After leaving Coventry University in 1999, I began working in schools using theatre as a tool for learning of many subjects. Often children would ask questions about my hair, my skin colour and my heritage. It became very apparent that there was much more to learn that what Strawberry Words (then Harvey Arts) were offering. I became far more interested in delivering workshops on identity and culture. That work led me to train teachers in Birmingham in cultural awareness. I loved it! Though, in those days (2008 – 2010), there was an even bigger hesitancy (then now) to discuss race, so I stuck to teaching ‘cultural diversity’ which covered: discrimination, blind prejudice and facts about different cultures and religions, British Values, etc.
Fast forward to 2021, race is the hot topic – which is great! We need to talk more about it. It’s amazing how tongue-tied and anxious people get when engaging in dialogue. It’s partly because of many people haven’t developed the language or confidence to engage.
Now, I spend most of my time delivering training to organisations on how to manage difficult conversations about race. I enjoy my work because it allows me to amplify the voices of the racially marginalised who often get dismissed or their experiences denied. It enables me to teach, how many of the norms we often participate in, unintentionally hurt ethnic minorities.
I am realistic, not everyone wants to hear the hard truths, even if they do, they won’t all participate in dismantling systemic racism, but some will. It is with these people that the hope lies. Every time I deliver, it is with the desire to influence the change-makers that keeps me going.
If you want to know more…
I am one of the founding members of Blackstory Partnership the group the coordinates Birmingham’s Black History Month (I am happy to see they are still going strong), I was the Chair for Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham (2012 -2014) and until January 2021 I was a member of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioners’ Ethics Committee for the proposed Data Analytics Lab.
In June 2016, I wrote a blog about the lack of diversity in arts leadership in Birmingham, the article was published in the national Arts Professional magazine. It was a very timely article; it challenged many and got people having difficult conversations which are often avoided.
In 2015, I was privileged to receive an award from Coventry University for my work in promoting cultural diversity in schools. I continue to use my work now beyond the school hall to highlight cultural and racial injustice and help create solutions.
The Theatre Days
In 2018, I was honoured to interview June Sarpong MBE (Head of Diversity at Channel Four and TV presenter) for the launch of her book ‘Diversify’.
Photo credits: Sara Amanda, Gavin Telfer