October is Black History Month, which we are marking by sharing suggestions of notable Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people whose stories and contributions could be highlighted in schools, across the eight curricular areas of the Curriculum for Excellence, as one aspect of a whole-school approach to anti-racist education. The first curricular areas we are highlighting are Expressive Arts and Languages.

Suggested people to celebrate

Did you know that Jackie Kay MBE is the Scots Makar (national poet of Scotland)?

Jackie Kay has Scottish and Nigerian Heritage. She studied English at the University of Stirling, and her first book of poetry, the partially autobiographical ‘The Adoption Papers’ was published in 1991 and won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book Award. Her other awards include the 1994 Somerset Maugham Award for ‘Other Lovers’, and the Guardian Fiction Prize for ‘Trumpet’. She also writes extensively for stage and screen. Her drama ‘The Lamplighter’ is an exploration of the Atlantic slave trade. Her book ‘Red Dust Road’ is an account of her search for her biological parents, and explores ideas of identity, belonging, family and heritage. She was awarded an MBE in 2006, and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University, Cultural Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University and Chancellor of the University of Salford. Learn more: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poets/jackie-kay

Did you know that Benny Tetteh-Lartey is an award-winning singer-songwriter?

Scottish/Ghanaian musician and singer-songwriter Benny Tetteh-Lartey played bass guitar & was a vocalist in top Edinburgh band Makossa from 1987 to 1991. He became a solo artist in 1995. He adapted the 12-string acoustic guitar bought for him by his late father into an 8 string and coined the phrase “Afro Scot Rock”.  He was runner up in the BBC Scotland Tympanali Singer Songwriter Competition – a competition he went on to win in 1998 with the song “Injustice”, a painful story which describes events surrounding the untimely death of his uncle who was killed on a London Street in August 1996. He also formed a group called “The Afro Scot Beat”; has headlined at ‘Africa in Motion’ music events; has provided audio engineering services on a BAFTA Award winning film; and has supported Joan Armatrading on tour. Learn more: http://bennytetteh-lartey.co.uk/

Did you know that Neil Kenlock is a photographer, acknowledged as being at the forefront of documenting the Black experience in the UK?

Neil Kenlock was born in Jamaica and at age 13, moved to London to join his parents. As a youth in south London he photographed his local community, and at 23 became a staff photographer for West Indian World, one of the first national black British newspapers. In his first two decades as a professional photographer he specialised in fashion, beauty, celebrities and the cultural lifestyles of Black Britons. During the 1960s and 1970s he was the official photographer for the British Black Panther movement, documenting anti-racist protests in the UK. He co-founded the pioneering Black lifestyle magazine Root, and subsequently became co-founder of Choice FM, which was the UK's first radio station broadcasting to the Black community. In August 2018, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush bringing one of the first large groups of post-war West Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom, the Black Cultural Archives showed 70 of his photographs in the exhibition ‘Expectations: The untold story of Black community leaders’. Learn more: http://kenlockphotography.com/about/

Did you know that Enheduanna, the first ever poet and author known by name, was a middle-eastern female?

Enheduanna, a Sumerian poet, was born more than 4,200 years ago and became the high priestess of a temple in what we now call southern Iraq. She was the world’s first writer to be known by name. She worked in a key religious-political role for her father, King Sargon of Akkad, and at the same time, she scribed the first hymns, psalms, poetry and prayers – models that were later copied by the Hebrew Bible and the Homeric hymns, and even influenced early Christianity. Her writings included the story of ferocious warrior goddess Inanna, who defeated a mountain even though the other gods refused to help her. Learn more: https://lithub.com/why-has-no-one-ever-heard-of-the-worlds-first-poet/

Did you know that Phillis Wheatley was the first Black poet published in the United States?

Phillis Wheatley was sold as a slave during her early childhood. She was seized from Senegal/Gambia, West Africa, when she was about seven years old, and transported to the Boston docks. When she was 13 years old, she published her first poem., and by 18 she had published her first book of poetry. She was freed a few years later, but tragically died at age 31. Recent scholarship shows that Wheatley wrote perhaps 145 poems, and used her art to show her disdain for the practice of slavery. Learn more: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/phillis-wheatley

Did you know that Katie Leung is an actor who was in the Harry Potter films?

Katie Leung is a Scottish film, television, and stage actress, who played Cho Chang, the first love interest for lead character Harry Potter in the Harry Potter film series, beating 3,000 other girls to the role. In 2012, Leung made her stage debut in the play Wild Swans, and has since appeared in several plays, including at the National Theatre, London, and in films including T2: Trainspotting, and The Foreigner. She has won multiple awards including ‘Outstanding Newcomer’ at the Asian Excellence Awards and a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit award in 2014. Learn more: http://www.bafta.org/supporting-talent/breakthrough-brits/katie-leung

If you have more ideas of BME people whose contribution to languages and expressive arts could be highlighted in schools, please share them with Jenny Kemp (jkemp@eis.org.uk).

Coming soon…notable figures in Sciences and Mathematics.