“Our cultural strength has always been derived from our diversity of understanding and experience.” Yo-Yo Ma (French-Born American Cellist, United Nations Messenger of Peace)
The arrival of October sees the start of Black History Month, with a focus in Assemblies and lessons across the school on this important event. Miss McMillan, our Diversity & Inclusion lead, spoke to Pre-Prep on Wednesday about the theme for this year, which is ‘Celebrating Our Sisters’. As part of this, Mr Ridge, our new Head of History, will be giving his first St Christopher’s Assembly next Thursday on Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railway. Black History Month is of course part of a broader focus on diversity and multiculturalism, and this is something else I want to talk about today.
To further celebrate diversity within our school, every year or so, we do a survey of the whole school to look at information such as the variety of languages spoken at home, links to other countries around the world, and religious diversity in our community. For comparison, we ask the same questions of our staff, and compare the difference in generations. The last time we asked these questions, roughly a quarter of our pupils had all four of their grandparents born in the UK, and another quarter had all four grandparents born outside the UK. The various options in between were all represented, too. In one class alone, we found family heritage from Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Italy, and Sierra Leone!
A walk down George Street or similar on a Saturday afternoon presents the opportunity to hear a wide range of languages being spoken, and our school reflects the nature of our city. Miss McMillan did some research and found out that St Christopher’s children speak Cantonese, French, Italian, Arabic, Mandarin, German, Gujarati, Russian, Spanish, and Tamil at home. Our pupils have opportunities throughout the year to share the languages they speak with their classmates, continuing the celebration of the many cultures and experiences within our school.
In terms of Celebrating Our Sisters, history often records the names of men when women have in fact been the pioneers. If you are keen to expand your YouTube playlist, can I recommend Rosetta Tharpe, about whom Chuck Berry said, “Without Sister Rosetta, there would have been no Chuck Berry”. Her fusion of Gospel music and the electric guitar was a huge influence on the birth of Rock & Roll, and it is exactly the purpose of Black History Month to restore names like hers to their rightful place.
Ms Elizabeth Lyle, Head