerning lack of mental health provisions available for young Black people. It is vital we continue this conversation around mental health and wellbeing for young Black boys in Hackney, and offer new ways for them to express themselves, explore a sense of identity, and manage their own happiness. 

This project is particularly significant to me, as it backs the work Hackney Council and I have been doing with young people and parents to help improve the life chances for future generations of young black men; through harnessing their potential, increasing their visibility, promoting their successes and tackling the barriers to inequalities where they exist. 

I would like to thank Kay for his brilliant work in highlighting the importance of challenging stereotypes and showing young Black boys in Hackney in such a positive light. I also want to thank the boys themselves who took part in the project, and who represent the future of our borough for their bravery; in standing up, in being seen, in smiling big, and revealing a side to you that represents hope and potential. 

Hackney Council is thrilled to be part of this inspiring London-wide project. Covid-19 restrictions permitting, if you are in or around Hackney Wick over the next few weeks, I encourage you to check out the exhibition at Hackney Bridge which runs until the end of January. 

Of course this was just one of the many events from last year’s Black History Season calendar of which we are extremely proud. 

In November I was honoured to attend and speak at a special fundraising film screening for The Liberation Movement, at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, which marked the 30th anniversary of the founding of its predecessor, the Anti-Racist Alliance. 

The event was a great opportunity to consider the significant changes to how racism is understood, how it has been tackled in the UK over the last 30 years, and how we must continue to fight it in all its forms. 

As Hackney’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education, I was pleased to have a chance to speak with residents in the audience about the work my colleagues and I at Hackney Council have have been doing to include and inspire young people in these important conversations, while doing what we can to protect young Black people from systemic and institutional racism. 

With restrictions put in place and interruptions to the academic year due to Covid-19, it has been an incredibly challenging time for Hackney’s schools. However, one achievement of which I am particularly proud is Hackney’s Diverse Curriculum, which we launched in schools last October. The curriculum complements the Council’s Black Lives Matter Motion and the Council’s Anti-Racism Plan. It not only ensures that Black History is taught as part of British History, but also looks at culture and identity for Black communities and is an education for everyone. 

I am very pleased to see that many educators within the borough, as well as other parts of the UK and across the globe, are already adapting and using the Diverse Curriculum for their own classes. At the last count there have been over 2000 sign ups, including 162 in Hackney, as well as in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Egypt, Brunei, Australia, Malaysia and Nigeria. 

As always, I applaud the diligence, passion and commitment of our teachers for helping to curate this rich and insightful curriculum which provides balance to how we teach history in our schools, and I hope it will continue to inspire a more tolerant and inclusive-minded community. 

To all our staff, students, parents and carers, I thank you all for your hard work. Together you continue to make the borough proud and I look forward to working with you this year to do even more to educate young minds about the importance of equality, diversity and combating systemic racism. 

Best wishes,

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble 

Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Education, Young People and Children’s Social Care