diversity heritage

 Time to Talk about it: Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation?

 Cultural Appropriation Vs Cultural Appreciation has been a long-debated topic and a controversial one at that however, understanding the difference between both concepts is key. To begin, let us differentiate the two: cultural appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in order to widen their perspective and connect with other cultures, whereas cultural appropriation is simply taking or “hand-picking” one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest. In Imani Kai Johnson’s chapter, “Black Culture Without Black People,” she refers to Cultural Appropriation as “colonialism at the scale of the dancing body or the sacred ritual object, its life and dynamism reduced to a thing for consumption or a costume for play”.

A plethora of celebrities and influencers have had their run ins with appropriating culture, from Kim Kardashian’s ‘Bo- Derek Braids’ to Adele’s questionable look at Notting Hill’s carnival last year. Well, it’s just a hairstyle, it’s just an outfit isn’t it? As put simply by University Professor Susan Scafidi to Jezebel in 2012 ‘If you’re imitating something but you’re not actually giving credit where credit is due, in academic communities we would call that plagiarism’.

Appropriation is defined as the utilisation of black culture for commercial advantage, such as white fashion models sporting traditionally black hairstyles. It exploits black people because they are the ones who are subjected to discrimination as a result of wearing these styles. The most disputed response is “Black women straighten their hair all the time!” rather than wear their natural hair. This is an example of assimilation is not the same as appropriation; it is not the same because marginalised communities are forced to adopt a dominant culture in order to thrive. Therefore, more often than not black women are straightening their hair to fit in with society’s ideal image. This is evidenced by the fact that black women frequently report they feel unable to leave their hair in its natural state. The BBC cites cases of women being told by employers it looks “unprofessional”.  

Showing respect in a culture with permission or full credit while ensuring that you do not benefit is what cultural appreciation is all about. Hairstyles like box braids and dreadlocks hold specific cultural significance for various black communities and are a key part of black hair care. When non-black people wear these styles just because they look nice its exploitation. Further trivialising the discrimination that black people face for wearing these styles. If you are white, then white privilege means that you’ll likely face less discrimination for wearing these styles. There is always a need to be culturally aware to ensure that our self-expression isn’t exploiting others.

In the new age of Instagram filters and TikTok we have moved on from outward racist images of blackface to the subtle appropriations of ‘Black-fishing’ and ‘Digital Black Face’. ‘Black- Fishing’ is a very new concept but is essentially when non-black people alter their appearance to seem black using make-up, fake tan or photo -editing. People who blackfish get the benefits of blackness without the negatives that come from existing as a black person. My features may get me likes on Instagram but put me at a disadvantage at job interviews for example. When you reduce blackness to a ‘look’ it undermines the prejudices that black people face on an everyday basis.

Exploring many aspects of culture with open-mindedness to the cultural and historic value is significant in expressing cultural appreciation, for beneficial and respectful cultural exchange and in turn avoids appropriation.

Adele’s Carnival ‘Look’ Adele causes stir with Notting Hill Carnival celebration photo | The Independent | The Independent

Kim Kardashians Braids Kim Kardashian West Responds to the Backlash Over Her Braids | Glamour

Link to Digital black face – What Is Digital Blackface? – Experts Explain Why It’s Problematic (

black history diversity

Time To Talk About It: The Black Self-Identity In Crisis

Anti- blackness is a social construct recognised as a collective consciousness of racial prejudice against black individuals. It elevates in complexity when discussing racialised groups as it becomes unorthodox to assume that this conception is significant in forming the black identity. As stated by Richard L Allen anti-blackness can create ‘a web of anti-self-images, generating a personal and collective self- destruction’[1] drawing upon ideas of Afro-pessimism we can further develop our understanding of anti-blackness and its impact upon self-identification. For example, as a black individual it has somehow become relevant how dark your skin is. Its most likely down to the concept of white adjacency it states that ethnic minorities receive benefits because of their proximity to whiteness. This is highlighted in Discriminations such as colourism, it is a sad fact to recognise that how dark or light you are can determine how attractive or successful you are in society. These misconceptions can lead to damaging effects such as skin bleaching the act of skin- lightening goes beyond the physical, it can also be incredibly detrimental to self-confidence and mental health. Darker-skinned people report higher levels of microaggressions, from not just society but members of their own communities. Perhaps this originates from a historical standpoint; When deconstructing anti- blackness at its core is slavery and as stated by Allen there is ‘A worse form of slavery: namely one which captured the mind’[2]. There is a perpetual state of negativity that encapsulates the minds of many black individuals, blackness was and still is coterminous with slavery. Black people are perceived to share the same customs and cultures, with disregard to whether you’re from Jamaica or Nigeria, to put it plainly the western world doesn’t care. This lays the groundwork for sweeping negative generalizations, it denies black individuals the right to personhood and devalues their individual lived experiences. In turn most adopt a self-fulfilling prophecy creating identity crisis’s you can only be told so much by society that you’re ‘ghetto’, ‘criminal’ or ‘lazy’ before you internalise these stereotypes and believe them. After slavery was abolished, former slaves were plagued with the “negro disease” the belief that black people were inherently lazy and the many people who moved from the Caribbean to Britain still face the same racial prejudices. Kimberle Crenshaw suggests that black identities are often ‘Traveling between dualities of Manichean space, rigidly bifurcated into Light/dark, Good/Bad, White/Black’[3] evidencing that there is a state of confusion about self-identity within the black community. In the current climate where white on black racism is hyper visualised there is a commonly held belief that white people are the only aggressors of anti-blackness and that as another societal marginalised group you cannot hold anti–black views. Society often lumps ethnic minorities together and while these terms can be useful in some situations, they shouldn’t be used in reference to a specific race unnecessarily. For instance, referring to a black woman as a ‘woman of colour’, when you could refer to her as black, can undermine her specific lived experiences of being black. The theory of Afro-Pessimism is significant in the black self-identity. The role of anti- blackness has a clear obstructive effect on the formation of the black identity prolonging consequential change. While everyone questions their sense of self from time to time having an identity crisis can have a big effect on everyday life so it is important to be aware of the negative feelings you have about yourself. Jabari Lyles fascinating Ted Talk discusses his personal journey to understanding and loving himself as a Black man, in spite of growing up among a predominantly white community. The ‘lessons of self-internalised racism’ talk is truly insightful and I encourage anyone to go watch especially if you have struggles with self-identity.

Jabari Lyles Ted Talk –(47) Black Self / White World — lessons on internalized racism | Jabari Lyles | TEDxTysonsSalon – YouTube

[1] Richard L Allen, The Concept of Self: A Study of Black Identity and Self-esteem (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001) p. 27.

[2] Allen. P. 48.

[3] Kimberle Crenshaw, ‘Critical Race Theory’ The Key Writings That Formed the Movement (New York: The New Press, 1995) pp. 287.

diversity Education

Time To Talk About It : Black British Writing

The likes of Bernadine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman and Alex Wheatle have made massive contributions to a collective consciousness that defines modern Black British literature and amplifies the Black voice. It is remarkable how many novels by Black British writers have caught the attention of the UK’s mainstream audience in recent times. Black British authors are finally getting their recognition and it is long overdue.

2020 was the year for Black British writing, with increased exposure in light of the #BLM movement.  Reni Eddo-Lodge’s 2017 book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ has seen a massive increase in sales. Leading her to become the first Black British author ever to top the U.K. book charts. Evaristo’s Booker-winning novel ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ topped the paperback fiction chart, making her the first woman of colour to take that position. This is a pivotal moment in which the scales are starting to shift in favour of ethnic writing, but not nearly enough to be equal to White British authors who dominate sales.

So where does this issue stem from?

If writers despite ‘race’ are producing works that are of the same standard, it is evident that British publishing has a significant role to play in which novels are being sold. ‘Noughts and Crosses’ author Malorie Blackman in her interview with the Guardian states how she had never in her life “received anything like the sums being posted by some white authors”[1] and she is in a “better position than a number of my BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of colour] peers”[2]. This is a prime example of systemic, covert racism and the micro- aggressions that is embedded within many institutions in the United Kingdom.

We also have to look at the alternative, that Black people in the UK make up 3.5-5% of the population they are the minority which means less books. It’s also worth noting that the majority of books written by Black Authors are about race, oppression and ‘what it means to be black’. It is recognised that you must relate and appeal to the masses through your writing and the majority of the mainstream audience are White. However, it is a fundamental fact that Black Authors are writing other genres, but it is predominately the novels that feature ‘race’ that are on the front of the bookshelves. Publishers purposefully publish such books and book shops promote such works to boost sales in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement. For example, on the Waterstones website if you search for Malorie Blackman her latest novel ‘Blueblood: A Fairy-tale Revolution’ a children’s fiction novel is halfway down the page with all her novels relating to race such as ‘Nought and Crosses’ published in 2001 promoted at the top. Coincidence?

There has been a surge of recognition and representation for black voices during the current climate. However, as stated by Reni Eddo Lodge in her interview with the Guardian “I really don’t like the idea of personally profiting every time a video of a black person’s death goes viral”[3]. This poses the question is the publishing industry just profiting from the Black Lives Matter movement because it will boost sales rather than publishing Black British stories to give Black writers a voice?

I had recently been a part of a university conference ‘Longing to Belong’ set up by a group of students across the English cohort, which elevated my understanding of the publishing industry. We asked Black British Poet and Writer Panya Banjoko “How did you break down barriers to get the same opportunities as everyone else?” She responded by saying “I’ve got a stubbornness in me if you really want me to do something tell me I can’t”. She pushed and still is pushing to open up avenues for other Black Writers. For Panya and many Black British writers alike there is a sense of injustice in the literature circles “they weren’t open to people like me and I wanted to stand against that”.

In solving the issues highlighted above a range of genres must be promoted and published. Incorporating more texts from Black British Writers into the education system will massively capitalise on the Black voice.

Black British Writers written word must be woven into the fabric of mainstream British publishing and be given equal opportunities as their white counterparts: it’s time to talk about it.

And on that note here are three amazing novels by Black British Writers you should go and read right now:

  1. ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty- Williams
  2. ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins
  3. ‘Darling’ by Racheal Edwards




diversity Education

Cultural Capital: a means of enabling a culture of whiteness

Ofsted defines the term Cultural Capital as: “the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens” (McTavish, 2019)

While it is intended to close the deprivation gap, I think we need to confront and challenge this term due to its myopic and classist connotations.

As a teacher, Cultural Capital has always been problematic for me. It often seems to go unchallenged, despite the problems that subtlety and unsubtly emerge from its day to day use in discussions and implementation. For instance, a trip to the Globe theatre is instantly hailed as the perfect anecdote to increasing the Cultural Capital of a supposedly disadvantaged child from a minority background. Just to clarify, I love Shakespeare and the theatre, however I refuse to view Culture as purely through the lens of whiteness. Mansell, (Guardian, 2019) argues that the importance given to Cultural Capital in the new Ofsted framework raises many issues. For instance, Mansell uses the argument from Yandell that “the notion of cultural capital implies that certain cultures are objectively more valuable than others.” (Mansell, Guardian, 2019).  This relationship between Cultural Capital and cultural value is crucial and underlines my critique of the inclusion of Cultural Capital in the new Ofsted guidelines. The two most serious issues are: a) It is socially elitist and relies on an exclusionary view of culture and its value, b) the guidelines themselves are highly ambiguous on this topic.

There are a variety of hidden capitals that exist but are rarely discussed in mainstream academia. Here, the term Cultural capital is seen in a more pejorative manner. However, it is also seen as the starting point to create a discussion. The prevising idea and theme are that cultural capital views the term Culture as being synonymous with whiteness. As a scholar of Bourdieu, Yosso argues that the term Cultural Capital seems to be intrinsically linked to elitism. When used in its least contested form, what we have is a term that argues knowledge is hierarchical and therefore places certain values and most importantly some people at a deficit. Yosso argues that “while Bourdieu’s work sought to provide a structural critique of social and cultural reproduction, his theory of cultural capital has been used to assert that some communities are culturally wealthy while others are culturally poor.” (Yosso, 2006). The main idea seems to be that prevalent interpretations of Cultural Capital have in themselves become problematic and rather than challenging social hierarchies, have instead validated said hierarchies.

Cultural Capital as an explanation is not a panacea for all explanations of inequality and therefore Yosso’s work seeks to unearth a variety of these. These goes as follows: ‘Aspirational capital’ which refers to the notion of resilience and the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future (2006). ‘Linguistic capital’ focuses on the capital that many students have that is undoubtedly ignored, that of ‘communication experiences in more than one language and/or style’. Linguistic capital relates to a lot of students who are categorised as having English as an Additional or Second Language. Their Capital is often ignored, due to assumptions of intelligence and capability. Familial capital refers to those ‘cultural knowledges nurtured among family’(2006). Again, when certain cultures are stereotyped as having some sort of innate deficit, the role of familial ties and connections that are far less overt, go unnoticed.  Social capital is defined as ‘networks of people and community resources’ and has a clear correlation with ‘Familial capital’ (2006).  This poses the question of how and why the work of certain communities in enhancing and supplementing a child’s education is often unnoticed. ‘Navigational capital’ refers to skills of manoeuvrings through social institutions, this takes place mainly in institutions where minorities find themselves to be less present (2006).  Resistant capital refers those knowledges and skills fostered through oppositional behaviour that challenges inequality (2006).

The main variation of capital that I am going to mainly focus on is ‘resistance capital’ (Yosso, 2006). This term does not see students of different backgrounds as being at an acute disadvantage. I want to question why this more nuanced analysis of Cultural Capital is not used more widely.  This leads me to enquire whether Yosso’s statement, whilst now comparatively old, is still is too progressive for mainstream educational policy.  If so, does this speak of the structure of Education as being complicit in constantly upholding an idea of hierarchy? What can we do as teachers? Well, we must challenge the status quo, uphold the cultures that get ignored, present a new form of capital that is not performatively inclusive and understand that our children deserve more than a tick box trip to a museum.


Mansell, W(2019) “Ofsted plan to inspect ‘cultural capital’ in schools attacked as elitist” Guardian (accessed 20th April)

McTavish, A (2019) “Cultural Capital” Early Education (accessed 06/09/2020)

Yosso, T, J (2006) “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth”. University of California. Race, Ethnicity and Education. (accessed 20th May)

diversity Education

The storm that will affect my results, for better or for worse

COVID-19. The raging fire that swiftly caused the world to come to a staggering halt. It’s something which had an impact on every area of society, including education. It caused a sudden pause into teaching and impacted many students across the nation.

The feeling of elation when discovering that we didn’t have to drag ourselves out of bed in the mornings to go and learn huge amounts of content, the relief of not having to revise for hours on end, along with the relief of the exams’ cancellation was swiftly replaced with anxiety as uncertainty grew around the circumstances of how grades were going to be awarded.

There were no questions that were answered that did anything to quell the stirring of doubt that bubbled in the brains of many teenagers, like myself, across the country. There were many attempts to dull this down, including announcements that gave insight into how grades would be awarded (from having teachers base grades on classwork, coursework, and past performance in prior exams). There was no mention of anything else that would lurk its head, which came in the form of the subsequent problems that certain people would face.

There are inevitably three contributing factors that will lead to the problem of teacher assessment and using predicted grades to assess a potential grade for students this year (Uthmani, 2020):

  1. Teacher bias,
  2. The lack of diversity in the teaching profession,
  3. The lack of family engagement.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students, as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds have the most to lose from this government declaration. There seems to be an implicit form of detriment from stereotypes that are ever present within education, so that the predicted grades of these students may be lower than they should be – only for the prediction to be surpassed in the exam. However, students from white middle class families benefit from these predicted grades; parents are willing to argue the case of the grade on their child’s behalf.

Amongst nearly all groups, girls do better than boys. Similarly, the middle-class do better than the working-class. White pupils’ achievement is very close to the national average, who area the largest group (accounting for 4/5ths of all pupils). Hastings suggested that white students make less progress between age 11-16 than Black or Asian pupils (Hastings, n.d.). These statistics can further reinforce the underachievement of certain ethnic minority groups (notably people that are Black Caribbean with the percentage of people passing their GCSE with a grade 5 or above being 26.9%, in comparison to their White British peers (42.7%) (Anon., 2019)), which can create a vicious cycle.

If the system is telling a child that they are bound to underachieve, this can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein a student absorbs this and then accepts this as their fate- thereby reinforcing the stereotype. This can be dangerous.

It’s not a surprise to hear that some students, including myself, don’t perform at their best when it comes to classwork and mock exams. That can be due to a number of things however, knowing that I have the exam to showcase my ability has been something in which I have always relied on – and thus has proven to be successful in past years, and my results prove that. Therefore, the cancellation of exams this year wasn’t something that, upon reflection, was something to be pleased with.

It seems that bright students who perform best in exams or haven’t performed well in recent years are at a disadvantage here, too. I don’t believe that statistics are a true reflection of people, due to the fact that they are objective. People, however, are not, and are usually not representative of numerical value (despite how much of it drowns us in education.) We aren’t reflective of numbers or graphs; thus, it is unfair to assume that based on a school’s past grades holistically doesn’t speak for the individuals who is not represented by their ability, but instead their circumstance.

However, there are options available if the grades are not perceived to be a true reflection of a student’s ability. If any of us happen to be dissatisfied, schools and colleges can appeal on a students’ behalf against the process or the use of data, not against teachers’ use of their professional judgement. In addition, there is an opportunity to take an exam in the autumn, with the AS and A-Level exams taking place in October; the GCSE’s being held in November.

Therefore, it seems that there is a rainbow after this drudging storm. But when will the storm end?

Works Cited

Available at:

Hastings, S., n.d. [Online]
Available at:

Uthmani, N., 2020. tes. [Online]
Available at:

BLM diversity Women in Leadership workplace

Black Women and Leadership: a fight against misogynoir

‘The most disrespected person in America is the black woman’ (Malcolm X)

As a woman of African Caribbean descent and a middle leader in education, the conversations surrounding institutional racism and representation were particularly at the forefront of my personal experiences and encounters with racism. This work became even more topical and pressing due to the implications they have in a world that is becoming more aware and allowing conversations to be far more equitable.

The role of the media and implicit and unconscious bias is at the forefront of this discourse. For instance, in 2019, Trevor Phillips during an interview for The Guardian described diversity in the UK media as being ‘tokenistic’ and that as a result of this, there has a been a ‘mishandling of race issues’(1). The application of the term ‘tokenistic’ can be used and used to discuss the lack of diversity across all sections of society (1).

To begin with, I am going to bring in the idea of whiteness and power. MacIntosh in her seminal essay discusses how there is an assumption that the ‘person in charge’ will be the same race as you. This is an idea that I want to delve into, the notion of assumption and power (2). The issue of Whiteness is that it is, for the most part, largely invisible and therefore difficult to analyse and critique. However, when considering the prevalence and relevance that whiteness has when considering power, privilege, and hierarchy, it is an important place to begin.  It is also an uncomfortable place to begin.  However, now is not the time to shy away from things being uncomfortable. For us as women, particularly women from any minority, discomfort has been the burden that we have been forced to bear in a myriad of ways.

When considering whiteness, we should see the space that Black women inhabit in a much more nuanced manner. However, the representation of black women in the media has been largely myopic. West, in her 2016 chapter titled ‘Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel and the Bad girls of reality television: Media representations of Black women’ seeks to dismantle the archetypes that are prevalent as used in the media representation of black women’(3). The first thing that is interesting to note is that these archetypes have also become stereotypes, roles that seek to reinforce a negative image of black women. As a result of these images the idea of black women becomes synonymous with aggression and overt sexualisation. If in anyway different, the roles are diminished to be very little, a quick tokenistic hello. Whilst this is changing- thanks to Black female led television shows such as ‘I May Destroy you’ and ‘Insecure’, there is still significant work to do. My question is whether and how these images create obstacles for black women in leadership positions.

In the UK, there is a lacuna of representation within educational leadership field. We must realise that Black women account for ‘0.2%’ of Headteachers in the country’(4). This is significantly low and seems to coincide with the issue of ‘erasure’ that is apparent in the media. However, the question here must relate to the obstacles that are leading to a lack of representation of black women in UK educational leadership. The Miller Report proclaims that ‘Institutional racism can reinforce racist attitudes’ and ‘behaviours that blight the experience’ of ‘staff from minority ethnic backgrounds.’ This clearly indicates that the issues of racism create a tangible difference in the experience of staff(5).

There have been studies that consider the specific issues that Black women face as leaders in education. I have found that like most areas of race discourse, this is written from a largely American perspective, there are still parallels that exist in the UK educational field.  Alston argues that the “appearance of a possible problem regarding the transference of power from White men to Black women is not really the issue” (6).The comment of the transference of power really struck me. This seems to be looking beyond the obvious solution to thwarting racism. Is this arguing that this idea of transference oversimplifies the issues?

The answer is that these issues have continuously been over simplified. The complexity and intricacy of being a black woman in any field has so far been confined by white supremacy. This notion pf whiteness that will always prohibit true and honest representation. As black female leaders, our roles may seem confined to what the media inextricably perpetuates, however, we will constantly exercise resistance in ways that are expected, unexpected and everything in between.


1. Press Association (2019)”UK media is tokenistic in its attitude to diversity, says Trevor Phillips” Guardian (accessed 10th June 2020)

2. Mcintosh, P (1989) “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” Wellesley College Centre for Research on Women, Wellesley, MA 02131 (accessed 2nd April 2020)

3. West, C (2013) ‘Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel and the Bad girls of reality television: Media representations of Black women’ in the book ‘Representations of Black women in the media: the damnation of black womanhood’ Routledge

4.Author unknown (January 2020) ‘School teacher workforce’ (

5. Miller, P (2019) “International Studies in Educational Administration” Volume 47 CCEAM  (accessed 1st July)

6. Alston, J (2000) “Missing form action: Where Are the Black Female School Superintendents?” Bowling Green State University. Available from: Sage Journals (accessed 27th May 2020)

BLM diversity influential women

Malorie Blackman Collection

A collection of articles about the inspirational Malorie Blackman.

As well as being one of our Co-Founders favourite authors, Malorie Blackman OBE is regarded as one of today’s most imaginative and convincing writers for young readers.

To read more about her life and accomplishments, have a read through these articles:

  • Discover Malorie Blackman’s books, journal and upcoming events on her website.
  • Interesting article about when Malorie Blackman became the UK’s first black children’s laureate in 2013. The Guardian.
  • Great read which includes a biography, bibliography and an impressive list of all the awards won by Blackman. British Council.
  • 2019 interview with Malorie Blackman. Video.
Don’t forget to head to our Reading List for books by Malorie Blackman and more.
BLM diversity workplace

Do BAME millennials have less stable work prospects?

A thought provoking article on ethnic minorities in the UK workforce by Caroline Davis. The writer discusses the facts surrounding whether BAME millennials are at a greater risk of being in unstable employment than their white counterparts.

Read the full article from The Guardian here.

black history BLM diversity influential women

Olive Morris Collection

A collection of articles about the amazing Olive Morris.

Olive Morris was a community leader and activist in the feminist, black nationalist and squatters’ rights campaigns. Even though her life was short she achieved so much and was even honoured in a Google Doodle earlier this year in June 2020.

To read more about her life and accomplishments, have a read through these articles: