As a young child, growing up in East London, I had the privilege of being surrounded by people from diverse backgrounds. My community was a melting pot of cultures, equally respected and equally different. I remember my early years being some of my happiest. We would have cultural days at school, which gave us the opportunity to learn about different cultures and teach our peers about our own and the teachers encouraged it. It was never seen as anything out of the ordinary or anything that particularly needed to be highlighted because it was the norm. Diversity was heavily implemented in our curriculum and there was an authenticity about it that I honestly feel we lack today. It wasn’t about politics, saving face or ticking boxes. It was just real.
Those years definitely shaped and enabled me to understand and appreciate the beauty in difference. I carried this through to secondary and it worked in my favour. By this time, I was attending school in Essex as I had just moved. A lot of the students at my school were from East London and it was just as multicultural as my previous school, so I honestly didn’t feel much of a change other than my physical surroundings. However, this changed drastically when I started sixth form, the culture shock was real. I was one of less than 10 black students across the sixth form and it was something I had never had to experience before. I really did hate every day of the two years I spent there to be brutally honest and I’m glad the time went so quickly.