Black History Month – music and education join forces to celebrate Black history

With Bristol band Massive Attack getting involved in Cargo Classroom, a project launched to diversify the English school curriculum, music and education are once again allies in celebrating Black history. As Black History Month draws to a close, Massive Attack’s involvement in Cargo Classroom couldn’t be more relevant. Originating in 1926, Black History Month centres the positive contributions of those of African and Caribbean descent; re-aligning the conversation to all aspects of Black history, rather than merely that of victimhood. In his recent visit to Bird & Bird, David Olusoga explained the importance of celebrating Black history and what we can all do to push the needle in the right direction going forward.

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The Massive Attack on lack of diversity in the school curriculum

Bristol’s Massive Attack have recently collaborated on Cargo Classroom; an educational programme aimed at increasing the diversity of the English school curriculum. With Stormzy’s Scholarship for Black UK Students launched in 2018, Massive Attack aren’t the first music act to get involved in education. The founders of Cargo Classroom, creatives Lawrence Hoo and Charles Golding, observed that the history taught in schools remained silent on the contributions of Black Brits and, largely, of positive Black history altogether. Hoo and Golding, alongside academics and education experts, developed interactive online lessons for KS3 history classrooms aimed at bringing stories of inspiring individuals of African and African diaspora descent to life through poetry, film, and illustrations. With a BBC TV documentary out soon, stay tuned for project Cargo Classroom near you.

With a feature in UK Vogue, the Black Curriculum has also made a splash in positive activism through its efforts in diversifying the school curriculum. Similarly to Cargo Classroom, the Black Curriculum was founded by Lavinya Stennett to address the lack of Black British history in the school curriculum. Through teacher training, Black history programmes, and campaigning, the Black Curriculum aspires to provide a sense of belonging and identity to young people across the UK through an accessible educational Black British history curriculum.

Notably, the efforts of Cargo Classroom and the Black Curriculum operate against the backdrop of calls for the English school curriculum to be “decolonised”, highlighting the importance of popularising and celebrating positive Black history.

Black History Month: A view to the past and future

Black History Month originated across the pond in 1926, created by Carter G Woodson. Woodson aimed to combat racism through education, focusing on contributions to Black American life which were ignored, undermined, or hidden. While our conversations around race and Black history certainly do not mirror that of 1926 discourse, the significance and utility of Black History Month remains.

Black History Month encourages us to look beyond the victimhood often synonymous with Black history and, instead, take a holistic view to both the successes and difficulties throughout Black history. Simply, each October Black History Month reminds us that Black history does not start and stop at slavery. It allows us to have important conversations around race and inspires us to explore both our similarities and differences.

Ultimately, Black history impacts us all and by acknowledging both the hardships and triumphs, we can positively shape the history being made every day.

 

David Olusoga and education making a positive impact

Charles Golding, of Cargo Classroom, stresses that the project aims not to remove anything from the existing curriculum, but adding to it and enriching the content, making it more accessible to children from different background. David Olusoga echoed this sentiment during his visit at Bird & Bird on 13 October, where he noted the importance of educating young children in an accessible manner. Through his children’s books ‘Black and British: An Illustrated History’ and ‘The Black History Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained’, Olusoga has already made progress in increasing the accessibility and popularity of all shades of Black history for our youngest generation.

It is no surprise that Massive Attack, Cargo Classroom and David Olusoga are all either Bristol born or based given recent events during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. The events in Bristol remind us of the importance of educating ourselves in the history of Black Brits long after leaving the classroom.

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