National Diversity Week at Stamford High School 2020
As this week is Diversity Week, the Prefects at Stamford High School came together to write reviews about lots of the different forms of the creative arts which express diversity in many ways; for example, race and the LGBTQ+ community. This exercise was both informative and interesting as these reviews highlight the importance of diversity within our community today, because how boring would the world be if everyone was the same! These reviews also give detailed ways in which we can educate ourselves – a key step to take in order to help society as a whole improve for the better.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela
By Eloise Quetglas-Peach
‘Why I am no longer talking to white people about race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge – a really eye opening book about the links on gender and race. It explains how it is being a person of colour in Britain today.
By Lillie Barton
‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman – Within ‘Noughts and Crosses’ we see a world where the roles are reversed in society in comparison to the real world. Here, there is a white underclass which is in conflict with a specific subset of ruling black people. The population within the story is split into white Noughts who are deemed to be second class citizens, whilst the black Crosses are seen as the superior race. The story shows true love and friendship following the relationship between 15-year-old Callum who is a Nought and his friend Sephy who is not only a Cross, but her father is also an influential politician in the country leading to the testing of their own strength and the strength they share.
The relationship shared between Sephy and Callum is looked down on upon society and we see the discrimination they face as a result of this. The reversal of racial stereotypes is a very clever way of showing the racial prejudice from a different perspective that we would not normally see in our daily lives.
This is one of my favourite books to enjoy and also learn from the thought- provoking exploration of the futile prejudice society has put into place over time. I would 10/10 recommend this book to anyone. Blackman’s writing is so easy to pick up and engross yourself in.
By Sophie Newport
‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson – I read The Art of Being Normal a few years ago and remember being amazed by the story and the message it spread. The novel tells the story of two transgender teenagers through a dual narrative and exposes their struggles while educating readers and indirectly encouraging them to become more accepting of all kinds of people, no matter how they identify. Although at times it is heart-breaking, the story is hopeful and engaging and has a very good message which I think more people need to hear.
By Poppy Fleming
‘Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela’ – This book is something I read a while ago, but I found it to be uplifting, emotive and compelling. Nelson Mandela’s story is, of course, a very well-known one which is told through his autobiography, highlighting the trials and tribulations which he endured both publically and privately for a cause greater than himself, for his community, and for justice. I found that the book shed a lot of insight on Mandela’s thoughts, sense of discrimination, his fight for freedom and equality which is incredibly inspiring and thought-provoking. He owns his mistakes and failures as readily as his successes which besides the obvious messages from this book, is something we can all take something from. Mandela is the embodiment of strength and resilience, and I recommend the book for anyone looking to learn how to make a difference in the world!
By Nayana Mould
‘Hidden Figures’ by Margot Lee Shetterly – ‘Hidden Figures’ is an eye opening novel about three African-American women, who are great mathematicians. They are discriminated against in the man-dominated NASA, but in fact were the ones who ensured the astronaut’s safe and successful launch into orbit, after many difficulties. The story is truly empowering, and one that needs to be read if you have not already!
By Emily Cox
‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Tomas – It tells the story of teenager, Starr Carter, who witnesses her unarmed black friend be fatally shot by a police officer. This book is extremely relevant to current events going on in the world as Tomas addresses a large number of issues which are seen every day within the black community. The main theme of racial injustice is shown throughout as she clearly depicts the damaging and lethal impact racism has on our society. The correlation to recent events is clear in more than one aspect, not only through the loss of a black life but how the media paints the picture that the death of these men was their own fault. The book clearly shows that it is everyone’s responsibility to influence change and that to quietly disagree is not enough.
By Eliza Jones
‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Tomas – ‘The Hate U Give’ shows how each character has an importance in repressing diversity and a part of modern day society. It reflects how strong your voice is and how strength as well as family is so important. It represented how voice and action can change the lives of black youth when presented with police brutality with only a single voice, some loyalty and resilience. In addition, the good you can promote around the world with white privileges in order to support black people which may be more vulnerable. It clearly emphasises the movement of Black Lives Matter.
By Josie Rule
‘The Help’ by Kathyrn Stockett – ‘The Help’ is a novel based on a woman called Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan and her journey to become a successful journalist during the Civil Rights Movement. She decided to write a book from the viewpoint of the black maids which exposed the racism they faced every day. It is a very empowering novel for women, specifically women of colour, because of the way the black maids stand up for themselves and other black women against their white bosses. This novel is very heart-warming and shows how strong these women truly are.
By Molly Fowler
‘Un Secret’ by Philippe Grimbert – This is the book I am studying for my French A Level and it is very eye opening into the lives of Jews living in France during the Second World War. The book talks of how the main family, who have a Jewish second name, had to change their last name and flee Paris during the war to avoid being captured by the Nazis. I think it is very important that stories like this are shared to show the awful discrimination different groups of society have suffered so that it can be avoided at all costs in the future.
By Erin Andrews
‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given – I recently purchased the book ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ by Florence Given, and even after seeing the first page, I knew it was going to be an incredible read! Unlike anything I have read before, it is directed solely at women. Not just heterosexual cis women; all women. It focuses on feminism in a fresh light. What it means to be a woman, a feminist, and even yourself.
A message on the back reads “Warning: contains explicit content (and a load of uncomfortable truths)” and this is a brilliant summary of what I’ve read so far. In the first chapter Given discusses how Feminism is going to “ruin your life” (but in the best way, of course). It means more than a group of people with the hunch that women deserve the same rights as men, it means destabilising myths that have literally controlled the lives of millions of women for hundreds of years, and once you have started to unpick the carefully woven reel of lies that binds society into its one-size-fits-all cage, you won’t be able to look at the world with from the same angle ever again. One chapter titled “Maybe it’s a girl crush, maybe you’re queer” discusses the damage caused by assumed heterosexuality, and the fact that often when people choose to come out as LGBTQ+, they’re often degraded and treated like children, with comments such as “you’ve never been with a girl, how would you know?” or “but you don’t look queer”. This is, frankly, nobody else’s business. Furthermore, Given speaks of her first-hand experiences dating women, and the fact that lesbian couples are sexualised and seen as some kind of novelty, whilst gay men are placed into the “gay best friend” category – yet another double standard.
Another important theme of the book is the fact that we can succeed without pulling each other down. “There is enough room for all women to be whole without tearing each other down”, Given quotes. In our society often the hate we receive as women comes directly from other women, which most of the time happens without us even noticing, or caring. As Given stated on the back cover, this is an uncomfortable truth that must be addressed in order for women to progress. Since ordering the book, a lot of my friends have also purchased it, and the response from every single one of them has been overwhelming. I would hands down recommend this to every woman in the world, and will certainly be lending it to any of my male friends looking to see the world from a different perspective. For more information, amazing illustrations and inspirational quotes, follow @florencegiven on Instagram.
By Caitlin Brown
‘12 Years A Slave’ directed by Steve McQueen – this adaptation of 1853 slave memoir written by Solomon Northup is probably one of the most hard-hitting films that I have ever watched. It clearly encapsulates the excruciatingly brutal injustice and the inhumane discrimination that many black people experienced in the years before the American Civil War. The film follows the story of a very well-educated black violinist who was kidnapped by two conmen and sold into slavery, despite being born a free man in the state of New York.
The film is truly moving and shocking as it vividly depicts what life was like as a slave in the southern states of America; the constant punishment of being whipped and beaten, the constant racist insults, and the constant state of living in such severe fear that makes suicide seems like a far better option than living in a world of inhumanity and injustice.
After watching this film, I learnt a lot about the level of brutality African Americans faced while being tortured under slavery. I also learnt that one small good deed can have such a beneficial impact on someone’s life; so I feel that one of the morals of the film was to ensure you stand up for what you believe in and then help others in order to successfully make a positive change to society.
By Eloise Quetglas-Peach
‘The Hate U Give’ directed by George Tillman Jr. – ‘What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be.’
This is one of my favourite films and books, because it truly opened my eyes on the discrimination that the black community endure daily. It is heart-breaking but the power, which Starr yields, is one that should be an inspiration for the whole of humanity.
Angie Thomas’ novel, turned block-buster film, ‘The Hate U Give’, is a story of strength, unity and power against the injustice and discrimination in America against the black community. Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl, is torn between two communities when she experiences her best friend, Khalil, being shot by a policeman. She faces her friend’s racism towards her community every day, justifying their comments by saying ‘You’re different, Starr.’ She experiences her father being targeted by police officers. She sees her little brother living in a world in which he will have to face this police brutality. She does not stay silent. ‘The Hate U Give’ inspires the thought that every member of the human race should be treated equally, regardless of the representation they receive in the media and regardless of the unjust perception others may have.
“Everybody wants to talk about how Khalil died, but this isn’t about how Khalil died. It’s about the fact that he lived. His life mattered. Khalil lived!’ I look at the cops again. ‘You hear me? Khalil lived!” – Starr Carter.
By Amba Tilney
‘Schindler’s List’ directed by Steven Spielberg – The movie ‘Schindler’s List’ is taken from a true story which was to do with the discriminatory act of the Holocaust which killed 6 million people, mainly Jews. ‘Schindler’s List’ is about a man who saved 1,100 Jewish lives by making his factory a refuge for them. This awful event happened over 75 years ago but similar actions are still taking place today. Consequently, this shows that the world still hasn’t learnt from its very harsh lesson of the Holocaust, and has forgotten that diversity is essential in life.
By Annabel Dallas
‘Hidden Figures’ – ‘Hidden Figures’ is a film based on a true story about three African American women who worked at NASA in 1961, when discrimination was still very much apparent. These three women (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Monae and Mary Jackson) helped NASA to achieve their goal of launching an astronaut (John Glenn) into orbit whilst still having to cope with racial and gender discrimination at work. During the film, Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji Henson) gives a speech about why she leaves the office for an hour a day and it is because there are no toilets in the building for her to use because of the colour of her skin. As a result of this, NASA got rid of colour segregated toilets and this is just one of the many examples of what these amazing women overcame when trying to do the impossible of getting someone into space. I would really recommend that you watch this with your family as it is such an eye opening and thought-provoking film.
By Sophie Mihill
‘Bend It Like Beckham’ directed by Gurinda Chadha – This movie is so inspiring as it teaches the audience to really fight for their dreams despite of the circumstances. It also shows a realistic view of a typical Asian family as well as exploring other paths of diversity and how teenagers are both accepting and unaccepting of them. Although this film may be outdated, it truly is timeless in the messages that it portrays.
By Grace Kendall
‘Hamilton’ directed by Thomas Kail – Hamilton the musical, written by Lin Manuel Miranda in 2015, shows a high amount of diversity in the production. The cast of Hamilton has a wide range of cultures playing the characters which were historically white and yet are played by all different races in the show. Hamilton also shows a theme of the rise in diversity at the time that this was set. Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant who moved to New York and made his way up the political scale to run the Treasury Department of Congress and also wrote a lot of the Constitution of America. The whole point of the different races playing the characters is not the concept of casting actors in colour blindness but how they present it to a modern audience and make it relevant to the 21st Century. The director of Hamilton, Thomas Kail said: ‘In the stubbornly white world of British theatre, which remains a long way off from regularly casting black and minority ethnic actors in roles long-played by their white counterparts, Hamilton makes a powerful statement.’
Another example of a play that casts different races compared to the original idea is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child who has Hermione being played by a black actress rather than an actress who looks like Emma Watson. Hamilton is a show about overcoming adversity and especially in the current climate of the Black Lives Matter movement, casting actors who are usually turned down for parts because of the colour of their skin can help progress the West End and Broadway to take a step of changing an industry that historically has been very heavily Caucasian casted. Having these actors perform the parts, shows the talent and understanding of the musical better and why Lin Manuel Miranda wrote about this underrated founding father.
By Alice Patterson
‘Queer Eye’ created by David Collins – What I really love about ‘Queer Eye’ is how it celebrates diversity and the differences between people whilst helping people to become the best version of themselves. ‘Queer eye’ has told the stories of people of different genders, races and sexualities, the fab five able to relate having experienced discrimination and prejudice themselves. They offer limitless acceptance and love and help people find this also within themselves. It tackles difficult issues with grace in the context of wholesome and enjoyable content.
By Charlotte Bender
‘13 Reasons Why’ based on the novel by Jay Asher – While it’s a controversial show, it does raise a lot of important concerns regarding lack of diversity in America. It highlights the police brutality against black people, the breaking up of families due to immigration, how white privilege protects in the court room and it shows lots of different sexualities and the acceptance of all the differences. The cast itself both in their characters and not, come from of variety of backgrounds, and show a diversity of sexualities and races in a positive light. It is a good example of how we should embrace differences with acceptance and understanding.
By Clemmie Hitcham
‘Pose’ created by Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy – ‘Pose’ is a BBC series set in 1987 New York amidst the bustling LGBTQ+ Ball culture. It tells the story of Blanca, a black transgender woman, who starts her own house after leaving her previous House: House of Abundance. Ball culture is an underground LGBT subculture that originated in the United States in which people compete in houses for glory at the events known as Balls. Houses serve as alternative families that are meant to provide shelter and safety for those who have been kicked out of their own families for being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It is an uplifting series that follows the House of Evangelista on their journey to becoming the best house. The whole series celebrates other races and people of the LGBTQ+ community, whilst also showing the hardships and reality of the racism and transphobia people receive for being “different”.
By Kate Smith
‘Sex Education’ created by Laurie Nunn – ‘Sex Education’ is a Netflix series which incorporates racial diversity and LGBTQ+ representation through its use of character choices, in particularly Erik, a black male who is gay. Other important topics that are included in an attempt to be normalised are: mental health, female masturbation, non-toxic male friendships, consent, gender fluidity, asexuality, interracial relationships and feminism. This is a very powerful series because diversity is considered the norm and those issues are no longer debated – they’re addressed.
By Emily Ferguson
‘When they see us’ directed by Ava DuVernay on Netflix – This series is a necessity to watch. Not only is it the most moving thing I’ve ever watched, it made me realise I must be actively researching and educating myself on injustice and systematic racism.
The 4 part series directed by Ava DuVernay harrowingly depicts the true story of the Central Park 5, who were children at the time they were imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. The series shows you the protagonists when they are children and adults and it’s heart-breaking to see the lack of change in the oppressive system over this long stretch of time. These kids’ lives were destroyed by the people supposed to protect them. The things that were allowed to happen to these friends solely based on their skin colour and ethnicity shouldn’t happen to any human, let alone innocent kids.
It’s by far my favourite series I’ve ever watched, based upon the impact that it made in my life (although it sounds cheesy it’s true). After watching, I was compelled and moved to research the people behind the characters. Korey Wise is a name that will stick with me for life, as he served the harshest and longest sentence despite only tagging along to the police station to support his accused friend. They have all managed to rebuild their lives and I saw on Instagram Korey attending the George Floyd protests. The strength of these 5 is inspirational.
Although these events took place in the 80s and 90s, a man who took out a full page article to call for the death penalty for the innocent boys (purely because of the prejudice he held against Black and Latino peoples) is currently President of the USA. Even once they were exonerated, he publicly refused to admit any remorse. This is terrifying and not isolated to America. Over the time since watching this series a year ago, yet more black lives have been cruelly taken. People we love and know still experience racism. If we are not actively living anti-racist lives, our inaction is responsible for a system where this can happen. Through recognising privilege and bias, self-education, donating, having tough conversations and speaking up when things aren’t right; we must fix this.
By Millie Murison
‘Brooklyn 99’ created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur – A TV show which I believe to be quite inclusive is Brooklyn 99. Despite being a comedy series, it deals with many uncomfortable issues that are often ignored. One such example is that in an episode called ‘Moo Moo’, where Detective Jeffords, a black man, experiences racial profiling. It was very upsetting to see such an honourable man nearly arrested, if not for his employment within the police force, simply for searching for his daughter’s toy outside his neighbourhood in the evening. It really brings into light how discrimination and social injustice can affect anybody, and that you really cannot judge a book by its cover.
By Katy McCarthy
‘13th’ directed by Ava DuVernay – The Black Lives Matter movement has become increasingly prominent over the last month or so. As I became more aware of the importance of understanding the history of Black lives, I decided to explore resources. I watched ‘13th’ with the hope that I would learn a little more about the history of Black people and what I could do to help stop discrimination. I came out of watching the documentary with so many facts, opinions, statistics and thoughts running through my head. I was most definitely overwhelmed. I highly recommend watching ‘13th’. I would go as far as to say that everyone should watch the documentary.
‘13th’ begins with the alarming statistic: one in three African-American males will serve prison time at one point or another in their lives whereas only one in seventeen white men will. The documentary goes on to explain how the loophole in the 13th amendment converted slavery from a legal business model to an equally legal method of punishment for criminals. ‘13th’ both shocked and angered me. It made me question the respect I had for American Presidents and the country which calls itself ‘the land of the free’.
I believe watching this documentary is vital to educating ourselves about the horrifying history of Black lives and why more than ever we need to stand up for them.
By Evie Armes
“The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety”- W. Somerset Maugham – To me, this shows how beautiful the world could be if the differences which exist in society are accepted by everyone. Diversity is a part of life to be celebrated and no one person is the same. If we accept these differences and act as a united front, many would feel more accepted and integrated into the community; creating a better quality of life for all.
By Melissa Nelson
‘Caged Bird’ by Maya Angelou – After being given the book of poems ‘And Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou, I thought it was only appropriate to analyse one of her poems in aid of Diversity Week. Maya Angelou has faced a lot of prejudice in her time as a black woman and grew up in an unsafe household with her mother’s abusive boyfriend. The odds were against her as, due to previous traumatic experiences, she didn’t speak for several years. Luckily for us she found her voice again. ‘Caged bird’ is such a powerful poem as she describes her experiences of oppression and racism through the eyes of an imprisoned bird. The metaphor not only highlights the maltreatment of black people but also the emotional and physical restraint it puts on them. When she wrote “the caged bird sings of freedom” she is referencing the yearning of the oppressed to be set free, and live life no longer in fear. I recommend Maya Angelou’s poetry to all as it opens your eyes to wider problems and struggles that people face on a daily basis. One doesn’t realise how privileged they are until they imagine life, as a caged bird.
By Pippa Bradshaw
Black Lives Matter Protest – On the 20th of June, I went to a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Hyde Park, London. It was extremely empowering to hear people speak their frustration in person rather than on social media. It was also amazing to see the diverse range of people that attended to show support!
By Chloe Tinton
‘Where is the love?’ by The Black Eyes Peas – Most people believe this song is about the war in Iraq. However, the true meaning of this song is the fight against racism that takes place all over the world, but particularly in America. It is basically calling out all of the hatred that takes place in today’s society as it exaggerates the theme regarding human rights, through the relationship between the individual and society. Overall, their song exemplifies their desire to return to a world with fairness, equality, and humanity.
By Niamh Peters
‘Red Table Talks’ by Willow Smith – In a red table talk, Willow Smith spoke of the difficulties of “cancel culture”. The episode, which highlighted the current black lives matter protests, also spoke of the dangers of not allowing people to make mistakes. I think that this is something to think about during Diversity Week. How, in a society where we are expected to empathise with people from different backgrounds rather than “cancel” a person for a misunderstanding of a micro-aggression, can we give them the benefit of tolerance and lead them to a path of learning. This gives people the opportunity to understand why their actions were wrong and change their attitudes rather than being bombarded with hate. Only through education, listening and having open conversations can we overcome systematic racism which is ingrained deep within our society.
By Megan Gunther