forces for change

The Black Curriculum, Backed By Virgil Abloh, Teaches True Black British History

Image may contain Hair Clothing Apparel Human Person Little Simz and TShirt
Scott Trindle

There was a period in 2020 when The Black Curriculum’s Instagram following went from 1,500 to 140,000 in two weeks. George Floyd had just died at the hands of a police officer and the Black Lives Matter movement was gathering pace. Interest in Lavinya Stennett’s small-scale outfit kitting out British schools with materials to teach children Black British history suddenly skyrocketed. Virgil Abloh got in touch and quickly became patron.

“He just got it,” Stennett tells Vogue. “He asked what I needed and then was off. We aligned so well on the vision and the power of community.” Before his untimely death in November, Abloh and Edward Enninful – British Vogue’s editor-in-chief and European editorial director – began conversations about creating a collection to benefit Black Curriculum. The hoodies and T-shirt, emblazoned with the words “I Support Black Education”, now come to light with the Abloh family’s blessing, with the aim of helping to propel Stennett towards her goal of employing 70 people by 2025, in order to expand her work reaching local regions.

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

In the early days, Stennett, whose own curiosity around Black history was ignited when her African studies degree left her with lingering unanswered questions, cold called schools asking if they would like the materials she had worked on with her fellow scholars. “I was fresh out of uni, why should they trust me?” she says now of the giant leap of faith some schools agreed to make. A South London pilot scheme got off to a great start, as “the students loved it and the teachers understood the importance of it”, she explains.

The Curriculum soon pivoted from being a straight-up syllabus to encompassing training around how to teach Black history, and the language to use in the process. “I believe that a standard approach to history doesn’t really encapsulate how people experience their lives and society,” asserts Stennett. The aim is not for pupils to score a A grades in their homework, but for them to be able to build their own connections, and to give them a sense of identity and belonging, which in turn means they can advocate for themselves.

A disappointingly lacklustre response from the government has not dampened Stennett’s spirit. “On the one hand, they are saying keep doing what you’re doing,” she reveals. “But on the other hand, they are making it difficult for us to keep doing what we’re doing in schools. It’s all very conflicting and confusing.” A conversation with Abloh about circumnavigating the government reinforced her belief that the power to create change lies within communities.

Instagram content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

“I’ll keep doing it for as long as I can,” she promises of sharing her knowledge. “My team and I have committed ourselves to keep going in the face of success and the hard parts.” This sounds remarkably like the attitude of the Curriculum’s first patron, who will be remembered for his own dedication to opening doors, and fighting to give others a seat at the table.

Shop the Off-White™ X Vogue Curriculum collection, priced from £100 to £150, now at All net profits go to The Black Curriculum.