Role Models

Why We Need More Black Teachers

Young black students are in dire need of more black teachers and role models in schools. Here’s why:

While it’s not entirely on black teachers to take up the mantle of role model for black students within a school. The fact remains; ensuring young people have access to, and can visibly see role models that look like them or come from a similar background, is important.

What underrepresentation means for young black students in schools today

Representation matters. It’s no secret that a lack of black teachers (and as a result, the lack of black role models) can have a devastating effect on the prospects of young black people. The above statistics come from report by the Hamilton Commission. Its focus is on the barriers faced by young black Brits in recruitment and progression within the STEM industries. Yet, its message shines a light on all industries.

Seven time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, made a pledge in October 2021 to fund 150 black STEM teachers in the UK’s most disadvantaged schools. Lewis Hamilton began The Hamilton Commission alongside the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) after witnessing the lack of black people in engineering during his career in motorsport. Seeking to understand why underrepresentation exists in STEM, he reflects; ‘representation and role models are important…especially when it comes to supporting young peoples’ development’.

The shortage of black teachers and its devastating effect

Hamilton’s sentiments are echoed by teacher Natalie Jones in an article on the BAME teacher shortage. Born in Birmingham to Jamaican parents, Natalie now teaches in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. In the article, Natalie explains the real challenges in becoming a teacher.

For instance, when she was growing up she ‘never saw a black teacher’. And The Education Workforce Council reports that only 7 out of 3,443 headteachers come from ‘non-white minority ethnic backgrounds’. Natalie goes on to say in the article that; ‘Sometimes in some careers, unless you see somebody who looks like you doing it, it doesn’t enter your head you can do it’.

In other words, young black youth stumble at the first hurdle because in some disciplines (e.g. STEM subjects) they can’t foresee how they will fit in.

Josiah Isles, a black Assistant Headteacher, found that of the 600 teachers he’d encountered in his career, just 14 were black. And of those, only one held a position at the most senior level. A February 2021 government report supports Josiah’s observations. It outlines that of all the teachers in England:

% of Black Caribbean teachers in England

% of Black African teachers in England

% of Mixed White Black Caribbean teachers in England

% of Mixed White/Black African teachers in England

Given these statistics, it’s not surprising that young black men like Josiah struggle to find role models within the education system. However, he goes on to express how formative the few role models he had were in shaping his own career; ‘[They] made a massive impact on my self-belief and drive. I can only hope that I can do the same for other young black men and all of my students, many of whom come from financially vulnerable households’.

A short history of British educational attitudes to young black people

Bernard Coard was one of the pioneers who first brought the problems facing young black people in the British education system to the country’s attention.

In his 1971 book, How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System, Coard highlights how black children were wrongly sent to schools for the ‘educationally subnormal’ (ESN) because they were believed to be of low intelligence. Coard identified the harm caused to black children by teachers who were ‘openly prejudiced…patronising’. With many having ‘low expectations of the child’s abilities’. Adding to this, educational campaigner Gus John, who came over from Grenada in 1964, said schools were ‘paralysing and killed any sense of self-confidence and ambition’. Not to mention, schools were doing nothing to challenge this obvious prejudice.

‘The education system fuelled and legitimised the idea that black Caribbean children were less intelligent than other children… It was rampant racism’.

Gus john

While things have definitely improved for young black British students today, prejudice attitudes were pervasive back then. As a result, many black children were sent to schools that hindered their growth and progression.

The ESN Experiences of young black students

In a BBC article, Noel Gordon, a pupil who was sent to an ESN school, describes his experience as ‘hell’.

Another pupil, Maisie Barrett, was sent to an ESN at the age of seven in the 1960s; because a teacher told her mother she was ‘backwards’ and ‘couldn’t learn’.

In fact, Maisie was dyslexic, a condition that was undiagnosed until she was in her 30s. She claims her experience in the ESN school ruined her life chances. While we can’t go back and change the experiences of pupils like Noel and Maisie, we can focus on the now; to support future black students and to improve their prospects.

Learning from the past to support the future

In January 2021, to celebrate the republication of Coard’s book, Hubert Devonish, Professor at the University of the West Indies, wrote; ‘people of non-White immigrant origin from the former Empire now living in the UK, hold the key to a better future for the British education system’.

In fact, a study conducted by the Institute of Education at UCL outlines how this vision might become a reality. The report recommends greater government support to retain minority ethnic teachers; advising the government to ensure that the teaching staff at state-funded schools were reflective of the diversity of the communities in which those schools were based. In addition, it outlines the necessity to promote minority ethnic teachers into leadership positions.

Finally, its overarching recommendation was that more and better empirical research be conducted; to explore why minority ethnic teachers leave the profession. Suggesting that the data be used to develop strategies to retain and recruit more minority ethnic teachers into the profession.

Building up young black youth for success

We believe that further research, much like the report conducted by UCL, and initiatives like the pledge made by Lewis Hamilton will give young black people the role models they need to boost their confidence in the value of education. And it’s this confidence that will improve all our futures; a future where more black people occupy positions of authority within our society.  Until that time, there’s a lot more work to be done. But we’re hopeful.

At Genesis Sun we focus on nurturing abilities and empowering belief systems in black people and underserved groups. Our goal is to inspire and stimulate fresh and existing talent, innovate thinking and encourage big personal and career aspirations.

Inspirational Black women who made an impact on history

We celebrate the contributions of women all over the world.  With this in mind, we honour inspiring black women, many of whom serve as role models for us all.

Actresses, singers, athletes, entrepreneurs and activists are among those on the list.  These women are not just celebrities, but also leaders who we admire in all aspects of life. They have been responsible for trends, firsts, cultural developments, and innovation that have changed our world for the better.

As strong, talented black women, they have paved the way for a generation of women to follow in their footsteps. We recognise their courage, determination and contributions to society and therefore we celebrate their success.

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

Known for: American singer, songwriter, entertainer, actress, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Why we love her: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, nicknamed Queen Bey by her loyal fans, is arguably one of the most talented entertainers of our time. (Thanks to her, we all know who runs the world.)

With 79 nominations, she is the most nominated female artist in Grammy history, and with 28 wins, she has won the most Grammy’s for a female artist to date. She’s performed twice at the Super Bowl, and is one of the world’s best-selling recording artists, having sold 118 million records worldwide. She’s also an advocate of the Ban Bossy campaign, which promotes female leadership through television and social media.Queen Bey took the stage when she became the first African American woman to headline at Glastonbury in 2011. Beyoncé is not only one of the music industry’s greats, but also someone who really cares about others. Beyoncé is one of the co-founders of CHIME FOR CHANGE, an organisation dedicated to empowering women and girls through education, wellbeing, and justice. The American performer has not only inspired many through her music but also through her charitable acts.

Viola Davis

Actress & producer

Why we love her

Why she’s remarkable: For her performance in ABC’s ‘How to Get Away With Murder‘, Davis made history by becoming the first Black woman to win an Emmy for an outstanding lead actress role in a drama series. Davis is also an Academy Award winner who’s appeared in many amazing award-winning movies. Davis and her partner, Julius Tennon are the co-founders of JuVee Productions. Davis is also well-known for her promotion of human rights and equal rights for women, especially women of colour.

Kanya King CBE MBE

Entrepreneur & founder of the MOBO Awards and MOBOLISE

Why we love her

Kanya King CBE, an internationally renowned entrepreneur. King demonstrated the drive and ambition required to take urban music from the margins of British popular culture to the heart of mainstream culture. Not only in the UK, but around the world through her role as CEO, founder, and visionary of the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards. Kanya has grown the MOBO’s into a globally recognised brand since its launch in 1996.

Since receiving an MBE in 2018, awarded for her contributions to music, culture, and entrepreneurship. Kanya has been listed as one of London’s Most Influential People (Evening Standard), one of Britain’s Most Entrepreneurial Women (Real Business), and one of Britain’s Most Influential Black People (Thomson Reuters/JP Morgan Power List).

Kanya King CBE, has launched a digital platform aimed to stimulate open discussions around race and diversity and improve businesses that promote equality and opportunity. MOBOLISE seeks to reverse inequality by showcasing black talent and to accelerate careers.

People of all ages will be able to network with leaders and workers from diverse sectors to obtain mentorship, boost confidence, discover vacancies, showcase talents, and attend networking and mentoring activities that level the playing field of opportunities. UK talent such as Emeli Sandé, Afua Hirsch, Mo Gilligan, and George The Poet support the MOBOLISE platform.

Michelle Obama

Author, lawyer, the former first lady of the United States

Why we love her

Michelle Obama captivated many with her compassion, strength, and optimism while serving as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. As first lady, Michelle Obama was a role model for women everywhere and championed poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She is also the bestselling author of Becoming, The Light We Carry and a podcaster.

Mary Seacole

Nurse, healer and business woman

Why we love her

Mary Jane Seacole was a courageous woman. A British-Jamaican nurse, healer, and business woman, who set up the “British Hotel” behind enemy lines during the Crimean War.

The British Hotel near Balaclava provided comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers. She raised funds for her venture by selling supplies and serving meals and alcohol. She used the proceeds to provide for the sick and wounded. She also visited the battlefield, sometimes under fire, to nurse the wounded, and became known as ‘Mother Seacole’.

At the start of Seacole’s career she helped heal the sick that were affected by the cholera outbreak in 1850. Mary Seacole relied on herbal therapies as well as other treatments. In Jamaica, she also dealt with a yellow fever outbreak.

On June 30, 2016, Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE unveiled a memorial statue of Mary Seacole in the gardens of St Thomas’s Hospital.

The statue is significant because it reflects Mary Seacole’s contribution to British society and the global majority. We, on the other hand, see it as something more than a memorial, we recognise the statue to be a powerful influence of good will. The statue has restored the memory of Mary Seacole and the amazing charitable acts she bestowed throughout her career.

Katherine Johnson

Mathematician

Why we love her

Creola Katherine Johnson also known as Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician who worked for NASA. Her calculations about orbital mechanics were crucial to the first and subsequent US crewed spaceflights.
She gained a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations during her 33-year career at NASA, she also helped pioneer the use of computers to perform her duties. Katherine Johnson was recognised by NASA as the first African American women to work as a NASA scientist.

For her pioneering work Johnson received a number of awards. One of her most inspiring awards was honoured by NASA in September 2017 with the dedication of the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, a new research building named after her.

Her story was told in the 2016 Hollywood film “Hidden Figures,” which was based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction book series. Mrs Johnson, the lead character in the film, was performed by Taraji P. Henson. The film received three Oscar nominations, including best picture. It is clear that Johnson’s legacy is admired by those that knew her and supported her.

Madame CJ Walker

Entrepreneur, philanthropist and political and social activist

Why we love her

Madam C. J. Walker is America’s first female self-made millionaire, made possible through her homemade line of hair care products for black women. Walker created a business empire by selling goods directly to Black women first, then recruiting ‘beauty culturalists’ to sell her products.
The self-made millionaire used her fortune to fund Tuskegee Institute scholarships for women and generously donated some of her wealth to the NAACP, the Black YMCA, and other charities.

Today, Madam CJ Walker is now known as a highly successful black female entrepreneur who inspired many through her financial independence, business acumen, and philanthropy.

Madam C J Walker didn’t become a self-made millionaire overnight; she took risks, persevered and uplifted others in her community. Walker established employee clubs, empowering them to volunteer in their neighbourhoods and rewarding them with incentives when they did so. She championed female talent, at a time when Black women’s work prospects were limited.

Lauryn Hill

Known for: Singer, songwriter, rapper, actor and record producer

Why we love her

Queen of hip hop, Lauryn Noelle Hill’s soulful voice pushed her to the top of the hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues charts at the end of the 20th century.  She is generally considered as one of the best rappers of all time, as well as one of her generation’s most influential singers.

Hill is credited with breaking down barriers for female rappers and popularising melodic rapping, hip-hop and neo-soul. She is best known as a member of the Fugees and for her solo album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, which was a multi-award-winning album that went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Lauryn Hill became the first female artist in the United States to achieve diamond status. Her debut album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ has sold more than 10 million copies and has therefore reached diamond status.

Venus and Serena Williams

Professional tennis players

Why we love them The Williams sisters are extremely accomplished athletes, having won a total of 122 career singles titles and nine Olympic medals between them. Serena Williams is the first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam titles and Venus winning seven. While their rivalry has carried through on the singles court, they’ve maintained a loving sibling bond and most notably on the Olympic stage.Their hard work and dedication demonstrates that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Mothers

Known for

Their love, words and encouragement

Why we love them

Mothers have a significant impact on their children through their words, actions, and unconditional love. Therefore they must be recognised for all of their incredible qualities.

As we grow from infants to adults, our mothers give us life, nurture us, and support us. They educate us, care for us, and give us guidance (welcome or not!). To celebrate Women’s History Month we wanted to make a special mention to all of the mothers who often juggle careers and daily life and make it look so easy. So thank you to all the mothers that offer their love, support, education and help others to become the best person they can be.

With the many challenges mothers face, Mother of Abundance provides advice on how to balance motherhood and career goals. Planning Your Best Life & Living It Every Day is a workbook provided by Mother or Abundance so you can dream big and still support your family. To find out more about Mother of Abundance visit their website.


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