The SOAR project was established to engage young Black Minority Ethnic people in addressing their experiences & understandings of racism & discrimination. The project was designed to help participants develop skills in communicating issues, challenging discrimination & bullying and exploring concepts of community & leadership. The project also sought to help participants develop skills in maintaining wellbeing when facing discrimination.
The project was to be based around two core groups – 1 mixed gender & 1 female only. These groups were to undergo Anti – Racist training exploring how racism operates at the individual & structural levels. The groups would then support & develop integration projects which would be developed through a planning weekend event.
What was the learning from the project?
The project established to address racism very quickly started to generate understanding across all forms of discrimination across a wide spectrum of society. This included discrimination towards women, the LGBT+ community, and explored non traditional discrimination & racism across different national & cultural / religious groups. The project also started to explore discrimination against young people in general society, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of young homeless people.
While this had not been included in the original project concept devised with young people, the broadening out very much followed form the experiences and concerns of the young people involved.
One key learning point was that young people identified that they had previously received very little or no awareness raising on the issues of discrimination and racism – many participants highlighted that this was their first experience of addressing these issues in a group or educational context.
The project evolved form the intention of two separate groups to develop into one core group of participants which allowed for greater individual learning outcomes and created a platform & small team for programme development. The mix of this core group (all BME) – from different national backgrounds, from the LGBT+ community and different cultural / religious backgrounds widened the groups exploration of discrimination in ways the project did not anticipate at conception.
This included young people examining YCSA’s status as a BME specific project. This engaged the group in discussions around the need for BME specific organisations in addressing a range of social issues & discriminations.
What was achieved by the project?
Although the project had been developed from both community research and expressed wishes of young people engaged at YCSA, the project had to adapt from stage one of development. Despite strong marketing the concept was a difficult one to sell to new participants and the complexity of the content limited recruitment to participants with good levels of English Language. The project initially struggled to recruit participants for both the mixed stage one group & female only stage 2 group. This was partly due to YCSA having had considerable turnover in tis staff team due to fudning changes and the new staff team still establishing relationships with project participants.
To address this blockage the project recruited participants from our Youth Panel for stage one – this was carried through to stage 2. A group of 12 young people were involved, with a core engagement group of 7 participants. The other 5 Participants engaged in parts of the process but due to other life commitments (College / Work) could not commit to the full programme & dropped in when able.
The project was Youth Led and the project adapted to meet the aspirations of participants. The group originally started to address approaches linked to social media & you tubing. They planned a planning weekend with a major Social Media Influencer and planned to develop social media memes & messages highlighting different aspects of discrimination. Unfortunately, this Influencer who was to be the lead for the planning event in conjunction with BBC Social had to pull out at the last minute due to other work priorities (Serving Police Officer). The loss of this event meant that the project had to develop other approaches
The core group decided to target Schools with anti-racist stalls & workshops which promoted involvement in youth services. They contacted 8 Secondary Schools but had no success in achieving any space to run these events – only one school expressed an interest but could not accommodate until later in the year. The group then decided that they would develop workshops for delivery to Young People in other Youth Services. The group contacted a wide range of local & national youth work agencies again the group received limited responses with only one project intimating an interest – however their participant group was too young for the workshop. There has been an expression of interest form a new local youth club so in future it is hoped the Youth Panel will still be able to take this strand of work forward.
The 3rd approach undertaken by the group was to develop a series of short programmes which would provide opportunities for young people from all communities to engage in some integration activities, which would also engage those attending in creating messages around a wide spectrum of discrimination.
The projects developed were:
Rap Writing & Recording Weekend / Anti Racism Workshop – to establish themes for raps. – 15 Participants
Film Group – Rap Weekend / Introduction to Social Media Filming & Anti Racism Workshop – to establish themes for Social Media Content. – 10 Participants
Homeless Fun Activity x 2 – with discussions around discrimination – 8 Participants
The core group were rewarded for their hard work with one activity session – they chose Lazer Quest – 8 participated in this Activity
Feedback from a female 20 year old Scottish Pakistani
I heard about the project during a Youth Panel meeting & was given some information about the project by a member of YCSA staff. They went into some details about what the project would cover & how it would benefit our understanding of racism.
I got involved because it was definitely something, I wanted to have a better understanding of. Having an insight of what the project would cover had made me keener on coming to the programme. I don’t know many places that have programmes covering racism – so I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of coming along.
I thought it would involve challenging us to think outside the box and being able to notice the small things that lead up to racist comments. Also always questioning ourselves as to why someone makes a racist comment or to question what caused them to think of someone in that way e.g. someone who has a beard is a terrorist.
What have you done?
We learnt about:
Different Stereotypes for different religions
The meaning of different Discrimination words
Running a workshop around racism
Carried out a hate crime quiz
Bitmoji – representations of ourselves
Branding Excersise – purpose was to help create our own logo
What do you think of that?
I find it insightful, it gave me a good understanding of microaggresions – as I didn’t know what this was before. Gave me more knowledge and a better understanding of different types of discrimination I wasn’t aware of before.
What do you intend to do on this project?
• Develop my own knowledge & understanding of racism
• Create our own workshop – which we prepared as part of SOAR and later deliver to other young people.
What will you do after this project?
As young people we prepared our own workshop that we are hoping to deliver in schools, as well as other organisations. We managed to create this workshop through the knowledge we received from the programme.
What have you gained?
Skills, qualifications, awards, networks, friends
I have gained better public speaking skills – as I had to do a talk in front of a group
I have learnt how to design & implement my own activity / workshop.
What has taking part meant to you?
I feel as though my voice has been heard and that I have been given a chance to express my own personal experiences of what I think racism is. I have gained the chance to develop my public speaking skills – through delivering sessions to young people as well as working on my communication both verbal & written.
My personal experience through this was being able to have a better understanding of what discrimination is and how I can tackle this issue. Learning that hate crime can be more than just the colour of someone’s skin or their religion – it goes much deeper.