The UN Decade for People of African Descent is a decade which encourages the international community to recognise that people of African descent represent a distinct group who have human rights that must be promoted, protected, and preserved. It is scheduled to span the period of 2015 – 2024. People of African descent is a broad group, with around 200 million people in the Americas alone self-identifying as being of African descent.
The key themes for the decade are:
- Recognition. People of African descent have the right to equality and non-discrimination, therefore all obstacles that prevent their equal enjoyment of all human rights – economic, social, cultural, civil and political – should be removed.
- Justice. People of African descent deserve the adoption and establishment of tailored policies that contribute to their opportunity, access, representation or any other means to reducing disparities they otherwise experience.
- Development. Recognition that measures are needed that target the improvement of education, employment, health, and housing of people of African descent. Recognition of poverty being both a cause and consequence, and the introduction or strengthening of national programmes to reduce social inequalities.
The decade also has main objectives, which are the promotion of respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African descent; promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies; adoption and strengthening of frameworks with regional, national, and international scopes.
Schools can celebrate the decade for people of African descent in a variety of ways which will promote curiosity and understanding, and educate pupils on the importance of the recognition of people of African descent as a group which must have its human rights upheld. Suggestions are outlined below, ranging from the celebration of cultures of people of African descent.
- Celebrations of heritage.
This will serve as an inclusive event celebration whereby students (and staff) can wear their traditional clothes or ‘costumes’ of their heritage to school. Schools are not confined to ‘national costumes’, as these may prove difficult to source. Students can be encouraged to bring something which represents their heritage (such as a figurine, a photo, etc.) and should prepare to explain what it is to their peers. Schools can decide the programme of the day, but BLAM suggests the celebration occurs on a day in which it would be possible for classes/year groups to engage with each other about their heritage, an assembly can be arranged which focuses on people of African descent, and similar programmes. This can occur at any point of the year, but schools may decide to celebrate this on 24th October, which is recognised as United Nations Day, and will be in UK Black History month. BLAM suggests this celebration should occur outside of Black History Month, and that schools committed to the inclusion of people of African descent should consider making this an annual celebration.
- The integration of Black history into curriculums.
Schools incorporating diverse Black history into learning and education outside of Black History Month will help to increase the knowledge of Black history and reverse negative narratives. Working with community organisations to ensure that Black histories and positive narratives are celebrated all year round, and are not confined to one month in the year. The recognition that Black history is rich and diverse is necessary for people of African descent’s own recognition.
- Re-examining and abolishing policies which disproportionately affect people of African descent.
Schools should examine existing policies ranging from behaviour to dress code, which negatively and disproportionately affect people of African descent. Policing the hairstyles, behaviour, language, and dress of Black pupils must be examined as it links directly with the key theme of Justice and Recognition in this dedicated decade. The removal of policies which ban the use of Black languages such as Pidgin, Patois, or Black British English (sometimes called Multicultural London English) directly limit the expression of young people of African descent, and must be removed in line with this.
The above are suggestions that schools can implement to celebrate the UN Decade for People of African Descent. This is not an exhaustive list of suggestions, but they may serve as a starting point for schools which wish to uphold the human rights of the pupils of African descent, and ensure their involvement, representation, and recognition.