This week in Armchair Adventures, we’re heading to Ghana.
Why? Because it is home to one of the most powerful learning experiences we have on any of our trips across the globe. I’m talking about a visit to the slave castles of Elmina or Cape Coast.
Ghana is a wonderfully friendly, vibrant and colourful place; but there is, of course, a very dark history to this region too. I visited Cape Coast Castle in June last year. I had the incredible privilege of having a private tour with Isaac Mensah, one of our STC leaders. In the past, Isaac spent 12 years as a Cape Coast Castle guide, winning ‘Castle Tour Guide of the Year’ in 2012.
I was not ‘well read’ on slave history. Looking back now, I think I approached my visit to Cape Coast in what I imagine is, unfortunately, an all too common mindset of ‘I know roughly what to expect’. And that’s a problem; because I had no idea.
I can’t speak for others, but for me, my overwhelming feeling when walking around the castle was that of guilt. And shame. Shame, and disbelief, that humans could be so evil. The level of depravity and suffering that occurred in these castles and beyond, often under the gaze of supposed men of ‘religion’, is sickening and hard to fathom.
Today, as we have seen highlighted by the recent death of George Floyd, black communities across the globe still face racism, violence and discrimination on an everyday basis.
It is important that we, as a company, do all we can to be self-reflective and acknowledge our unconscious bias. There is no doubt school-based adventure travel is predominantly white and middle class, and that needs to change. What barriers can we remove so that the BAME community feel more able to access the extraordinary learning opportunity of our trips? I don’t profess we have the answers, but we are willing to learn and will do all we can to find out.
And so we come to this week's film.
This short documentary features a group of predominantly white US students visiting Elmina Castle. Some may watch this and feel it’s not balanced, that there is only one black student’s perspective. But I believe it is noteworthy that the black student has done his research and read his history, while the white students, just like myself, had not made the effort beforehand. And yet, they are there, trying to learn about black history and they are visibly moved by it. There is no doubt they will come away from Ghana with a changed perspective.
It is the responsibility of all of us to tackle the injustices and institutional racism in our country.
Decolonising the curriculum
If you want to take action in your school community there are a number of great resources to help you.
Open Letters: Writing an open letter to the senior leadership team in your school is a good way to show the depth of support within your school community. There are a number of great template letters available that you can use to call for change within the education sector. One we have been sent and told that it is OK to share is this open letter template.
The Black Curriculum: The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise founded in 2019 by young people to address the lack of Black British history in the UK Curriculum. It has lots of guidance, free learning resources and reports, as well as suggested ways to get involved. www.theblackcurriculum.com