• Toria Bono

#BrewEdFindYourVoice talks Representation!

Toria’s voice:

I want to share a journey with you – not a long journey although I have a long way to go; a journey that has led to a great deal of personal growth that I hope will help others too. At the end of July, I began to organise an online educational event – #BrewEdFindYourVoice – I wanted my event to be rich with new voices – those that aren’t normally heard at these events and I wanted the speakers to be global and diverse. 

So, I put out a Tweet on social media asking for volunteers to come forward to present at this event. As I host #TinyVoiceTuesdayUnites every Tuesday, I knew of many ‘quieter’ voices and was hopeful that people would come forward. To my delight, many did! 

Twenty-four hours after the original tweet #BrewEdFindYourVoice was fully-booked with speakers and I remember looking through the original plan and feeling really pleased. I had global educators and educators from what I considered to be a wide-range of backgrounds, speaking on a mix of diverse topics.

Mindful Equity UK (which consists of two BAME educators) emailed me asking about representation, as this is at the heart of their own values and aims. As a supporter of equity and inclusion, I was aghast when their question prompted my realisation that there were only 4 out of 26 presenters who were BAME.

As a white educator living in England, I am used to seeing white educators speak. I take it for granted that I will have role-models who both look like me and are from similar backgrounds. What I had not appreciated is that BAME educators need that level of representation too. I needed guidance and help to ensure that #BrewEdFindYourVoice was a truly representative event.  Sharifah Lee was already speaking at the event and known to me so I turned to her for advice. Sharifah then enlisted the help of Raj Unsworth. 

Raj and Sharifah’s voices:

From the outset, it was clear to us that Toria was very upset by what she saw as a lack of understanding and foresight on her part. For us, it was refreshing that an event organiser, instead of going on the defensive, was actively engaging with us and genuinely wanted to learn. A difficult, and at times uncomfortable, discussion took place over Zoom and it brought to the fore the fact that event organisers often fail to consider the appeal of their events from the perspective of BAME educators.

It was too late to change the day or add more speakers, so Raj suggested a panel discussion which she offered to Chair. A panel to demonstrate how easy it is to do this in practice. The idea was to have 2 men, 2 women (2 BAME, 2 white), consideration was given to relatively new voices but ones with diverse experiences. This was in line with Toria’s vision as, too often in education, we hear from the same people time after time. 

The panel Raj put together consisted of:

  • Dr Valerie Daniel @Valerie_JKD

  • Dr Emma Kell @thosethatcan

  • Haris Shafi @ShafiTeachesit

  • James Hodge @MrHodgeTeaches

The panel would be discussing “What should representation look like in education?”

#BrewEdFindYourVoice was was an amazing and hugely successful event. It has been viewed online over 9000 times. All the presenters were fantastic but, according to feedback, it seems the icing on the cake was the panel discussion. The fact that we had broached this subject head on was appreciated by so many, both BAME and White educators.

It is fair to say that many schools are thinking about antiracism, equity and diversity in a way they have not done so before. So, our thanks to the panel for answering some very tough questions and talking openly about how uncomfortable talking and sharing about racism and inequality can be.

This discussion was a whistle stop tour of representation, covering five key aspects – the curriculum, governance, pupils, teachers and leadership. Although we only had 40 mins when we could have done with a whole day! If you missed it, click on the link –

We will be doing more so watch this space! In the meantime if you are organising an event, please do think carefully about inclusion, diversity and equity to ensure your event is truly representative of our multicultural society. 

Please share this post widely with your colleagues and get in touch with us if you are keen to learn and support more –

Toria Bono

Raj Unsworth

Sharifah Lee

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