Open letter to Ms Coates (Head Teacher of Sacred Heart School) from Joseph Desire Semana (Sacred Heart Head

Boy 06/07) RE: Black History Month
Dear Ms Coates, Greetings. The reason for having Black History Month is because it’s the only time in the whole year Black Africans, Afro-Caribbeans and Asians in Britain are appreciated for their contribution in the building of Great Britain. One of the main reasons we have this month is because not only is Black History not taught in the curriculum, but also lack of knowledge breeds ignorance and most importantly the lack of racial and cultural knowledge breeds the worst of ignorances, which results in prejudice and racial hatred. Therefore it is essential in a society so diverse and multicultural that we enrich each other of the Black African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian cultures that live in Britain because they are the most over looked and given the worst of stereotypes. It is important to learn that Black History is not something separate from British History, because for 100s of years Black and Asian people have played a substantial role in creating the society we live in. That is why international day/week can’t be a substitute for Black History Month. I first raised the issue of Back History Month when I was Head Boy in one of the meetings with you. I addressed the issue why the school doesn’t celebrate Black History Month. The Head Girl instantly jumped in and joined me in asking why we don’t any longer celebrate Black History Month. The room became quieter and the air tighter as you started to tell us the schools reason. Neither me, the Head Girl and the Deputy Head boy and girl could agree with what we were hearing. You had begun by saying that white student’s grades were failing and in school where there are small minorities of them they need all the help with their self-esteem and confidence. I was outraged and angry with this because however much I tried to make sense of what you said, I couldn’t – it’s their history too. I’ve also since found out that year 9 students that year did their own petition and they handed it in, with no response. With the help of my friends in the Movement For Justice, we developed a petition for anyone to sign, to help show the school that the community and most importantly students want to celebrate Black History Month. On the first day that the school opened, me and Gavin Yearwood (a great

friend of mine) were there to inform the students that the school had decided not to celebrate Black History Month. We got petitions signed and some students wanted to be leaders in the school and took petitions so that they could petition inside. Just like we expected many students didn’t know what the school had done (except for those who had petitioned last year) and I doubt that many parents knew either because they would have protested before now. Many people would have protested, as it is so racist and wrong. Seeing how strongly the students felt, the more I came to see them, the more excited they got. Even to the extent that some would even come out before school began to sign in, saying how racist the school is being, having a student even come to me and take the petitions out of my hand so that the whole year 9-football team could sign. When I saw that, I was filled with such happiness and I just knew that students want this. I care strongly about the students of Sacred Heart. My efforts to get the school to celebrate Black History Month are because it would be a substantial benefit to the school. We are asking the school to hold a Black History Month assembly in October. I would be happy to come into the school and work with a group of students to prepare a presentation. What we are doing should not be seen as a threat. It is not. Therefore it is ridiculous that I have been victimised by Mr Cefai kicking me off the visit to Thailand and that he is threatening other students who are petitioning. I would like to finish by saying that, I love Sacred Heart school, love the teachers (some, not all) and I love the students because I understand what it is like to be a student at that school and how hard it is to succeed without losing who you are in the process. There have been many times when I felt that I should give up, but knowing how many people are behind the petition, remembering students coming to greet me so that they could sign because they heard about what was happening, having students take my petitions to get all the pages signed, having an ovation from my college politics class and seeing the excitement in the eyes of the sacred heart students as they tell me how much they care about celebrating back Black History Month. It’s because of all this and more that I can’t stop; I won’t stop till Black History Month is recognised by the school, a school, which is still vary much carried in my heart. Yours sincerely

Joseph Desire Semana
30/09/07