Redefining stereotypes by showcasing positive Black and Ethnic Minorities contributions, and empowering and inspiring the next generation.

Emmanuel Awoyelu

EDITION TWELVE – 2020

Emmanuel Awoyelu

I am someone who was born to make a difference and make a positive impact in my community…

Who are you?

I am someone who was born to make a difference and make a positive impact in my community.

I am the biggest believer of investing in people and therefore, my mission is to educate, motivate and inspire the youth to be the best versions of themselves.

What is your present role?

I’m a primary school teacher in a specialist school. I teach children with social-emotional and mental health issues.

My role requires me to teach the national curriculum but pay special attention to the social and emotional aspects of learning. I also run a football academy for aspiring footballers.

Tell us about your life journey so far. What has brought you to your current role?

I was raised in East London, Newham for the majority of my childhood by my parents who migrated from Nigeria.

From a very early age, my parents emphasised the importance of education and believed it to be the key to success. The oldest of 3, I failed to live up to their expectations and struggled throughout my school experience.

I was excluded from my first primary school and excluded in my secondary school just before my GCSE’s. I failed to pass my GCSE’s and left with only 4 A-C’s. A year later, my best friend and two school friends died in a car accident and this was the beginning of my depression.

My home environment became very toxic as me and my dad’s relationship grew increasingly fractious. I struggled to be motivated by anything other than making music and writing poetry. It was my outlet. I was clearly not an academic child but enjoyed my educational experience of University, where I tasted success for the first time.

I left university without a clue about what I wanted to do with my life but I always knew, whatever it was, it was to make a difference.

After a number of years working as a Learning Support Assistant in a school, I was advised by my boss to consider my teachers’ training.

When I qualified as a teacher, I thought deeply about what kind of teacher I wanted to be and where I would like to teach. I knew the young people who have been given little chance to succeed were the ones I needed to teach so I specifically looked for schools for children with special needs & behavioural difficulties.

In that time, I’ve built up a football academy with my childhood friend, started a blog-page & completed my masters.

In your field of work, what has been your observation and/or experience of white privilege, discrimination and prejudices?

In my field I’ve noticed there are a very few men and even fewer men that are ethnic minorities. In all of my work environments, I have been the only black male teacher.

I haven’t experienced a crazy amount of discrimination in my field of work but I have observed a lot of ignorance. People are often surprised when I tell them I’m a teacher. They are even more surprised when I tell them I’m not a PE teacher.

I realise I am dismantling stereotypes of black-men by just being me and doing what I do best. I love it.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were younger?

I wish I knew what it looked like to be a successful black man. I didn’t see it growing up. I aspired to be like my favourite rappers and my favourite footballers but they were all on TV and so far from my reality.

I wish I knew black history.

What song, quote, statement or image do you find most encouraging?

There is a famous image of a tattoo across the chest of the late rapper ‘Tupac’ that has always resonated with me. The tattoo on his chest “THUG LIFE”, stands for:

“The Hate U Gave Little Infants F’d Everyone”

It resonated with me because he was stereotyped, as a trouble-making gangster but his image and what he stood for was almost an oxymoron through the eyes of ignorance and I feel like I’m fighting that same battle sometimes.

His message was a truth that we still struggle within society today. The hate we give little children will ruin the world.

How are you redefining a stereotype?

Being a black male teacher!

I’m also breaking the mould that young men that have grown up in my neighbourhood, only have one way of succeeding in life, which is through crime.

I hope I can inspire and motivate the youth that our backgrounds do not determine how far you can go and your failures do not mean the end of your journey.

What advice or top tip would you give to the next generation of BAME individuals?

  1. It’s ok to fail. It’s what builds character.  Look at the examples of BAME people who are striving for excellence in their own unique way. They have all had to come against some sort of hardship, discrimination, trauma, pain etc.
  2. Surround yourself with people who uplift you and support you. No man is an island.
  3. Dream big. You can afford to see your dreams crumble and dream again.
Emmanuel Awoyelu