Former Wales Book of the Year-winning author and academic Professor Charlotte Williams has been appointed the head of a new working group to oversee the improvement of the teaching of BAME History in Welsh schools. Professor Williams accepted an invitation from education minister, Kirsty Williams, to chair the new ‘Communities, contributions and cynefin: BAME experiences and the new curriculum’ working group. In 2007, Professor Williams was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales.
In 2003, Williams won the Wales Book of the Year accolade for her autobiographical novel Sugar and Slate. In 2014, Wales Arts Review published an essay by Dr Lisa Sheppard of Cardiff University examining the importance of Williams to Wales in discussions on race and Welsh history. In the essay, Sheppard wrote,
Welsh academic and author Charlotte Williams has done much in recent years to inscribe the black voice onto the literary and cultural map of Wales. Her widely-published, often collaborative research has opened up a space for discussion about multicultural Wales, obliterating the idea that the nation is wholly tolerant of ethnic diversity and suggesting that prominent ‘bicultural’ tensions between Welsh and English speakers, and between the Welsh and the English, arguably exclude minorities. Some of her claims have been widely discussed and have been met with criticism, particularly by campaigners and academics working in the field of Welsh language rights. Her autobiographical novel, Sugar and Slate (2002), however, was more warmly received, and won Wales Book of the Year in 2003. Sugar and Slate is the site of a nuanced exploration of Williams’s own complex identity as an individual of mixed race and heritage in Wales. This hybrid text consists of prose, poems and letters, and echoes the slave trade through its movement between Wales, Africa and Guyana, as it teases out Wales’s own complex victim/oppressor status within the British Empire. I suggest, too, that it can also be read as an attempt to re-write the Welsh industrial novel in order to create a space for the black community in Wales’s past, examining Wales through its international links, as well as through its binary relationship with England.
You can read the full article here.
On the appointment to head the working group, Professor Williams said, “I’m delighted and honoured to be leading the working group in advancing this step change towards integrating Black and minority ethnic history, identity and culture into the everyday learning of every child in Wales. The goal is that the new curriculum will become a shining example of resourcing and enabling broad engagement in learning and teaching with BAME contributions past and present.
“The challenge is to ensure that Black and minority ethnic peoples have a presence across the new Welsh curriculum, so that within all of the areas of learning and experience we can hear the sound of their voices, know of their experience, history and contributions, past and present. This requires appropriate resourcing because we want all teachers in Wales to be able to rethink their materials and feel confident in the ways of delivering them in order to reflect this presence. It’s a very exciting prospect. In this way our curriculum in Wales will ultimately be reflective of our common experience of a vibrant, inclusive, multicultural society. We have a rich history in Wales, built on difference and diversity. This isn’t about adding an element of Black and minority ethnic history here and there in the new curriculum, but about reimagining learning and teaching across all the elements of the curriculum so that it reflects a Wales that is, and always has been, ethnically diverse, internationalist in its outlook and progressive in its aspirations.”
For a little more insight into Professor Williams’s work from her own perspective, you can read her contribution to our Writers’ Rooms series from 2017.