OPEN LETTER TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS PETITION COMMITTEE

I recently started a petition with the intention of getting a high level debate from Parliament on Black history lessons in the UK. You can read about my reasons in my earlier article – PSA – IN THE WORDS OF JAY Z, ALLOW ME TO REINTRODUCE MYSELF!

Today I learned that they had rejected my petition because they felt it was not unique enough. Please read my response.

Dear Ed (and the HOC Petitions Committee),

CC: www.Kris-tna.com

Thank you for getting back to me and I appreciate your sympathy in what I went through as a child. I would like for you to note that my petition does not make the same request as previous ones and I checked this before first launching it. It is disheartening that you would think this and is again another major reason why my petition is needed and a discussion on the matter take place at the highest level. Lets look at the options that you have suggested were alternatives to me.

1. Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/323808 

This topic does not fall into History lessons. Whilst I believe that it is important that diversity and Racism is addressed in schools, it can happen with social studies or even P.S.H.E. lessons. So it isn’t a repetition of what I am asking for but merely another avenue from which Racism can be addressed and tackled in the education system.

2. Making the UK education curriculum more inclusive of BAME history: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/323961

This topic is definitely closer to the mark but it still misses it by a lot. It is a generalisation on the education system being more inclusive of BAME history. That can fall into a plethora of subjects such as including BAME authors in English Lit classes to looking at inventions by Black people in science classes. It also makes the sweeping generalisation that all ethnic minorities have the same history and should be treated the same. We are not and should not be, but that is a topic for another day and a feature of a different petition that I have launched – Ban the use of BAME as a collective term for minority ethnic groups (I avidly await feedback from standards on it)

3.Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/324092

It is insulting to imply that Britains colonial past is the sum of Black history. To quote the words of Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum – 

“We have existed in Britain and been pioneers, inventors, icons. And then colonialism happened, and that has shaped the experiences of black people – but that is not all we are.”

A discussion needs to be had at a higher level so that what Black history means is fully addressed. It is abhorrent and not going to help with stigmas and racism to insinuate that Britains colonial past is the sum of all we are as Black people. Whilst I think it is important to teach the entirety of Black history and as such include this, it is dangerous and damaging to box Black History as solely being about the British Empire and Colonialism. We are taught a white washed version of the history of the World Wars in school and it is never mentioned that many Black soldiers helped fight for freedom while not fully experiencing it for themselves. A comprehensive look at Black history needs to be had by Black historians and scholars to ensure we are not pigeon holing what is means to teach Black history. I am not asking for a rose tinted glasses look at Black History, it is unfortunate that Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade is a massive part of that. It saddens me further to look at the active role the UK held within that and the history of the British Colonialism, the British Empire and the Commonwealth. Instead I am asking that while you teach that, you also teach about Mary Seacole alongside teaching about Florence Nightingale. That when you teach about the Romans, you also take the time to mention the Black people that were also on British shores at that time like the The Ivory Bangle Lady, whose remains were discovered in York in 1901. That when we look at Henry VIII and about the fate of all his wives and his tumultuous reign that time is taken to learn about John Blanke, an African trumpeter who is documented as having asked Henry VIII for a pay rise. Or any of the other hundreds of Black migrants living in Britain during 1500s Tudor England.

I hope that you read my words and understand all that I hoped to achieve with my petition and why it is not a repetition of anything that is out there. Should you still feel that it is, I welcome feedback on how the title can be adjusted to better reflect my intentions.

Kind regards,

Kristina Antoine

Open response letter published on  www.Kris-tna.com 

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