KM Online Article published 1st October 2022
A community-led charity is running a bus tour highlighting the diverse history in Medway.
Medway Culture Club kicks off Black History Month today with the excursion aimed at children and parents.
The tour will journey through famous landmarks in the area. It includes a visit to Palm Cottage, Gillingham, where there is a plaque commemorating Sara Forbes Bonetta. Born in West Africa, she was captured as a child and ultimately became the god-daughter of Queen Victoria.
It will also visit Chatham Historic Dockyard, with a focus on William Cuffay and Olaudah Equiano.
Mr Equiano was a 16th century writer and abolitionist who was taken into slavery as a child and ultimately bought his freedom.
Mr Cuffay, born in Chatham in 1788, was a leading figure in the Chartist movement, a working class initiative which emerged in 1836 in London.
Another stop will be made at Ordnance Terrace where a plaque marks Charles Dickens' childhood home. Born in 1812, Dickens has been regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.
The bus will also visit Chatham Railway Station where a plaque honours Asquith Xavier. The West Indian-born Briton ended a colour ban at British Railways in London, by fighting to become the first non-white train guard at Euston railway station in 1966.
The final stop is at the Nasir Mosque in Gillingham, with a guided tour of the place of worship, followed by a Q&A session .
Founding member of Medway Culture Club Camealia Xavier-Chihota believes these landmarks are "extremely important" with regards to education. The 37-year-old said: "These landmarks celebrate some of the diverse people who have added to our society."
"I think it's extremely important to have events like this in Medway, so that children from all cultures get to experience some of those untold histories that aren't included in the national curriculum."
Medway Culture Club was formed just a few years ago. Camealia said: "We're usually a centre-based organisation which provides supplementary lessons [for children] within the Woodlands Youth Centre. "We were founded in 2020, as a collective of educators and industry professionals trying to counteract social isolation and build race relations within Medway. "In August 2021 we launched Medway Culture Club with our first carnival, which invited the whole community together to one place."
"And we did the same event this August, which was a phenomenal success. We would love to make sure that we have more community-based events, where we don't leave the adults out." This is another reason why the tour bus is so pivotal for us, because I think some of our parents were feeling left out when they dropped off the children for our monthly sessions. "They leave them with us for two hours and, at the end of each session, the children receive a hot meal, from a different local business, which has helped to put together something cultural and new for the children to try together. The club celebrated in August with a carnival" We would like to implement that on a bigger broader scale. "This service is something we're able to offer once a month currently, because we rely on the spare time and goodwill of people in the community who want to make a genuine difference."
At the moment we are recruiting volunteers. We're looking for people with a skill-set in areas of finance and web development services.
"As I say we're all volunteers and we just want to give back to the community, so in doing this we will be able to offer this on a broader spectrum, because we will have more hands on deck."
As part of a community charity, it's hugely rewarding to host these events on a monthly basis, because we get to see the children really enjoying themselves, and the interactions among different peer groups. The club hosts activities for five to16-year-olds
Tickets for the bus tour are available through the charity's website here.
She continued: "We've had feedback from parents who have said there's a lack of diversity within the schools their children attend."
And so Medway Culture Club filling that gap is something they really value.
"We have had some wonderful reviews from the children lately themselves, as we were nominated for a national diversity award."
As part of that they requested that some of the children put in their own words how they felt about the service. The club officially launched in 2021 "We're fortunate enough to have that feedback first-hand, and words like 'included', and 'be myself', being able to support the aspirations of children is massively rewarding and it helps us feel like we're making an impact within our community. "One of the highlights of 2022 so far was being shortlisted in the final eight to receive a national diversity award in the category of race, faith and religion." We attended the award ceremony and although we didn't win, it was a massive high for us to be surrounded by such inspirational role models. "I think that was definitely a highlight for us."