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New interactive Black history education books reveal untold stories and heroes

ID: A banner graphic with white background with the gold Aspire Black Suffolk triangle shaped logo; three graphical Black people dressed in bold, bright coloured outfits; and contact details.

Previously untold historical stories from Suffolk’s Black community and further afield have come to life in three versions of a new interactive history book for teachers and students in primary, secondary and FE education, and for museums and community groups across the county.

Elimu – The Little Book of Knowledge, by Aspire Black Suffolk CIC in partnership with Suffolk County Council, is tailored to include local stories and links to museum collections, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

With a variety of activities, discussion prompts, brightly-coloured design, images and ‘funky facts’, the books encourage students to be proud of their diverse communities, of themselves and to aim high in life.

‘Elimu’ is a Kiswahili (also known as Swahili) term meaning ‘knowledge’. Each page takes readers on a cultural journey where history extending as far back as ancient Kemet (now Egypt) weaves with living history to celebrate Black national and local heroes.

How can you not be inspired by this book? This book will raise the aspirations of young children, especially young Black children - filling them with pride about their heritage and encouraging them to be like the Black heroes right on their doorstep and beyond! Why should Black History Month just be for just one month?! This book allows teachers to pull relevant information to link to various subjects and topics across the year. Just what we needed! - Sherise Daly, Head of School, Castle Hill Primary School, Ipswich

The book was inspired by the award-winning exhibition, Power of Stories, which was created by Ipswich Museums with community curators in 2021, and featured three original costumes from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther film (2018). The costumes are currently touring Suffolk (see below).

Brightly coloured cover of a book featuring three graphics of two Black men and a Black woman, all dressed in colourful funky clothes,
Front cover of Elimu by Black & White Creative. (c) Aspire Black Suffolk CIC. ID: The front cover of Elimu is covered in brightly coloured geometric graphics with three graphical black people. One person wears a purple hat, sweater and tracksuit bottoms with white trainers. The scond person has brown hair tied up high on the head - they where a multicoloured jacket, red leggings and black pumps. The third has spikey, purple hair, a long multicoloured coat, blue jeans and read boots.

Created by Ellisha Soanes and Tonia Wilson, co-directors of Aspire Black Suffolk, with support of the Black community in Suffolk, Elimu is designed to be easily integrated into the curriculum for primary, secondary and FE schools. It can also be used in educational projects by community groups and museums. Working closely with the Association for Suffolk Museums, the content includes links to local museums’ websites, so students can continue their learning journey and discover more about items and stories in the book.

Ellisha Soanes, also Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Eastern Colleges Group, commented: “Nelson Mandela once said that education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world. These interactive books aim to help influence change which works for all.

"We hope teachers, families, young people and communities will connect with the stories, and enjoy an educational resource that offers insight into formerly unseen stories from Black history which will enrich students’ understanding of the world they live in. We’re very proud of the book and we'd like to impress that the books are for use all year round, not just during Black History Month. Finally, thank you to Suffolk County Council for the funding and their commitment to helping to make this happen.”

Within the pages of the book, students will meet brave figures from the Windrush generation alongside inspirational role models living on their doorstep, including Nigerian Yoruba princess Remi (Sijuwade) Morrison, community elder Derrick Bobbington Thomas, Africa historian Imani Sorhaindo, social worker Keiran Miles, and BBC Suffolk and 1Xtra radio presenter, Angelle Joseph.

Students are tasked with researching music artist and philanthropist, Stormzy. They will also learn about Black military servicemen in Suffolk who served in both world wars, whilst supporting local communities, as well as wartime heroes such as Mary Seacole, entertainer Josephine Baker, boxer Joe Louise, and innovator Walter Tull.

Students can unlock additional content by scanning QR codes to videos and audio – some of which feature local people.

Aspire Black Suffolk co-directors and book creators, Tonia Wilson and Ellisha Soanes. (C) John Ferguson.

ID: First image on the left is of a mixed heritage woman dressed in black with long locks tied up in a head scarf. Second image on the right is of a mixed heritage woman with long black and blond braids, wearing a bright pink jacket and green blouse; she holds a phone in her right hand.

The book educates teachers and learners, celebrating amazing people who have done incredible things from a diverse community. This is a positive movement from diversity to inclusion, promoting the importance of educating young people and teachers about all heroes, and not just those from the usual characteristics that have been represented in the past. Representation of people in a positive manor promotes positive attitudes and can decrease discriminative ideologies. This book is perfectly put together to do just that! - Kerry Treharne, EDDI Ambassador at West Suffolk College.

Councillor Bobby Bennett, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Equality and Communities, said:Suffolk County Council strives to support museums, schools and community groups to take a positive approach to addressing inequality and championing diversity. The Elimu Black history resources are a fantastic way to engage people in exploring, sharing and celebrating Black national and local heroes. We are proud to have commissioned this work in partnership with Aspire Black Suffolk and the Association for Suffolk Museums.”

The regular opportunities for self-reflection means Elimu helps facilitate a meaningful learning experience and is an ideal tool to encourage lively discussion amongst groups of young people.

The print books are currently free for local authority schools, museums and community groups only. However, the PDF books are available via this form:

Aspire’s team and partners offer training and consultancy in teaching Black history and diversity and inclusion.

“Elimu is the most exciting learning resource I’ve seen in a very long time! The stories about heroes, both local and international, told with friendly language and gorgeous design, will empower children of all backgrounds to change the world.” - Eleanor Root, Collections and Learning Curator (Community), Colchester + Ipswich Museums

Power of Stories exhibition featuring Marvel Studios’ Black Panther costumes will open at Britten Pears Arts (Snape Maltings), Aldeburgh on Saturday 22 October for four months. The costumes are at the Food Museum in Stowmarket until Sunday 9 October.

Twitter & Instagram: @aspireblacksuff

Facebook: @aspireblacksuffolk

LinkedIn: @aspireblacksuffolkcic


Editors' notes

For media enquiries: Elma Glasgow, Founder and Co-director of Aspire Black Suffolk CIC and PR consultant:

About Aspire Black Suffolk CIC

Aspire Black Suffolk began as the community cultural initiative celebrating Black heritage and culture in the county. The company was born out of the Power of Stories exhibition at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, which was a catalyst on many levels for many people. It helps Aspire to build on existing community networks, establish new community relationships and create a new programme of events.

In November 2021, we became a community interest company which is led by four professional Black women who are dedicated to tackling inequality in all its forms. Our focus is on challenging racism, but we are an inclusive organisation.

Our services include:

  • D&I training for large and small employers in all sectors.

  • Teacher training for teaching Black history in schools and colleges.

  • Anti-racist communications training.

  • Facilitation of heritage, arts and cultural events, and youth projects.

We work across all protected characteristics in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. Registered company in England and Wales no.: 13765611.

About Power of Stories

In 2021, the national award-winning Power of Stories at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, brought together film costumes, historic museum objects and local stories to create a display exploring storytelling and identity.

From folklore to fake news, people have told stories for thousands of years. Three iconic costumes from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther (2018) were woven into a patchwork of storytelling traditions from across time and place.

The outfits of T’Challa, Shuri and Okoye featured in the ground-breaking film were displayed alongside Marvel comics, historic museum objects and local stories. From music to movies, carvings to cartoons, the exhibition asked how the stories we know shape the way we see the world.

The three outfits are now on tour, with the surrounding exhibition being re-imagined at each museum they visit. Dates and locations:

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