A Liverpool charity has launched a book loan scheme to increase understanding of diversity within schools, and ’empower, encourage and educate’ all children in the City Region about diversity and inclusion.
Mandela8 – the organisation behind the Nelson Mandela memorial soon to be opened in Princes Park – earlier this year were gifted a collection of books by a relative of the late Angela Holligan, an activist who was born in Liverpool 8. Following discussions with her family, it was decided that the collection would be loaned to local schools as part of a scheme stretching across the Liverpool City Region in her memory, launching as a part of Black History Month.
Now, following funding from LCVS, the Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund and the Austin Smith Small Grants Fund, the resource will grow for the next 12 months, with additional books donated and dedicated by Angela’s family. Mandela8 have also said they would like to continue to build the resource for schools by encouraging donations from others beyond the initial 12 months of the scheme.
On hearing of the donated books, Angela’s grandson, Wade Holligan said: “My Grandmother had a kitchen and boxes full of teaching aids. She would sit by my side for hours teaching me things from English to history and also about my roots. For this – and numerous other things – I’ll be forever grateful.”
Angela lived an eclectic life with a constant focus on helping her local community. She moved to London at an early age to get married but soon returned to Liverpool as Personal Assistant to Michael Heseltine during the task force times and immediately joined with local groups fighting for the rights of others.
A founding member of Liverpool Black Sisters, Angela was particularly focussed on Black women’s empowerment. She spent many volunteer hours in the community as a member of the Liverpool 8 Defence Committee, set up to support people during and after the Toxteth Uprisings. As a member of The Black Elders Group Angela organised many community events and provided companionship to elders, taking African home cooked food to those who needed a hot meal. She often held an open kitchen where immigrant community members would go to learn how to speak English and she was employed by various schools and colleges throughout Liverpool.
Sonia Bassey, Chair of Mandela8, said “Angela was a warrior woman for racial justice whose passing is a sad loss to her family, friends and community and it is fitting she leaves us a legacy of love, courage and learning through the Angela Holligan Book Collection.
We have all heard too many stories of children made to feel ashamed of their skin colour, heritage, natural hair and their identity as a whole. Through exposure to the books identified for this scheme, young Black children will be allowed to explore positive representations of Blackness and feel proud of their identity, away from all the negative noise online and across social media.
We would also like children in schools to know who Angela was so they understand why the books were gifted in her name; this could be a discussion point in classes or be part of workshops and book reading sessions, or reading support sessions with mentors. Each book will come with stickers and an information sheet about Angela’s life and work.”
Positive racial identity in children’s early education is seen as an increasingly important aspect of their development. Dr Aisha White, Program Director at PRIDE (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education) has noted that there are huge challenges for families raising their children in an increasingly racialized society. Her research suggests that if racist views become more visible and prominent (ie. through social media), Black children may “struggle to survive and thrive physically, emotionally and psychologically in an environment that does not value Blackness”.
Studies have also shown that in families where there is Afrocentric-learning, the children have improved problem solving skills and better recall of facts in school compared to those families without.
Neil Verdin, Headteacher at Pleasant Street Primary School, said “This scheme is a valuable way to support our family of schools; celebrating the cultural diversity of our local community and beyond. Quality texts depicting the lives of diverse role-models can serve as inspiration to children from all backgrounds.”
The book scheme will initially be rolled out to 18 local schools in the DGT cluster (Dingle, Granby and Toxteth) with more to be added as Mandela8 build their collection, with plans for the scheme to cover the entire Liverpool City Region over the next two years.
The school libraries involved in the scheme will dedicate standalone areas to the scheme with discussion and workshops taking place to raise awareness of what it means to be Black, build children’s’ confidence and give them the tools to take into later life so that they do not feel ashamed about any aspect of their identity or heritage.
The scheme is also going to be replicated in local communities by Mandela8 in partnership with Granby Toxteth Development Trust, with discussions currently taking place between the two organisations. Lindsey Guy from the Trust said, “We are delighted to be working with Mandela8 and supporting the Angela Holligan Book Collection to reach and inspire young people from the diverse communities we serve.”