Archer Academy Black Lives Matter Virtual Panel Discussion
Our first virtual community event took place on Tuesday 7th July on Black Lives Matter. We were so pleased that over 400 people joined us live. The event was focused on better understanding our individual and collective responsibilities in addressing racism. It also served as the official launch of our staff and student Diversity and Inclusion societies. We were honoured to have enlisted a line-up of fantastic external speakers including: the Rt Hon David Lammy MP; the social researcher and academic Dr Carlene Firmin; and our English patron, author Ashley Hickson-Lovence. And we were delighted that they were joined by our very own Mr Carter, Miss Ogbaselase, Miss Harrison and one of our Archer governors Ben Whittaker.
Mark Carter and David Lammy
Ben Whittaker, Carlene Firmin, Adiyam Ogbaselase and Ashley Hickson-Lovence
Miss Harrison introduced the evening talking about one of the hardest aspects of school closure being the inability for us to come together as a community. She reflected that since the tragic death of George Floyd she has never thought more acutely of the importance of school as a space and place for discussion and to think collectively about the issues facing us around the world. We then watched a moving and poignant video collection of students and staff reflecting bravely on their personal experiences of racism and what Black Lives Matter means to them. In the words of some of our students, Black Lives Matters is empowering, it means ‘building a society where…diversity is not just tolerated but actively sought after and encouraged’, it means ‘acknowledging that we’re human…it is a statement to make people realise that our lives and opinions matter…it is equality. It’s not being followed by security when I walk into a shop or looked at differently because of the colour of my skin.’
In conversation with Mr Carter, David Lammy spoke powerfully about the impacts of structural racism and how embedded it is in our society. He made links between the experiences of negotiating the world as a black person with other forms of discrimination around sexuality and gender. He explained why his priority as an MP and as Shadow Justice Minister focuses on racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Finally, he reflected on the power of young people to affect change and be active allies in the fight against racism.
Our panel discussion was a wide-ranging conversation where panellists discussed: diversifying the curriculum to ensure a truthful and transparent representation of British history and our impact on the world; how young people can be allies against racism and the critical role that schools can play in ensuring meaningful change. Miss Harrison led a lively Q+A responding to questions that had come in from the community before and during the event which deepened the conversation in these areas. The event concluded with the beautiful and rousing words of Maya Angelo’s I Will Rise, read by students and staff.
Thank you to all those who took part including contributing your stories, ideas and artwork, attending sessions, helping with the technology and showing up on the night to speak and to listen.
We see. We hear. We commit.
Here is what our participants had to say on the night:
Being an ally is a verb. It means doing and acting…it’s going the extra mile to change the pendulum…to bend it towards justice. The question is will people grab hold of it” David Lammy
When we say that “this country was discovered” we don’t think about the plight of the people and what really went on…We struggle to understand our place. And then that sense of belonging can be absent in places where your history doesn’t make sense. Carlene Firmin
I was simply moved! Having discussions about Race and Equality tends to be a big taboo and can often go badly, but Archer got it right. Listening to the lionhearted words of our students and staff was truly humbling. It felt purposeful and I know as a community we are to stand together as one; we hear, we see and we commit to social change. Mr Carter
The event was very thought provoking and allowed the whole Archer community to come together as one and discuss the subject surrounding race and equality. Kanya, Year 9
It was quite the honour to be involved. I am so proud of Archer and the wider Archer community for striving for change in this fractious period of our lives in the open and creative way it has been already, and is looking to continue and develop in the future. Ashley Hickson-Lovence