Four young people launch ‘Diversity in Devon’

Top left: Flo Nash, top right: Sandra Sanena, bottom right: Anoo Kakarlamudi, bottom left: Lizzie Kilbride
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Four A Level politics students from King’s School are officially launching a six-week campaign, starting 17 August,, with the aim of debating the benefits of diversity in Devon and a greater understanding of what constitutes racist behaviour or prejudice.

Diversity in Devon is being launched through the voices of 17 year olds Sandra Sanena and Anoo Kakarlamudi, who have recorded their personal experiences of growing up in Devon.

Sandra’s family moved to Ottery St Mary from Zimbabwe when she was eight and Anoo’s parents brought her to the UK from India, when she was 18 months old.

The students wanted to tell their own stories to help local people understand how it feels to grow up as part of the BAME community, in such a predominantly white area.  This has been, in the main, a positive experience. However, Anoo and Sandra have faced some racism and prejudice over the years too.

During the campaign regular videos and questions will be posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and the students are actively encouraging people to give their views, in order to kick off an informed debate.

Diversity in Devon is linked to a motion their Devon County Councillor, Claire Wright, has submitted, which will be debated at the October full council meeting.

The motion will first be considered by Devon County Council’s cabinet which will receive a recommendation and report on its implications, on Wednesday 9 September.

The students hope to persuade councillors to take action on a range of issues, including the celebration of the achievements of the Devon BAME community – and urging the government to review the curriculum to reflect the harsh realities of the British Empire and colonialism – something ministers don’t appear to be very keen on doing.

The motion asks that town and parish councils are invited to review statutes and road names across Devon that implicitly celebrate slavery.

Diversity in Devon has secured the backing of The King’s School and BAME charity, Devon Development Education.

It all started with a heartfelt email that Sandra sent to Claire Wright in June, asking for her help.

Sandra’s email said:

… I, as a black teenager living in an area of the country that does not have much of a black population to represent it, have felt like I need to do what I can to stand for my community. Growing up black in Devon has been difficult as I have noticed there is a level of ignorance in some people, through no fault of their own. However this comes at the cost of people like me and for so many years I have turned a blind eye to ignorance hoping it would get better. But after the events we all saw in the USA I cannot stand by and be passive anymore…..

What I am asking for above all else is that the black community is given a voice and that we eradicate ignorance as it is what leads to racist incidents, which can happen at any age and with anyone. I have all the faith that change will come and I am grateful that you have taken the time to read this email. Please help me and so many others see the change we are so desperate for.”

There have since been regular Zoom meetings with the students – and the motion and campaign was created.

Sandra and Anoo are enthusiastically supported by their friends Lizzie Kilbride and Flo Nash who interviewed them for the launch videos and will be jointly managing the social media accounts.

The campaign plan includes the regular release of a series of memes with statistics and data on aspects of racism, facts on inequality and a debate on the often misunderstood term ‘white privilege’.

The stats and facts were put together by Asha Pettet and Hattie Moore, keen anti-racist campaigners and former King’s School pupils, now at university.

Anoo said: “It may not be as bad as some other countries, but racism is all around us and the Black Lives Matter protests seem to have brought much of it to the surface, judging from some reactions on local social media.

“Sandra and I have grown up in an almost exclusively white area, which has mostly been great, but it’s also been difficult at times. For people to say that racism or prejudice doesn’t exist in Devon is wrong.

This campaign is about posing some thought provoking questions to people to – and also putting some stark or shocking facts out there, such as compensation to British slave owners after the abolition of slavery was paid right up until 2015. Shockingly, slaves received no compensation. We are asking for polite, but honest debate through social media on people’s thoughts on the issues we are raising and we really hope that Devon County Council councillors support our motion!”

Claire Wright added:

“It’s an absolute pleasure working with the girls. They’re bright, informed, enthusiastic, funny and kind.  I am sure they will initiate some fantastic debates. I’m really looking forward to helping to develop the campaign with them.”

Sandra, Anoo, Flo and Lizzie would like to thank:

  • Luc Barrett (former King’s School student) of Teki Marketing for the video production and editing
  • Asha Pettet and Hattie Moore (former King’s School students) for gathering research on inequality and racism
  • Hattie Moore for designing the Diversity in Devon logo

This article originally appeared in Claire Wright’s blog.