The blog this week is guest edited by Miss Bloss, Head of History, who led our reflections on Black Lives Matter, and Black History Month.
This year we chose to focus on the Notting Hill Carnival for a month long celebration of Black History. This has enabled students to connect with Black History in their own city and provided an opportunity to honour and understand this historic and inspirational annual carnival.
Our celebration began by focusing on the history of the Notting Hill Carnival. Our students learnt that the carnival was set up in order to show case, promote and honour Caribbean and African achievements. Prior to this Notting Hill area had been subjected to riots and tension. In order to help educate the wider community and provide a platform for the black community living in Notting Hill. Claudia Jones and others started the Carnival in 1959. This is an important message we wanted our Pinner High School community to understand - it is still crucial to provide a platform today to show case black culture and history.
Our students have learnt how Carnival has changed over time to grow and build into a weekend celebration. In collaboration with the Drama and Music departments, we have been able to highlight to our students how Carnival has been revolutionary in performance, creating stages and show casing a variety of musical styles. Miss Sims, Head of Drama and Enrichment, highlighted to our students why “the Notting Hill Carnival is the most wonderful celebration of diversity. It’s a festival that shows that through adversity comes creation, that art will always carry on and that differences only make us stronger.”
Mr McCormick, Teacher of Music, was involved in teaching a selection of Year 9 pupils Samba as a part of our celebrations. He stated “I have always been inspired by the words of Nina Simone – ‘I had spent many years pursuing excellence, because that is what classical music is all about... Now it was dedicated to freedom, and that was far more important’. The initial idea behind this contribution was to recreate a school wide parade in honour and celebration of the Notting Hill Carnival. However we were unfortunately unable to do this due to the obvious restrictions imposed by social distancing. We instead opted to have our miniature performance presented by the Year 9 House Captains whilst featuring a Year 7 DJ ”. One of our performers commented “Even though COVID- 19 forced the Notting Hill Carnival to be cancelled, at Pinner High school we are doing all our best to honour the Black Lives Matter movement this year through the celebration of Black History Month”.
This celebration has been enjoyed immensely by our students and staff. One Year 9 student said “I have found Black History Month this year extremely useful and I’ve learnt about an area of history I have never studied.” Equally, Mrs Hindmarsh, one our Deputy Heads also found the celebrations insightful. “It has been wonderful to walk around at form time and see each of the year groups learning about Black History Month. The discussion with pupils has been both thought provoking and hopeful. We celebrate this every year, but this year seemed particularly important”.
This is an important area to continue to study and develop. After discussing the importance of studied black history with two Year 10s both agreed “black history is part our history and the roots of England. It should be taught and should not be ignored due to how historical significant it is”. As a history department we have continued to further diversify our curriculum to now cover an even wider range of histories from around the world. Black History will remain a strong and central part of our school curriculum beyond Black History month. Mr Mason in our history department, summed it up really well: “Studying 'black history' properly means going above just learning about the periods of black and BME struggle throughout time, but embracing the undeniable role black people have taken in shaping the history and culture of our nation. 'Black history' is all of our history”.
In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd we created this website as a hub of resources: https://sites.google.com/pinnerhighschool.org/phsblacklivesmatter/home
It remains available if anyone would like to find out more.
My particular thanks to Miss Bloss for her leadership and the whole community for their support. The student who created the Black Lives Matter inspired art work that accompanies this blog noted: "My choice of images were of the different emotions that are held amongst people during the Black Lives Matter movement. These are: happiness, loneliness, sorrow and anger. The string interlinks all these emotions for one cause."
The Pinner High School Values demand that we continue to respond; there is plenty more to do but it has been a very positive start.