By Jo Manby
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Text Publishing Company, Australia: 2015)
This is a timeless book that will not age, like the works of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou or Toni Morrison. ‘This is required reading,’ Morrison herself has said, in a quote that foots the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ bestseller, Between the World and Me.
Between the World and Me is written in the form of a letter addressed to Coates’ teenage son, a veritable prayer that is drenched in love and born out of struggle. It should make America sit up and take notice.
And so the day finally arrived – on 3rd August our Director and long-standing Education Co-ordinator Jackie Ould logged off for the last time and headed into retirement.
Jackie has been involved in our organisation since its inception. She originally met our founder Lou Kushnick when she was one of his American Studies students here at the University of Manchester.
In 1998 Lou was establishing the Resource Centre – an open access library of books about race and race relations, amassed during his academic and activist career. He asked Jackie, who by this point was a Black achievement and EAL (English as additional language) teacher for Manchester City Council, if she could help. She was, in her own words ‘pretty sceptical really about how it was going to succeed’, but agreed to be involved and immediately started to think about the educational potential of the library:
I wanted to know how all of these academic books were at all relevant to that strand of my other life, if you like – and how we could make them relevant and applicable and useable in schools
She started to look at developing the collection for teaching purposes, but quickly realised the task would be bigger than that:
…we could buy books about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and any number of other African American heroes. But it was extremely hard to find any about Black British heroes, other than the occasional one like Mary Seacole. Very hard indeed to get those. So I wanted to know how does this connect with that other part of my life which is the teaching role? And how do we use this as an opportunity to start generating those materials… First of all buy them in if they exist, but if it doesn’t exist then logically, start making them.
This was the start of our outreach programme, which has always been much more than a just an outreach programme and is based on co-creating educational materials on BAME histories and experiences with the communities those histories and experiences come from.
By Jo Manby
Cheetham to Cordova: Maurice Levine – A Manchester Man of the Thirties, by Maurice Levine. Neil Richardson, Manchester: 1984
Whilst reading Shadows on the Tundra, a new release by Peirene Press of the testimony of a Siberian gulag survivor, I was reminded of a slim, privately published volume that I first read some years ago while working on book abstracts at the AIU Centre.
Shadows on the Tundra, the story of the Lithuanian Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s horrifying experiences, is an incredibly important piece of international survival literature, belonging in the hallowed company of Anne Frank’s diaries, the works of Primo Levi and of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Cheetham to Cordova: A Manchester Man of the Thirties on the other hand provides the opportunity of a glimpse into the Lithuanian migrant experience here in the UK, as told autobiographically by Maurice Levine.
By Jo Manby
Reggie Yates: Unseen – My Journey, by Reggie Yates. BBC Books and Penguin Random House, London: 2017
In this book, Reggie Yates provides those who have watched his BBC documentaries (‘Extreme Russia’, ‘Extreme South Africa’, among many others) with a behind-the-scenes look at their making, plus an understanding of his own career development.
If you haven’t seen his documentaries then this book gives a flavour of his presenting style on-screen, as he dissects the films in detail; but with the additional insights of a written narrative. The major landmarks, and all the highways and byways in between. His documentaries explore, broadly speaking, youth-centred issues – such as being young and gay in Russia, aspiring to supermodel status in Siberia, body modification in the UK.
Yates’ first official job as a working actor age nine was ‘a tiny role on Channel 4’s longest-running sitcom at the time’, Desmond’s. A black family with a successful barbershop in Peckham, South East London. Some years later he comes across Louis Theroux documentaries and immediately knows that ‘this was a lane I would kill to operate in.’
Did you know Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the ‘godmother of rock’n’roll’ performed at Chorlton railway station in 1964? She was one of a number of legendary blues musicians who played as part of the ‘Gospel and Blues Train’ – a one-off performance contrived by Granada Television, which included turning the station (which was roughly on the site of what is now Chorlton Metrolink stop) into a scene from the wild west, with crates, chickens, wanted posters, and a large sign temporarily renaming the station ‘Chorltonville’.
It’s a piece of history that was at risk of being forgotten, until the footage recently appeared on YouTube, including this film of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s performance (in the rain, just in case she was in doubt she was in the North of England…).
You can now read about this story in a beautiful new book we have produced and published in partnership with Chorlton High School.
Hattie Charnley-Shaw has been working with us on the Hip Hop Collection project. Here she explains a bit about the project, about Hip Hop Studies and Hip Hop Education, and reflects on her work to date.
There’s no denying that Hip Hop is one of the most popular music genres in the world. Nor is there any denying that it has become a worldwide phenomenon in the realms of culture, fashion, and the visual arts too. Its existence in the world of education however, is far less widespread or acknowledged.