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Our black youngsters: how often do you hear the good news?

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25 Jun 2012
This month I attended an awards ceremony at the House of Commons in which black youngsters were celebrated for their achievements. There was the Nigerian author who had become the youngest woman ever given a book deal by top publishers Faber & Faber. There was the young man who'd achieved six A*s and two As at A-level – four of which he'd taught himself outside school – and was now an organ scholar at Oxford University. And there was the Cambridge student who's also an award-winning community poet.

This event, the Rare Rising Stars 2012, is just one of a number of initiatives showcasing the best young black talent. The individuals recognised all have outstanding drive, ability and dedication – and have proven themselves academically too.

All these award schemes have been set up with one main aim: to challenge the perpetual stereotype of black kids, especially boys, as uneducated, disaffected and demotivated.

I left the ceremony feeling uplifted by the talent on display; but also with a deflated sense that, despite the organisers' efforts, they really will have their work cut out to try to change society's perceptions. On the same day as the awards, news reports were leading with the story of a gang of six black boys who'd been convicted for their roles in the rioting last August. On Radio 4's flagship Today programme, a series ran all last week on the problems of black gangs. Each day, it seems, there's another story which reinforces the idea of black kids being a homogeneous block of criminally minded underachievers. The positive stories to counterbalance this are non-existent.

This article was written by Joseph Harker and first appeared on the Guardian Comment is Free website on 25th June 2012:

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