Back in January, four Fifth Formers (now in the Lower Sixth) discovered they had a shared passion and a strong desire burning within them. They recognised that in order to make for a better society for everyone, it was necessary to dispel misunderstandings, bias and stereotypes of marginalised groups.
Maxwell Martin, Sami Haroon, David Adeyemi-Abere and Dylan Swain decided that if they wanted to make a difference in this world then they needed to take action.
The death of George Floyd in May triggered worldwide outrage and protests against police brutality and racism, and it was this event that gave the boys the impetus to take action. The boys penned a passionate and constructive letter to the Head Master to explain their frustration and ask for the school’s support to help educate people battling with commonplace misunderstanding.
Indeed, Mr Hodgson was not only pleased to see the boys taking the initiative, but he also wanted to do all he could to help. One of their ideas was to set up a ‘Representation Society’, to provide a voice for all minorities (not just ethnic).
The boys told us, “Our intention is to show how prejudices are oftentimes rooted in ignorance; education is, we feel, the key to progress. We see this academic society as a step in the right direction to addressing such conflicts. The Eckersley Society is a safe place for members of the Bedford School community to present on their differences.
“We wanted to create a platform to host discourse and academic conversation on all issues represented within our school community.”
Marian Wright Edelman, an American activist for children’s rights once quoted, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see”, and this has really resonated with the boys and reinforced the importance of their work.
While initially the society was named ‘Representation Society’, the boys thought the name was not sufficiently memorable to encourage people to join. Instead, they chose to name it after OB Greg Eckersley (78-83) as he was Bedford School’s first black Head of School in 1983. Maxwell told us, “We thought it would be a fitting and appropriate name, as it showed excellence from a person with minority background.”
And so the Eckersley Society was born.
The boys met with Mr Eckersley via Microsoft Teams when they first set up the society, where he discussed his experiences within Bedford School and later life.
The Eckersley Society aims to educate through academic talks, film and media. The boys held their first society meeting on Monday 16 November via Microsoft Teams with around 50 boys and staff tuning in. They heard from Zane Haroon, who gave a lecture entitled, ‘Black men’s mental health: why there’s a problem and how we can fix it’
The boys are also excited for the next talk, where Dr Janice Johnson will lecture on ‘Black Women – Prejudice in academia’, and they are also in talks with the Muslim community about covering the topic of Muslim mental health.
Collaboration with other societies across the school is a big focus for the boys and they are in fact collaborating with the Film Society this Friday to screen Invictus.
Miss Hanna Bassa, Teacher of English, who is helping to support the boys said, “What is perhaps most impressive about the Eckersley Society is that it is entirely student led. Whilst I offer my opinions and guidance when necessary, it is the boys’ passion and dedication that drives the society to explore unheard stories. They have been creative, collaborative and forward-thinking in their approach and I hope that they make much progress with this endeavour.”
Everyone is welcome to the join the society and, once it is properly established in the school, they also aim to extend further, perhaps starting with Bedford Girls’ School and then moving beyond.