My Visit to St. Winiefride’s RC School

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After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took these actions and on of them was to meet with the headteacher of St. Winiefride’s RC School.

James and I were keen to hear the school’s side of the story and put forward our view for how they could move forward to cover Black History Month in a more holistic way.

On the morning of the 31st October we arrived at St. Winefride’s and were greeted by Paul Underwood the Headteacher of the school, we were also introduced to the Deputy Headteacher, School Governors including the Chair of Governors, a parent governor and a representative from the diocese.

The meeting was cordial and we were given a background to the incident in question. During the meeting we were shown a portfolio of Black History Month activities that had been planned for this year and told about successful BHM events that had happened in previous years. There was the sense that this incident had shocked and embarrassed the school and the reputational damage would be very hard to live down despite work done in previous years. Seyi and I set out our initial reaction to what had happened and the need for us to speak up about this incident as elected representatives. We also offered advice about how this might be avoided in the future, how to embed diversity, intersectionality and black history throughout the curriculum and the year.  James and I also spoke about how the school could work to become a lead in delivering quality UK Black History , working with the local community, parents and teachers. To their credit the school were very receptive to our ideas and will follow up  on some of these. They are reviewing their procedures to avoid a similar incident in the future.

Although these measures could not take away from what occurred it did show consideration and understanding of the situation and a need to repair trust with parents. We cannot say what the outcome of any investigation on the teacher will be and it isn’t our place to pass judgement here. But we came away with a sense the school wants to work with us and move past this incident. They also, crucially, do not want a repeat of what happened.

Before leaving the school we were given a tour, where we met a number of students and their teachers. Like most schools in Newham, St. Winefride’s has a diverse school population and there was, on first impressions, an indication the school sought to reflect and celebrate that.

On a separate but related note please consider signing this petition to have Black History taught in schools. 

Follow up on Newham Black History Month

After it was revealed that a local primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month myself and Cllr Beckles took the following actions:

  • We wrote joint statement  expressing our disappointment
  • We wrote to Sir Robin Wales asking for an urgent meeting to discuss relaunching Newham Black History Month
  • We wrote to the Headteacher of St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School asking to meet (we will be meeting tomorrow morning).
  • We’ve organised an open event with Paula Perry, Co-Author of UK Black History teaching guide on Monday 13th November.

Through social media, emails and phone calls we know many, many residents are interested in this and are keen to be kept updated. We’ll do our very best to share regular updates.

On Thursday 26th October, Councillor James Beckles and I met with the Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales and the Cabinet member for Equalities, Tahmina Rahman. Ahead of our meeting we prepared a PowerPoint presentation, Newham Black History Month 2018-2022 Plan with a plan for reinstating Newham Black History Month through some quick wins and long term planning. This was presented to both the Mayor and Tahmina. At the heart of our presentation was a draft set of ideas for a five year plan which if implemented would make the preparation, commissioning and delivery of Black History Month in Newham part of the Council’s work and involving the community. The Cabinet had a week before agreed to set up a working group to explore how best to celebrate Black History Month in the future. This was a positive step but to go further the group will need buy-in at both political and leadership level, both points Seyi and I raised.

We set out how best we could work with this new working group, one of many suggestions was to make it an “action group” so it would be focused and proactive with clear objectives around the delivery of a growing and sustainable model that would mean Black History Month in Newham is relevant, educational and informative.

It won’t be an easy task but me and Seyi are prepared to play our part in getting this group off the ground, developing a plan that is inclusive, informative and more importantly steers us away from the misconceptions held by some about what Black History Month is and should be about.

Two years ago a small group including myself, James, Darren Steer and Rokhsana Fiaz, held a well attended Black History Month discussion. We did that on a very limited budget with good will from UEL/Birkbeck and high profile speakers. It just took will and commitment. We are hoping for the same now going forward. Just imagine what more a local authority could achieve, not just with financial resources and leadership but via a range of partnerships.

In terms of next steps the action group has been tasked to set objectives for Newham Black History Month and we’re waiting to hear from Tahmina and the Mayor, hopefully this week. We will do our very best to ensure that Newham Black History Month is another legacy we can be proud of in our borough.

Black History Month- “First of all” Black People Existed Before Slavery

It was extremely disappointing and upsetting to read that a primary school in Newham had asked it’s pupils to come to school dressed as slaves to mark the 30th Anniversary of Black History Month. As local black councillors and having grown up in one of the most diverse boroughs in the UK it was surprising that a teacher had not taken the time to research appropriate and effective ways to celebrate Black History Month and educate their pupils. 

Yes colonialism, slavery and both its impact on future generations and countries is world history-that cannot and should not be forgotten. However, there is so much more to Black History Month than the transatlantic slave trade and this was not the intentions of Akyaaba Addai-Sebo- the founder of UK Black History Month. A more rounded approach to the teaching of black history was needed here. Time and time again we see missed opportunities to celebrate black Britons who have achieved and contributed so much, an opportunity to inspire children and make learning history relatable.
There are several good resources available for teachers, schools and parents to refer to, Paula Perry’s Black British History guide for example. Even a quick search online about Black History Month will yield a large resource of information including notable figures,  diverse cultures and histories pre-slavery which should be explored in a place of learning.We understand regretful mistakes are made. We hope there’s true learning from this awful situation and next year we see all schools mindful of the significance of Black History Month taking a renewed holistic approach to teaching this to our children.

 

Cllrs. Seyi Akiwowo and James Beckles

Glitch!UK mentioned in BuzzFeedNews

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“This will change the way people view online abuse,” Newham Councillor Seyi Akiwowo, who was targeted by racist trolls, told BuzzFeed News.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today committed to treat online hate crime as seriously as offline offences, while taking into account the potential impact on the wider community as well as the victim.

It has published new public statements explaining how it will prosecute hate crime and support victims in England and Wales. They confirm that those who experience online abuse on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, or sexuality will be treated the same as victims of the same crimes offline.

The CPS said it was making the change “in recognition of the growth of hate crime perpetrated using social media”.

In 2015/16 it completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions, the highest number it has ever recorded.

Earlier this year, Seyi Akiwowo, a councillor in the London borough of Newham, was targeted by racist trolls after her speech on refugees went viral. She told BuzzFeed News at the time that she was shocked by the number of racist comments she received online, such as “Who’s this monkey?”, messages saying she should “lynch herself”, and messages calling her “Harambe’s cousin”.

A day after she received the abuse in February, 26-year-old Akiwowo from London created Glitch, an online community that works with young women and girls to end online violence. “This was my response to the abuse I received,” she told BuzzFeed News. She said the biggest highlight has been talking to young people at Festival of Education in June.

You can read the full article by Victoria Sansusi here

CPS to treat online hate crime as seriously as hate crime committed face to face

Today the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced its commitment for online hate crime to be treated the same as face to face hate crime. Glitch UK welcomes this harsher punishment and believes this announcement sends a strong signal that the criminal justice system must take online abuse seriously.

In 2015 the Malicious Communications Act 1988 was amended to include the offence of “sending letters etc with intent to cause distress or anxiety” and ‘internet trolls’ can be sentenced to a term of up to two years’ imprisonment. This new CPS guidance means stronger penalties for abuse on all social media platforms and hopes to offer more support and protection to victims than ever before.

We have seen an increase in online violence and hate speech particularly towards women, people of colour and political figures. This has been a consequence of, and enabled by, a number of events, the resurgence of far right movements across Europe and the USA; the UK EU Independence referendum and the rhetoric used during and now after the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Online abuse in all its forms are not just words or images on the screen and they shouldn’t just be ignored. Online abuse echoes behaviours in our reality we disapprove and do not tolerate, therefore we must not tolerate trolling and those that choose to spread hate online. We hope this harsher punishment will serve as an effective deterrent, provide consistency in punishment given and by sending a zero-tolerance message encourage an increase in reporting and prosecutions.

When we look back on this period of time, we want to be able to say that the rise in online abuse and online violence was only a “glitch” in our history.  UK Glitch believes that online hate crime is a vehicle for movements that aim to divide society and spread fear. We cannot afford for our generation and the next to become desensitised to any hate crimes. We want to cultivate the agency of young people and we want to start a conversation about the importance of our generation being responsible citizens online.

10 easy ways you can get involved in local politics.

Granted local politics isn’t as sexy as national or even international politics but it is so, so, so important- yes I am a little bit bias here. But we can agree the closer something is to you the more impact and influence it will have on you right? That’s exactly the same for local politics. If we look at how far right groups increase their political power they start of with gaining as many local council seats as possible, local politics is super important. Groups like young women, particularly women of colour, the disabled are underrepresented in politics and for democracy to truly work our democracy, our parliament, our assemblies and our councils must reflect our diverse society- at the very least the other 50% of the UK population.

Many people say they want to get involved in local politics but are unsure how to. So here are 10 easy ways you can. Let me know how you get on.

1) Go on to your local council website (Google is your helpful friend).

2) Find out which ward you live in. You can usually find out by entering your postcode on the Council’s website.

3) Find out which councillors represent you. In Newham and in most wards in London there are three councillors representing a ward.

4) Follow your local councillors and Member of Parliament (MP) on social media, get clued up on what they are doing. Do they have a blog or Facebook page communicating what they are up to?

5) Email your local councillor and MP and introduce yourself – network, get on their radar and go meet them. Councillors have drop in surgeries or you can email them and ask to meet with them for coffee. I would ask them what they have been doing on the council over the last few years and what their priorities are.

6) What’s one local policy topic you are interested in or would like to know more about? If you’re a young person and you’re concerned about the closure of libraries and youth clubs ask your councillors what their opinion on this is and what they are going to do about it. If you’re concerned about the environment, ask your councillors what your council is doing to reduce fly-tipping and littering. If you’re concerned about health services such as mental health, ask your councillors how they are going to ensure the Conservative Government funding cuts will not impact on local mental health services.

Also ask your councillors about community forum meetings that you can attend so you can stay plugged into what’s happening locally, meet your neighbours and stay in the loop with what your representatives are doing.

7) Send this challenge to one friend to do.

8) Submit a question on a topic important to you to your council leader/ Mayor to be answered at a full council meeting.

9) Register to vote. As soon as you turn 18, register to vote. Encourage family members over the age of 18 to register to vote. If you don’t register to vote you’re not on local political parties’ radar so many political activists/ councillors/ MPs won’t bother to knock on your door to ask our things are going in your area.

10) Explore the top 3 political parties website, what their policy priorities, do you agree? Why? Be brave to share on your thoughts online.

Master Stormzy

Fiona Asiedu is an Oxford University graduate in Experimental Psychology. Fiona dreamed of doing her Masters in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University. In order to fulfil this dream, she set up a crowdfunding page, which she shared on social media. A friend of Fiona’s quote tweeted Stormzy in Fiona’s tweet asking for Stormzy to help with her campaign. This is when Fiona’s dream became true, Master Stormzy donated £9,000 to her crowdfunding page to reach her target.
Stormzy donating the money can inspire others to helpful towards others. As for Fiona’s she is now using the extra money to set up a foundation to help others from a low- income background who have secure a place in the top universities. This gives other students like Fiona to have to support to find their university fees .Stormzy and Fiona both used their platform to demonstrate positivity.

Jeremy Corbyn cares for the young!

Finally someone political cares for young people. Jeremy Corbyn (the leader of the Labour Party), partners up with one of the most influential grime artists JME to educate young people on the importance of registering to vote. JME is someone that young people look up to; he has been an integral member within the grime scene for many years and for Jeremy Corbyn to take interest is a good sign of hope for the United Kingdom. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t only team up with JME, but he also had a genuine conversation about the reasons why young people are less likely to vote. This already shows a leader who is concerned about the youth and is using his platform positively to create solutions to encourage the youth to register to vote in order for the youth’s voice to be heard. It is inspiring to see Labour’s political leader taking such an interest in young people. It shows that change is about to happen for young people. Both using their platform positively to educate the young and inspire the political leaders to connect with young people.

Akon Lighting Africa

Artist Akon is known for his musical talents and his hit songs ‘lonely’, ‘belly dancer’ and ‘smack that’. Besides his musical talent, Akon started a charity in 2014 called ‘Akon Lighting Africa’.

In Africa approximately, there are 600 million people still living without electricity. As a child, Akon knew the realities of not be able to access power this is why this project is important so other people don’t go through what he went through. To tackle this problem this charity aims to provide solar powers in African communities that lack electricity. Also, Akon and his two co-founders have opened a solar academy to help train and educate engineers to produce solar energy in Africa. This charity gives opportunities for Africans to devise new innovative and technical solutions for their local community. Akon Lighting Africa gives hope to Africa, that change is coming and Akon using his platform positively allows the world to see the good work he is doing.

Mayor of London’s Online Hate Crime Summit 2017

This morning I was up super early to speak with Jason Rosam on BBC London Radio to talk about the Mayor of London‘s brilliant new police unit to tackle online hate crime.

The Online Hate Crime Hub is made up of specially trained officers who will work with community groups. social media organisations, academic hate crime specialists and criminal justice partners to investigate online hate crimes, including abuse on Twitter and Facebook, and provide support for victims.

Five dedicated London Metropolitan police officers, led by a Detective Inspector, make up the new Online Hate Crime Hub. The aim is to improve the police response to online hate by gathering intelligence, improving understanding and testing new investigation methods.

Today Sadiq Khan, honours his manifesto commitment, to ensure a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime of all forms by also bringing together experts in tackling online hate and extremism at the UK’s first ever Online Hate Crime Summit.

Representatives from Twitter, Facebook, Crown Prosecution Services, the Met and charities joined victims of online hate to discuss how they can work together to tackle this issue and support those affected.

I welcome the Online Hate Crime Summit and especially the Online Hate Crime Hub. I think this will work  as an effective deterrent to those that troll and spread hate online as well as provide quality and consistent support to victims across London.  Sending a zero-tolerance message whether that is through an increase in reporting, an increase prosecutions and  or more proactive work from social media companies will encourage those who are intent to make the online community unsafe to think again.

As you know, I was targeted by online trolls earlier this year. Being an Elected Councillor and having a great network of cool people kinda places me in a privileged position. Not everyone has a badass MP like Lyn Brown; or friends like Laura Bates from EverydaySexism who can use her brilliant following to galvanise brilliant women (and men) around the world to support me; or a great relationship with their local police officers to get the right things done and done quickly.  This Online Hate Crime can ensure victims are properly supported and best practice is shared across the Metropolitan Police.

Some will and have already said that “hate speech are just words, you should just ignore them.” I 100% disagree!

There is a huge difference between unkind words (which is unacceptable) and calling someone variations of “Ne*ro”, “Filthy N*****” and “N*g**ess” or a “Monkey”, “Chimp”,  “Ape”, “Harambe’s cousin”, “All Africans live in Mudhuts”,  “eff off back to Africa and die there you useless parasite” … “Lol kill yourself”, or that they hoped for “the next Ebola outbreak”, or to “ get lynched you stupid nog” and that “if all whites agreed that the best course of action would be to exterminate blacks, we could do it in a week.”… 

Free speech is very clearly not same as hate speech. Hate speech is a crime and since when did we tell people to simply ignore when a crime is being committed.

We need to take back our online community space. I’ve written some recommendations on how social media companies can effectively deal with their online trolls. The inventors of Twitter and Youtube couldn’t have foreseen how their tech innovation would change the world and I am sure they never intended trolls to take over their platforms.  I look forward to hearing further details on the Online Hate Crime Hub as the weeks go by and will be monitoring the delivery of the unit closely.

Glitch is a UK registered charity. Charity number: 1187714
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