Massive Attack help diversify English school curricula

Posted by Mike Schumacher

‘Everything begins with education,’ says Massive Attack’s Rob Del Naja (right) of the Cargo Classroom project. Photograph: Niels Van Iperen/Getty Images


For the Cargo Classroom initiative, a Bristol group has created new music, which they call “a perfect piece of activism”


Massive Attack members have worked together on a brand-new educational initiative designed to broaden the scope of the English school curriculum.


The idea for Cargo Classroom (Charting African Resilience Generating Opportunities) came from poet Lawrence Hoo and creative director Chaz Golding. Based on their own educational experiences as children and subsequent observations, they believe schoolchildren are missing important perspectives on history.


The two created a series of interactive online lessons with the assistance of academics from the University of Bristol and a team of education specialists with the goal of introducing tales of inspirational people of African and African diaspora ancestry into schools to enhance historical studies.


Poems, movies, and pictures are used in the lessons, which are intended to be part of the key stage 3 history curriculum for students aged 11 to 14, to make the subject matter more approachable and interesting. The poetry readings will be accompanied by music composed by Massive Attack, a longtime supporter of Hoo and Golding’s work and a vocal opponent of food insecurity and environmental problems.


Hoo, Golding, and Massive Attack are all from Bristol, where in 2020, during the global Black Lives Matter riots, anti-racism demonstrators toppled the monument of the slave trader Edward Colston off its pedestal and pushed it into the docks.


Massive Attack member Rob Del Naja, aka 3D, said that knowledge is the foundation of everything. “We can’t advance fairly until we comprehend the horrific repercussions of British colonial history and the truth of the slave trade.


“You can’t have a rational discussion about monuments and the history of naming public sites without schoolchildren understanding that Colston’s legacy was one of charity founded on crimes against humanity.


In a time of political cultural wars, “Cargo is a perfect piece of activism, a positive intervention in the education sector.”


The Cargo Classroom initiative, which is the focus of a recent BBC TV documentary, comes amid increased efforts to “decolonize” the curriculum and elevate Black visibility as well as growing concerns about how poorly the Black history curriculum is taught. Golding is hesitant to participate in the discussion however. Black and white is such a limited topic, he added. “You’re giving people who want to use that as a tool against what you’re trying to do an advantage by doing that,”


The educational materials’ conscious use of language is evident in their use of the phrases “of African and African Diaspora Heritage” in place of Black and “of European Heritage” in place of White.


Golding was also anxious to emphasize that the Cargo objective is not about deleting anything from the current curriculum, but rather about adding to it and enhancing the subject matter to make it more accessible to more kids from diverse backgrounds. Because individuals learn via interaction, he said, “We just want to add variety and engaging stories.”


“Some of the stuff presented at school, information that doesn’t reflect them, might leave students feeling uninspired. As a result, there are tales that connect to individuals from various backgrounds.


Revolutionaries including Paul Bogle (1820–1865), the head of the enslaved people’s struggle in Jamaica, Nanny of the Maroons (1686–1733), a spiritual leader and organizer of the Haitian uprising who passed away in 1791, and Dutty Boukman are among the personalities on the Cargo curriculum. Additionally, efforts are being made to provide pertinent elementary school materials.


Black History Month coincides with the BBC documentary’s airing, but only through accident, according to Golding, who has conflicting opinions on BHM. It is a challenging one, as it does increase awareness. However, it’s a great pity that people only pay attention for one month out of the year.


Cargo’s heroes from history

Queen Nzinga


Queen Nzinga was the ruler of the kingdom of Ndongo and Matamba, which is now northern Angola. According to Golding, Queen Nzinga’s life was “the inspiring story of incredible female leadership and diplomacy against the backdrop of the Portuguese encroachment of south west Africa and the growth of the African slave trade.” In the 17th century, Nzinga Mbanda, a member of a royal family, rose to prominence as one of the most prominent African women in the fight against European colonialism.




According to Golding, Imhotep was “someone that many people will only know as the villain from the Hollywood film series The Mummy.” In actuality, he was a polymath who created the first pyramid in addition to being a forerunner in medicine and mathematics. Imhotep was deified and made into a deity of health and medicine after his death. Later, myths about Asklepios, the ancient Greek god of healing, included knowledge of Imhotep’s accomplishments.


Johnson, Lonnie


Lonnie Johnson, an American inventor, aerospace engineer, and businessman, is now 73 years old. He spent 12 years working at Nasa on the stealth bomber program and the Galileo mission to Jupiter before creating one of the best-selling toys in history, the Super Soaker water cannon. The lone black kid in his high school’s science fair, “The Professor,” as his classmates called him, took first place with a robot that was run by compressed air, according to Golding. This remarkable person combined a love of fun and science to create the legendary Super Soaker and go on to work for NASA.


  • We Are England: The Classroom Revolution is due to be shown at 7.30pm on BBC One HD on Friday (14 Oct).



Thanks to  at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story. 

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