‘Decolonising the curriculum’: Lawyer rolls out black history books across schools

A criminal and police actions lawyer has launched a book on black history that aims to “decolonise the curriculum”.

Ife Thompson, 28, from Brixton, co-authored Global Black Narratives: Africa, The Americas and The Caribbean – Volume One – and Black Britain and Europe – Volume Two – and has started rolling them out into schools across London.

The book is part of a scheme by Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health UK (BLAM UK) – an organisation founded by Ms Thompson five years ago that delivers weekly lessons on African, African-Caribbean and Black-British culture, history and heritage in schools.

Ms Thompson said: “Through our work, it became clear that many teachers have the desire to make the curriculum more centred on black narratives but they didn’t have the tools to do this.”

To fill the gap, BLAM UK created its workbooks to “seamlessly rework the curriculum”.

Ms Thompson speaking at the launch event of  Global Black Narratives with BLAM UK members (Picture: Ife Thompson)

Earlier this month Van Gogh Primary School in Hackford Road, Lambeth, became the first school to formally take on the book to be used by teachers in lessons.

The book – published by Routledge – took more than three years with the support of 20 BLAM UK staff members  – all of whom were black or mixed-race women.

The workbooks have practical lesson plans, interactive worksheets and activities for primary school teachers.

Subjects include arts, history, geography, music, poetry, performative arts, drama, English literature and language and Creole Linguistics.

From Left, Jamila Thompson, Christivie Manga, Ife Thompson, Udoka Okonkwo, Dami Turnersecond, Maruf Saeed, BLAM UK members and co-authors (Picture: Ife Thompson)

From Black culture and life in Great Britain to hidden cultural artefacts of Afro-Latinas and Afro-Colombians to Black Languages and music in the Americas, Ms Thompson said these books are “truly global”.

Ms Thompson said: “Unfortunately, the existing curriculum falls short in acknowledging the significant global contributions made by black communities as well as black perspectives, narratives and history. 

“This narrow focus hinders all young children’s understanding of the world and for Black children, this erasure and exclusion from the learning space negatively impacts their own identity contributing to a sense of exclusion.

“For children to have confidence and success, it is crucial they are educated about their heritage.

“This book is a lover letter to my inner child – many of us still bear the scars of growing up in a world where we were not seen, included or appreciated.”

A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said: “Teachers can use their own knowledge and expertise to make choices about what they teach their pupils, but the freedom and flexibility in the national curriculum means there is no doubt that black history can be taught, and many teachers and schools ensure that they include black voices and experience in their teaching.”

Pictured top: Ife Thompson at the launch of her new book last week (Picture: Ife Thompson)

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