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Virtual event to showcase how diverse communities have shaped Preston and South Ribble

Posted on - 16th March, 2021 - 3:13pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston Council, Preston News, What's On in Preston
Sitakumari, co-founder and director of Heartstone

To mark the UN International day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, schools in Preston and South Ribble will participate in a virtual event, alongside individuals who have won global recognition for their role in tackling racism.

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The event will include stories from Lancashire’s past and the role of diverse communities in shaping the history of the area.

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The online event, which takes place on Friday, 19 March, will be opened by Lord Charles Shuttleworth, Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire and hosted by the co-founder of the Heartstone organisation, Sitakumari.

Heartstone is a non-profit organisation which aims to use its own access to stories – literature, photodocumentary and history – to challenge prejudice and intolerance and help to build understanding and empathy across different cultures and backgrounds.

The work of Heartstone includes events like this to help their audience see and hear stories from different perspectives, to see past prejudice and stereotypes.

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This event is being undertaken in partnership with Preston and West Lancashire Racial Equality and Diversity Council (PWLREDC), as their STAR event for 2021, and Rosa Parks Museum Alabama.

Sitakumari, co-founder and director of Heartstone, said: “I am delighted to be able to invite local schoolchildren on behalf of Heartstone and our partners to this event so that they can have the opportunity to hear the powerful experiences of unique guest speakers, telling stories from the past and present, and the hopes for the future as expressed by the children of Lancashire.

“I hope that through this event, we can bring people from different backgrounds together through the sharing of stories which people may not have heard before as a way to become more aware of racial discrimination.”

During the event, people will have the opportunity to hear from Dr Valda Montgomery whose family were neighbours of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and knew him personally.

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Her family were heavily involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dr Montgomery’s father was a Tuskegee Airman, the unit who fought intense racial prejudice to win their right to fly and subsequently excelled as combat pilots in the second world war.

She brings a unique combination of experiences which have shaped her life and she will share some of these at this event.

The event will also feature James Arnold a historian at The Harris Museum who will present objects from the museum with a connection to some of the principal characters of the book ‘The Heartstone Odyssey.’

Sitakumari, as principal dancer/storyteller for Heartstone, will bring to life sections of the book and its characters as the linking thread for the event.

The event will have three sections:

  • Stories from the past. Delivered by speakers, James Arnold and Dr Valda Harris Montgomery
  •  Stories from the present. Delivered by Sitakumari
  •  Stories for the future. Delivered through artwork from children in Preston and Burnley

The event will also be the start of the journey towards the first ‘Heartstone Odyssey Book Festival’ to take shape at the end of the year and big/small screen development, which will involve local, national and international figures and include concept art produced by UCLan’s lead digital animator, Mario Kkounnous and his prizewinning student, Jamie Walsh.

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Councillor Nweeda Khan, Cabinet Member for Communities and Social Justice at Preston City Council, said:

“To be able to have our schools in Lancashire involved in this event is fantastic. It’s a great way to increase the education and awareness of racism and discrimination in a way we might not have ever had before.

“The Heartstone organisation have welcomed our schools to listen in on stories told from different perspectives, especially history.

“Learning through storytelling is in itself hugely important and to be able to deliver this in schools, will be vital towards tackling society’s issues and help our understanding.

“The pandemic has meant that we have had to shift the event online, but nonetheless, I am looking forward to attending and hope that it will provide those invited, with a new understanding of racial discrimination from our pasts, the present and our futures.”

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