By Shanine Bruder
Leeds based charity Heritage Corner is bringing the inspiring narratives of black history and Africa’s hidden past into local schools, in a bid to raise awareness for the next generation.
Founder of Heritage Corner and the Leeds Black History Walk, Joe Williams, is combining theatre with education to enhance communication with the young people of Leeds.
Joe Williams and those he works alongside are using the performing arts to not only teach young people the history of black narratives but to also show them that black history and black arts may be seen as potential career paths.
The hidden history that is brought into schools teaches positive narratives which challenge negative misinformation surrounding people of African Heritage.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Voice, Joe Williams said: ‘’If you are not represented in the arts properly, then neither is your humanity. And so, if your humanity is not represented in the arts, it is not represented in society.
‘’That is when people don’t see human beings, that’s when they see an object of imperial design’’.
Heritage Corner was selected as one out of nine organisations to benefit from a Reeds Exhibitions 2020 donation, and has been able to take on a young artist whose role is to take black history narratives into the education system, providing new approaches and new insights.
The Grammar School at Leeds is amongst other educational institutions to take to Twitter to share its involvement and support with Heritage Corner, tweeting: ‘’Would love to see you all joining us for the Leeds Black History Walk with Heritage Corner this Saturday!’’.
The Heritage Corner works to not only tailor workshops on black history to the young people of Leeds, but it also works to inform those whose job it is to teach them in school.
Heritage Corner also frequently hosts a family-friendly, two-hour public walk which exposes many hidden black narratives, whilst highlighting the achievements of ancient African civilisations and key black history figures with direct connections to Leeds and Yorkshire.
One of the historical talking points along the course of the walk is that of a frieze that features on a building in Park Row in the centre of Leeds.
The frieze depicts many different people of the world; however, the depiction of the only black individual to feature is represented as a slave, stooped over bales of cotton, wearing a loin cloth, and looking up at his master.
This architectural sculpture was produced in 1905, after slavery in the West Indies was abolished in 1838 and in America in 1865.
Joe Williams criticised the frieze for representing African heritage figures as something that is less than human.
He said: ‘’We have taken it upon ourselves in Chapeltown; various artists make it their mission to represent Africans in history who are stood up, proud.’’