by Tayyaba Riaz
Stephanie Pitter is the woman behind the petition currently gaining huge support in the UK black community. A few years ago, The mother of 4 launched a petition to for schools to teach black history in their curriculum. The petition has now gained over 40, 000 signatures and counting.
In this exclusive interview, she tells us what inspired her to start the petition and what she ultimately hopes it will achieve.
Tell us a bit about your background, what inspired you to launch the Black History In schools Petition?
It was really my children coming home from school and not having any form of black history coming through their lessons. My elder ones, 17 and 18, have left school, but I’ve still got 2 little ones (5 and 7), who were getting an education that didn’t include any history about them. I decided to write a letter to the school and they said start a petition. I got some lined paper and wrote down name, address and signature. I knew I had a clue what I wanted to achieve, but I wasn’t sure about the sort of response I would get. It’s inspiring to do it for my children, but going out there, facing the public and asking for their support was a different ball game. I took myself to the hospital and while on the bus, I asked a lady if she would support the petition and I just went for it. She said to me, “Where’s your pen?”, and that was it. That start gave me the utmost confidence, more than I had already. All day, I just got people to sign. Even people of all ethnicities, to see if they would agree with it.
How has the Response been so far?
Very positive, although there’s also still some opposition, but we’re trying to change the system and that isn’t easy. We started the campaign with a paper petition in 2012 and we got 12, 000 signatures, walking on the streets day and night. The Council gave me stalls at the venue and I had people coming up to sign the petition, that’s 12, 000 signatures by foot alone.
And now you’ve got an online petition. Has this helped in gaining more publicity for the campaign?
Progress has been better in a sense. 2014 started slow to begin with, but the pace picked up about 4 months in. At one point, we got 15, 000 signatures in two weeks. We’ve also had a very positive response on Facebook with people volunteering to share etc., it’s gone over 40, 000 now.
Have you had any Celebrity endorsements from within the ethnic community?
Absolutely. We’ve had amazing response from black celebrities in the UK including Ashley Walters from Top Boy, Tinie Tempah, Daniel Sturridge, Adrian Lester, Amma Asante and many more. We’re trying to get hold of people who will strongly support the campaign, but one of the challenges we’ve faced is that people don’t really understand what the aim of the petition is. They see the petition and they don’t know what it’s about. That’s where most of the negativity comes from. Personally I am a school governor and also head of safeguarding children ad committee of Ofsted. I do a lot of work with schools, mainly primary schools. We’ve trialed teaching black history, not just for one month, but also all year around in some schools and this has been successful.
We all know we are African descendants who endured a life of enslavement. We are all aware of that. The clear message we are trying to put out there is that this is still positive history. Looking at African history, Caribbean history, and also British history, because we are certainly making Britain sustainable to what it is today. By placing great books at schools, having a dialogue and programmes for teachers to follow and bringing out the best qualities of real life people.
Is this a UK only campaign?
Yes it is UK based. Black history isn’t part of the UK school curriculum. I do believe its something that’s going to be denied, but at least, it will shake up the system and show that people stuck together. Divided we stand united we fall. I hope it shows how we came together as a community to stand for what we believe in. We aren’t looking to be segregated or be individual, we are looking to share this part of our history with everybody, so that all children can be strengthened by the history that is very much present in everyday life.
I’m mostly running the campaign by myself, in addition to raising four kids, because I firmly believe in it and I hope others get behind it too.
Let’s get you to 100,000!
12 days left. Thank you so much.
If you would like to show your support by signing the petition, please click here.