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  • Amouraé Bhola-Chin and David Kwao Fianko

Finding ACER Resources in the Black Cultural Archives: Our Research Visit for New YHP Project

Last year, two of our members visited the Black Cultural Archives to view some archival material for our research project titled 'Each One, Teach One': The Foundations of Black British History'. Below, they have written an account of their experiences.

 

Reflections from Amouraé:

David and I arranged a trip to the Black Cultural Archives to find out more about the African Caribbean Education Resource Project (ACER) founded by Len Garrison in 1977. This was spurred on by me stumbling across the BCA’s Google and Arts exhibit on ACER one morning. I was shocked that I, as a young person of African descent, had no prior knowledge of the wider importance these resources had on the diasporic community in Britain in the realm of self-esteem and education. ACER would do this by establishing a resource library, distributing material to local schools, developing a curriculum, and training teachers. This relied on a strong partnership with African and Caribbean parents who were finally having their concerns heard.


Bronze bust depicting Len Garrison. Artist: Fowokan.

Institutional discrimination against British Caribbean children was becoming widely recognised in this period through publications like How the West Indian child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System by Bernard Coard. This heightened the impact of ACER's work. It not only presented a positive image of the Black child within mainstream education, but it would host events like the ACER Black Young Writers Competition, community-led conferences, and artistic exhibitionsall of which hoped to further the grasp of Black achievement, cultural reclamation, and identity. It took this for many children to feel as though their worth was being noticed: one being a young Rae Roberts (a winner of the Young Writers award), who in 1985 recalled, “..I get feedback - a prerequisite for a living person..”


Whilst reading about the objectives of the project, its limited funding and yet wide-ranging youth involvement from 1979 to the 1980s (the data range of the material I ordered), I drafted a timeline of events in the programme’s history.


I’m irritated that the same problems our parents' generation faced then (low expectations from teachers, low esteem, and underperformance) still exist in the community now. But being able to go to an archive and acknowledge this by interacting with primary sources can help us highlight these issues and confront these cycles. This research trip served us well. It not only enforced the importance of the YHP (as a collective, and its diligence in highlighting these histories), but it taught me a lot about the undying perseverance of the Black community in Britain.


Reflections from David:

I was unfamiliar with the archival process before visiting the BCA, but had help from Amouraé. The experience ended up being great, due to having such a supportive member with me. The visit helped with our research into community-led organisations, which forms a large part of our project. The day was really eventful – there was so much material to look into that another archive trip is definitely in order! The research trip reminded me that at YHP, our diverse range of talents is embraced, whilst new skills and interests also emerge. It is a positive environment where we all learn from each other. Many of these skills go into creating accessible and inclusive educational projects that profile underrepresented Black British histories.


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