Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
United States civil-rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, United Kingdom politician Diane Abbott and playwright Kwame Kwei Armah are among the advocates calling for UK Education Secretary Michael Gove to rethink plans to scrap Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano from school curriculums.
Seacole, of Jamaican and Scottish descent, risked her life during the Crimean War (1853-1856) to bring comfort to the wounded and dying soldiers. She became the first black woman to make her mark on British public life.
First black political leader
Olaudah Equiano, the first political leader of Britain's black community, was born in Essaka, an Igbo village in the kingdom of Benin, in 1745.
Both icons are to be merely options in the school curriculum throughout England if Gove has his way. Reports are that Gove has decreed that British children are to learn about 'traditional' figures such as Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell, with Seacole and Olaudah Equiano being mere options.
The decree has created a firestorm among blacks in Britain, who, under the leadership of Operation Black Vote (OBV), have been building support worldwide among other races, including the white population.
In an open letter to Gove on Wednesday, Jackson warned that a nation's history must be told by all its people for the benefit of everyone.
"Failure to do so invariably ends up talking about the exploits of white men," he said.
Jackson's statement has been complemented by the likes of Zita Holbourne, national co-chair BARAC UK, who stated that the achievements of figures such as Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano in the face of prejudice are to be celebrated so that they inspire generations to come.
"The broad range of people opposing Gove's proposal demonstrate the strength of our multicultural society at its best," Holbourne argued.
Obviously shocked, and even sounding as if he felt black Britons have been betrayed by Gove's decision, Patrick Vernon, founder of 100 Great Black Britons, described it as a clear message to all children and parents in Britain that there doesn't exist a pluralist or multicultural society.