ASDAN awards for JtoJ Live students with staff and volunteers at
George Mitchell School, Leyton
A Way Into Our World, June 17th 2015
The JtoJ Poets of George Mitchell School, Leyton
George Mitchell School hosted a remarkable evening of poetry written and performed by a group of its Y7-10 students. They worked together for months supporting each other and creating poetry so powerful it has been published and featured by Exposure, an award-winning youth organisation and in a local newspaper. Their teacher Parul Motin, inspired by the Journey to Justice launch in London, set up the poetry club in winter 2014. She identified young people she thought needed support or lacked confidence or for whom English is an additional language. They visited galleries, talked about the meaning of social justice and human rights in history and today, they studied poetry, ballads and free verse and from their experiences, observations and feelings, the extraordinary poems flowed.
For Parul, the JtoJ poetry club has enabled her to work in the way she loves most. She says it brought her alive. Students who had been too shy to speak, began to join in and interact. They worked as a team and were less afraid to make mistakes. One said, ‘usually only gifted and talented kids do this.’ Another told the Head, Saeed Hussain, how much fun they were having and he visited the club and saw their progress. Parents said their children were more confident and positive, reading their poems aloud at home. Many came to the performance – a moving and inspiring event. The poems were about difficult issues – racism, isolation, arranged marriages, family conflict and sexuality. ‘The young people showed bravery, intelligence, creativity and a commitment to change.’ (Pat Boyer)
“I was nervous but excited, I was able to show my talent. I don’t speak much and everyone thinks I’m shy but they saw me differently that night.” (Nazifa)
“We endeavoured to do something so meaningful. We all performed very well. I was the host and it was an experience I won’t forget, taking ownership and diligence to make sure we all knew what we were doing.” (Adam)
‘When I started poetry club, I felt unsure, but after two sessions I wrote poetry and met new friends who have been through horrible and cruel times like I have. The project has built up my confidence in speaking about my fears and experiences. It has made me a little bit stronger and happier about who I am and how I look. I don’t care what people think of me anymore.’ (Alexandra Letu, Year 8)
“The club has made me think about the many opportunities poetry can give you in life. Being invited to the House of Lords to recite my poem was amazing. I’m also having my poem published! This is a really good feeling. It’s so interesting and it makes you think about people around the world who are suffering and have problems. It is a place I can be myself, express myself and my thoughts without being judged, it has given me a confidence boost.” (Adam Jabran, Year 8)
‘The kids have supported, encouraged and warmed to each other through tough times, they have been loyal to each other and committed. They spent hours planning, researching and researching and were determined to make a successful show. They are far from privileged, nor do they have many opportunities made for them. Every student left here proud last night.
They have opened my eyes. Although I grew up in Leyton and am an ex-student of George Mitchell, life has really changed. I admire them for their courage. They have experienced extreme injustice and prejudice in their community. We all need to understand these beautiful kids and why they stay quiet and think it’s acceptable to be treated unfairly. They see the same ignorance in the media but worse, in front of them.’ (Parul Motin)
‘It was extremely touching and inspiring to watch the children express themselves through the power of poetry.’ (Lil Bayne)
‘It is wonderful to know that JtoJ exists and serves to address and eradicate fear and inequality. I was in awe of the children when I saw the impact it has had on them.’ (Nadia Altaf)
‘Thank you JtoJ for allowing history to be told as it really is.’ (Safuraa Kalyaci)
Poetopia Some of the poems have been published in a book via Poetopia
Exposure’s website You can read Stop the Rain inspired by Benjamin Zephaniah’s poem What Has Stephen Lawrence Taught us on Exposure’s website
You can read more of the poems by clicking Here.
And see them performed as part of the film, JtoJ Live Here.
Film: Arts Award Cultural Education Challenge – interviews with members of the poetry club
Journey to Justice taster – with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust, Manchester
Click here to view flyer
On June 26th 2015, we ran our first taster session. It was at the Central Library in Manchester, hosted by the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust which provides opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about Britain’s ethnic minority communities. They run oral history projects to collect the life stories of Black communities in Manchester, organise events to share Black history and work with schools to make sure the next generation has a positive attitude to diversity in Britain.
We welcomed a room full of people from local arts, youth and community organisations, three universities (Manchester Met, Manchester and Keele) and museums including Reclaim, Refugee Action, National Trust, the Working Class Movement Library and the Manchester Jewish Museum.
Our programme introduced the group to our aims, projects, resources and activities. We discussed how our work fits with their aims and priorities and when to bring the exhibition programme to the North West. Many signed up to help make it happen. Thanks everyone for your interest and support.
Touring the exhibition programme
Now that it’s been piloted, the exhibition will tour the UK and partner with local communities; individuals, groups and organisations, particularly those working with young people. We will run taster days to draw together interested parties and offer advice and support in the development of local JtoJ cross-community teams. They will organise events, arts programmes and discussions and develop new activity. And local groups will be supported to research and recount within the exhibition a time when local people joined together to campaign, creating a cross community identity for JtoJ, inspiring those newly motivated by the exhibition programme.
We will offer workshops to i) examine the history of movements for social justice and what makes them work ii) understand and participate in the arts as an integral part to campaigning iii) learn how to take part in non-violent action and training courses for local teachers/youth/community workers/activists exploring the history, arts and methods of social justice movements.
London pilot of Journey to Justice workshops
Thanks to funding from Awards For All (The Big Lottery) and Land Securities, we are running a pilot of our workshops focused on: the history of human rights movements; the arts of social protest; what is social change and how you can you be part of it, developing communication and team skills. A group of 13 young people from George Mitchell School, Leyton will be taken through a seven week course led by Martin Spafford who has many years’ experience of teaching history, with colleagues and volunteers. Sessions are interactive, with visiting speakers, challenging them to think about social change and their role in making it. There will be a local celebration event and on February 25th our patron Lord Herman Ouseley and Lord Jeremy Beecham will host us at the House of Lords where the group will share their learning with guests.
watch a short film made by Winstan Whitter about our Leyton pilot.
Journey to Justice meets The Scottsboro Boys
As part of their Journey to Justice ASDAN course, students from George Mitchell School went to see The Scottsboro Boys – a brilliant, devastating musical about one of the most heinous miscarriages of justice in American history. In 1931 nine black teenagers were arrested and accused of crimes they did not commit. It took 82 years to clear their name and the campaign to free them inspired Rosa Parks.
Read more: http://www.scottsboromusicallondon.com/history/
Our first pilots
Newcastle upon Tyne, April 2015
We are delighted to announce the launch of our travelling exhibition programme in Newcastle at The magnificent Discovery Museum where it will be throughout April 2015 with a launch on Saturday April 4th afternoon in the Great Hall at the Discovery. April 4th is the date of MLK’s murder.
Huge thanks to our main sponsor – Newcastle University and partner Northumbria University.
We are working with an ever growing range of partners from Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Co. Durham, Northumberland and Teeside including artists, film makers and musicians, teachers, students, museum staff, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Space 2, Children NE, Show Racism the Red Card, Crossings, Gateshead and Newcastle Colleges, Citizens UK, Curiosity Creative, the TUC, CVS, Great North Museum, community organisers and local politicians. Local MPs Chi Onwurah and Catherine McKinnell are supportive as are MEPs Jude Kirton-Darling and Paul Brannen, Cllrs Dipu Ahad, Jo Kingsland, Stephen Powers and Lord Jeremy Beecham. We have created a local steering group and found an excellent local co-ordinator in Bethany Coyle who is a project manager and community musician. She runs a choir based at the Mining Institute (the nes-singers) and worked for years with people with learning difficulties. A key partner is Professor Brian Ward of Northumbria University who, with a team of schools and creative organisations is planning a programme called The Shadow of Selma on Voting Rights and Democracy.
Our main target audience is young people but we want to invigorate people at a community level using an intergenerational approach. We aim to attract the general public and people who don’t see themselves as powerful or having a ‘voice’ as well as those who are active. Our programme will offer a mix of talks, walks, films, courses and activities. Our approach is intergenerational with an emphasis on the arts. We will measure its success working with a local team. Planned highlights:
- Travelling exhibition at the Discovery Museum
- A two day training course for young people They will learn about struggles for freedom and equality. Workshops will be interactive, focused on social change and their role in making it.
- A two day train the trainers course for adults who work with young people and community groups in the North East in order to learn the Journey to Justice approach to social change which is based on over thirty years of participatory work with young people.
- Workshops in local schools on the music of social protest leading to public performances.
- A course for young people working with local artists on the art forms of social justice, leading to a show.
- An oral history project. Young people will find and interview those who remember the US civil rights movement and others who have been involved in campaigns for social justice.
- A local history research project. An intergenerational group will focus on an (untold) story of a time when people in the region joined together to challenge an injustice. With support from Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, they will tell the story as part of our exhibition.
Sheffield, October 2015
Sheffield is the venue for our second pilot next year. There have been two planning meetings of Sheffield JtoJ and many exciting ideas put forward. Letters of support received from Sheffield Hallam University, UNISON and Longley College and expressions of interest by many working at grassroots and those representing institutions including Sheffield University, Amnesty International local group and the Development Education Centre (South Yorkshire). Questions for JtoJ were raised in meetings attended by MPs Nick Clegg and Paul Blomfield. Sheffield JtoJ is currently seeking to secure funding, exhibition space and volunteers.
As the exhibition travels and community teams develop, they will be drawn into a wider network of local JtoJ teams, offering support and advice to each other and new teams as they form. Our ultimate aim is to create a legacy of interest, involvement and activity which will generate a national network of JtoJ groups connected to and supporting each other in their pursuit of social justice.
In addition to our pilot cities, Newcastle and Sheffield, we are in discussion with key people in Manchester, Leicester, Bristol, Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Norwich, Newport, London and Bradford who have expressed serious interest in bringing Journey to Justice to their cities from 2016.
Read about our aims and plans in this blog written by Carrie Supple for the RSA:
Journey to Justice featured in the Tottenham Journal:
Below are photos taken on our Crowd Funding film day, March 22nd 2014. Photography courtesy of Tino Antoniou