One damp and grey summer afternoon in August 2014, searching for a much-needed distraction from planning English lessons for my pupils I visited the Black Cultural Archives with my Mum and two nieces. I was desperate to visit the BCA after reading on BBC news that Raleigh Hall would finally open to record and celebrate the stories of people of African descent in Britain.
My dominant memories of the Black experience’s documentation in the museums I visited as a child placed our story often as an afterthought in the periphery or basements of national heritage sites in the centre of London.
Despite growing up a twenty-minute bus journey from the BCA my mixed Somali, British and Nigerian ancestry posed questions where answers were not always easily found, in the conversations I had with close family, friends, books or Wikipedia pages, often vulnerable to weak editorial settings and incorrect editing.
The BCA’s opening represented a powerful commitment to showcase the momentous and often obscured contributions of Africans and African-Caribbeans in Britain’s past and present. Visiting the BCA’s inaugural exhibition “Re-imagine: Black Women in Britain” I wandered with elation, watching my nieces aged five and seven dart from item to item, drawing illustrations and taking notes from the heroines they witnessed - many for the first time.
Just before we left I bought a DVD entitled the ‘Stuart Hall Project’. I had never heard of Professor Hall until I studied social history at Cambridge. I was stunned that a black Briton had invented the term ‘Thatcherism’ and pioneered cultural studies, an academic discipline which redefined social commentators presentation of the past and current events.
It was clear on viewing the documentary film that Professor Hall was the latest pioneer following trailblazers such as Olaudah Equiano, William Cuffay and Mary Seacole who through their devotion to equity, uplifted the social, economic and health conditions of those from all walks of life.
Hall’s foresight and unwavering pursuit of social justice inspired my founding of The Student View. We are an independent publication driven by the mission to amplify voices often too muffled to ever capture mainstream attention.
The Student View’s values of purpose, community, truth, balance and open-mindedness mirror Professor Hall’s egalitarian outlook. Our work gives young people from low-income backgrounds a chance to share their world through words. It is not our aim that all of our young people become journalists but we aim to nurture our participants to be active and constructively critical citizens.
With 25% of state school pupils coming from an ethnic minority, rises in religious and hate crime since the Brexit vote and 75% of young people believing that newspapers contribute towards racism - we at The Student View believe that we need a national conversation which introduces young people from all backgrounds to the perspectives of others.