How the British Education System helped me find my identity as a Black Briton

By Kisandka Moses

The Extended Project Qualification; a newly introduced and unique sixth form course allows students to engage with a topic of their choice and to produce a personal project. Kisandka Moses took the opportunity to explore her heritage and develop her identity. Here she writes about her experience.

Upon entering my second year at Sixth Form, I was faced with an academic dilemma of moderate proportions. My first year had been fraught with turbulent results which, in my opinion, were not reflective of my unrelenting attitude to study nor a testament to the impressive GCSE grades I had achieved following secondary school. The options which faced me then were
simple; discontinue the A Level I had received my lowest grade in – Politics, and continue to pursue A Level Histry,
Sociology and Business Studies alonsidean Extended Project Qualification.
The Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) first came to my attention on a bulletin board outside the room in which I first learnt about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in. This room taught history. More specifically, this room illuminated, for us British students, the kinds of international history which would serve to prevent us blindly synchronising the impassioned Baptist preaching’s for equality delivered from Martin Luther King Jr. with the inherently black supremacist and populist doctrines dictated by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. However, this room and the spiritually animated History professor who occupied the white board more frequently than his seat, neglected to indulge in the perils and achievements of my history.
My history as a Black Briton.
I made a note to myself upon entering my History lesson on that Tuesday mid-afternoon, that I would take a closer look at the requirements of the EPQ and if pleasing, and manageable alongside my other subjects, I would pursue it. quick Google search of ‘EPQ’ presents a plethora of information on the unique qualification, which must have interested me enough in 2009 to take the plunge and begin my first true project of independent study. I can remember myself sitting quietly in the introductory class among those genuinely interesting in the research independence granted by the undertaking of the EPQ and those blatantly opportunistic students whom wondered about the benefits it could add to their academic portfolios. We were encouraged to take no more than ten minutes in generating some interesting research focuses. In retrospect, I must have overworked the ‘thinking’ muscle in my brain during that period as my initial focuses before the one I duly settled on seriously evade me. Funnily enough, I can remember exactly what my close friend; and fellow student chose to embark on a thesis on Joan of Arc. I hadn’t the slightest idea who the Joan of Arc was at the time.
I was certain about one thing however at that point, and I decided that my project would explore Black History. I had no idea that the kind of Black History I would pursue would not resemble my Tuesday mid-mornings, but quite possibly encapsulate the experiences of both my West Indian Grandparents’ and that of my Mother as a first-generation Black Briton.
My EPQ was entitled, ‘Was there a Black British movement in Britain in the 1960’s reminiscent of the Civil Rights movement?’ In retrospect, it is clear what response I was looking for. I was looking for a ‘Yes!’. I set off on my journey to a little known archive named after Pan- Africanist author, journalist and activist, George Padmore located on Stroud Green Road in North London. Initially set up by follow activist John La Rose in tribute to Padmore, the George Padmore Instiutite (GPI) had become an esteemed covenant of ill-forgotten but culturally- significant educational, housing and policing reports, demonstration placards, community meeting minutes and a host of books, poems and monologues all unique to the Black British identity I had longed to greet.
Upon arrival, it was as though the entire building has longed for my presence and the feeble primary sources longed for me to explore, analyse and contextualise them. I wrote down as much new information as I could until the dangerously pulsating veins in my hands rendered them useless. The pain was easily bearable for the next few weeks during my subsequent visits to the GPI as though my brain had told the veins in my hands to ‘quit griping’ and assist my thirst for knowledge and understanding.
Over the course of twelve weeks or so and countless visits to the GPI, I began to construct a project which I felt truly enlightened an untold story of Black Britain. The tales of the ‘Windrush’ generation had been done to death but little was known or documented about the ways in which Ujima and the Kush Housing Association bravely fought against the tide of Thatcherism to address the housing crisis, and attempt to stabilise the futures of the black and minority ethnic (BME) immigrant communities. In addition, whilst Malcolm X has become a staple of Black Nationalism and a symbol of cultural radicalism in the face of rampant bigotry, an acknowledgement of ‘Michael X’ would scarcely cross the lips of culturally informed Black Britons’.
Michael X, born Michael De Freitas was by no means a figure to be celebrated in the same respect as Malcolm X and his patchy involvement with Black Revolutionary movements in London resemble more opportunist than ideologue, however, his life told the story of the a man searching for identity and cultural purpose albeit to the point of self-destruction. It is with this brief acknowledgement of De Freitas that I conclude that the journey for identity, particularly one which is not shared by the masses of your nation is complex, patchy and often turbulent, but one must not be discouraged for our future lies in the acknowledgment of the subterranean brilliance which encapsulates our past.

Dedicated to the memory of Clement Blair Peach (1946 – 1979) and millions of other activists

Below; activist John LaRose

johnlarose

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