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Black History Month inspires Bishop's Stortford High School students

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A student at the Bishop's Stortford High School beat almost 200 other pupils to win a poetry competition for Black History Month.

Emilia Anniss, who is 16 and from Dunmow, took up the challenge to write about a black historical figure or the theme of identity.

The Year 12 student reflected on England and identity and said: "I chose this subject as I think that being English is about more than where you're born or where your parents were born or the colour of your skin; instead it's more about an attitude and how you identify."

Emilia Anniss (53606627)
Emilia Anniss (53606627)

Her words resonated with staff at the London Road secondary who organised the competition which also marked National Poetry Day.

Subject leader for English, Harmeet Matharu, said: "The competition was run not only by the English and history departments but also the religious studies and citizenship department, whom I would like to publicly thank for their accompanying programme of assemblies and citizenship lessons that promoted the competition so well.

"The students at TBSHS are amazing and have impressed their English teachers a great deal. Not only are they brilliant poets, but they also have an awareness of all the issues that Black History Month aims to highlight and they all have a deep desire to promote equality and change things for the better. We couldn't be more proud of them.

"Emilia's poem stood out for us because it shows us very clearly the essence of what it means to be English, and how our national identity should always be a positive thing, rather than an instrument for hate."

Subject leader for history Elizabeth Quinlan added: "We received close to 200 entries from across all year groups, including a great many from the sixth form, and it was very difficult to pick a winner – but we felt the visceral power and complex themes of Emilia's work made it a very worthy choice."

Emilia's poem:

being english

what is england? this green and pleasant land?

is it a physical place:

the rolling valleys of the home counties striped with weary commuter trains

the peaks of the north, purple with heather

or the coast that outlines our tiny island:

stormy grey seas carrying dinghies of those looking for a better, more english, life

smashing against the cliffs

is it deeper than a place:

a feeling like adrenaline

running through veins into the beating heart of London

where cultures clash

reggae music and afro beats of windrush children

overheard by women swaddled in nigerian wrappers

made up of hot slices of colour

like a stained glass window

seas of faces of every colour imaginable clustered together in a football stadium

cheering on players in their striped kits who take the knee AND sing the national anthem because neither is mutually exclusive

the chants are sometimes kind

(but sometimes not)

or a sense, like smell

street food stalls in camden market

vendors yelling

shwarma bar kosher lebanese wraps buy 2 for 3 jerk chicken curry and chips

smells fusing in the air and painting colours in the sky

bright ochre yellow of curry powder

blazing vermillion of paprika

who are the english:

not the red faced EDL members draped in their blood red crosses

but the people who have come together

in beating hearts like London

from all over the world

from everywhere

from england

being english to me is more than a feeling

being english to me is identity

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