New billboard to encourage conversations about what life might be like without racism

Media Relations Team, 26 April 2024

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A billboard in St Werbughs in Bristol shows children's illustrations and the words if racism vanished for day I'd wear my hair like this
The billboard features a direct quote from one of the children who took part in the RESPECT Bristol research.

A new artwork has been unveiled in St Werburghs, Bristol, to highlight the lived racialised experiences of children, which often go unheard.

The community billboard displays an illustration from the book ‘If Racism Vanished for a Day’, which features drawings and thoughts from Bristol children on the impact of racism on their wellbeing.

The book was developed following research with 10 and 11-years olds from three inner city primary schools, and shares their perspectives by considering what life would be like if racism vanished for a day.

The children said: “…racism is not okay, and we want people to understand the way it affects us. Our book is about what it would be like if racism vanished for a day, and we hope that reading it will help people think about how they can change what they do. Racism is a really big deal. It shouldn’t have existed in the first place.”

The UWE Bristol research project, named RESPECT, was a UK first: the children were the youngest group in the country to take part in research on this topic.

The research focused on how experiences of witnessing or being the target of prejudice and discrimination might be distressing and how these experiences and exposure to institutional racism might impact a child’s longer-term view of themselves and the world around them. The research team were keen to understand how racism might have shaped children’s identities and beliefs about their self-worth, as well as how negative social interactions might shape how they interpret future interactions and what they come to expect of people.

The new billboard aims to raise awareness and to start conversations on this important topic. It features an illustration from the book with the accompanying direct quote from one of the children who took part in the research: ‘If racism vanished for day, I’d feel totally comfortable wearing my hair like this…’

The RESPECT project resources offer guidance to teachers and parents on how to discuss racism and its impact on young people; a visit to the billboard in St Werburghs can provide an opportunity to start a conversation with children about their own experiences.

Lead researcher Dr Verity Jones, Associate Professor at UWE Bristol, said: “This billboard is in response to the children demanding that anti racist education not be condemned to tokenistic celebrations of what it is to be Black during Black History month but to have opportunities to discuss these important issues through the year.”

The children who took part in the RESPECT project worked with socially engaged artist Luci Gorell Barnes, who provided bespoke arts-based workshops to support the research. She said: “It was a privilege to work with the children who generously shared their experiences and perspectives with us.”

The illustration on Burg Arts billboard was installed by Adblock Bristol campaigners.

The ‘If Racism Vanished for a Day’ book is available in print or as an e-book and is available here.

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