Thursday 02 December 2021
The Smile Project is a project aimed at young black boys who usually don’t have a voice or a chance to express themselves. It encourages them to smile, to face society positively, but also to consider how they feel about themselves in the context of the real world. The Smile Project seeks to counteract the negative impacts of young men being stopped by the police, being stared at by people on the streets, er xperiencing racism. On Thursday we celebrated the participants' graduation from the programme, with talks from the Artist Kay Rufai, teacher Mr A and some of our participating students. We include interviews below:
What did you do during the SMILE Project sessions?
Cieran - We spoke and understood each other, related on our own issues/own experience on how we were targeted by racism.
Malachi - We played games, had discussions about we’ve been through.
Khamani - We had eight sessions and talked about our life experiences.
Mr. A - There were a series of projects, games to break the ice, personal relationships, gender inequalities, society young black boys the challenges they face, personal experiences, can help young adults transition.
What did you find the most challenging?
Cieran - It was challenging to express my emotions, to start speaking about how I really felt, to admit what I was truly feeling.
Malachi - Having to speak in front of everyone, it felt like people were respectful even though it was challenging, would do again.
Mr A - The fact that the boys don’t usually smile so it was hard to get them into it. It taught them that smiling is normal.
What did you enjoy the most?
Cieran - “I am learning to express myself, beginning to have a better understanding. I can be free to express myself. I realised that I don’t have to fit in the stereotypical masculine labels.”
Malachi - Hearing what everyone was speaking about, sharing experiences
Khamani - I mostly enjoyed the group activities and going to Nando's on the last session.
Mr A - Seeing strong friendships build, the students becoming more mature. It was fun observing from the outside.
What do you think is the biggest change you’ve noticed since taking part in the program?
Cieran - I’ve been able to see myself better, I have more self-worth, I've been acknowledging my emotions more, I’m more aware of myself.
Malachi - I don’t care about other people’s opinions as much as I used to.
Khamani - I’ve started to smile at strangers, starting to see young black boys same as everyone else.
Mr A - They have developed confidence, a personal relationship between themselves, they speak to adults more, eye contact
What are your plans for the future?
Cieran - I plan to get into film production.
Malachi - I plan to be a footballer
Khamani - To have a high status and live a good life.
Mr A - Working with a new year 10 group, slightly different, similar style of ideas, long term, combined lots of things, one package, instead of multiple projects.
Interview with Artist and SMILE Project lead Kay Rufai
What is your background?
Kay Rufai is Black African born in London, and grew up in California with a mission to do a lot of work to help people
Why are you doing the programme?
To challenge the way in which society sees black people, positive mental well-being
What are the students doing specifically and what skills/feelings does this nurture?
The programme is eight weeks and covers photography, film, discussion, debates, loads of activities. It fosters a feeling of community, nurture, of being heard and seen and developing self-confidence.
What is your desired outcome from the programme?
These boys need to feel heard and seen, they need to feel like they belong in the minds of people in a positive way
One of the participants Nana says ‘It’s OK to smile. What I would say to other boys like me is to smile at people when you’re walking outside instead of screwing them. It is mind over matter to make yourself smile, but it shouldn’t be embarrassing, you have the power to create positive interactions.’
Nana’s mum says “I think it's amazing. I see the boys all the time and they are usually always serious, but seeing the pictures is so amazing. A smile can change a lot, especially if someone is having a bad day.”
By Karina & Elena in Y12 Marketing & Comms Team