Lavinya Stennett is making sure everyone in Britain learns Black history

Lavinya Stennett is a 23-year-old historian with one goal: to bring Black history to the U.K. 

Much like February in the U.S., the U.K. only allots the month of October to Black history. After witnessing the exclusion of Black history and the ensuing systemic marginalization of Black students, Stennett made it her mission to get young people engaged in the subject. She created The Black Curriculum a social enterprise that brings Black history programming to classrooms, businesses and nonprofits. 

Stennett was inspired to found the organization after studying abroad in Aotearoa, what the indigenous Maori call their country more commonly known as New Zealand. 

“We talk about huge periods of history in this country like it’s a statement; it just happened. It’s not really broken down so we can explore and relive the experiences of people,” Stennett told British GQ. “[In Aotearoa] it was much more truthful, there was no shying away from the reality of it. Colonization wiped out cultures and I think [the way the U.K. talks about it] just distorts our reality. We have to be truthful.”

Before the pandemic, she and The Black Curriculum team did workshops in schools and provided resources to teachers. 

“They [teachers] were really interested. They really believed in what we were doing” Stennett told British GQ. “Students are saying, ‘This is incredible because I haven’t learned this before.’ It’s also helping them self-express, so it’s all been very positive.”

Stennett is continuing to push the British government to change its curriculum. But in June 2020, the secretary of state for education Gavin Williamson rejected calls to upgrade the education.

However, Stennett is making other gains. In October, the editor of British Vogue, Edward Enniful nominated Stennett to be recognized on the Duke and Duchess’ list of next-gen trailblazers. 

“Lavinya is special because she believes in the power of education and the arts to ultimately transform the lives of young people,” Enniful told the Standard. “The Black Curriculum is positively shaping the national curriculum and building a sense of identity in every young person in the U.K.”

If you found this story helpful, check out 7 essential books to read that will educate you and your kids on anti-racism.

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