Jason Forrest
Jason Forrest (Courtesy photo)

Learning should be an engaging yet inclusive experience. Hook states “To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin” (Hook 1994) I agree with this extract and feel the obligation to identify the names and ethnicities of my students in order to understand their learning style, along with their career aspirations. Why? This gave me the opportunity to advise on the qualities required to sustain their personal career goals, or sign-post to our internal learning support department if required. Throughout my in-class discussions and presentations, I provide a variety of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) unconventional historical and contemporary artistic influencers, applicable to the contextual and contemporary aspects of fashion retail. (Fig 1) This provides my students with the opportunity to self-identify and develop research to support their unit content or final major project.

Figure 1:
Historical influencers
James Baldwin https://youtu.be/NvJiyBE_wo0?t=8s
Jean Michel Basquiat https://youtu.be/PUsy5RObL2U
Antonio Lopez https://youtu.be/bHSuOCynwDw
Ray Petri https://youtu.be/beuoh6j0hbq
Frida Kahlo https://youtu.be/aLXMZNAYJaU

Contemporary influencers
Campbell Addy https://youtu.be/asUG7hXE_GE
Kehinde Wiley https://youtu.be/TsQoO-34nIk
Edward Enninful https://youtu.be/qZIJzHvNBN8
Ibrahim Kamara https://youtu.be/wujabGE8aDQ
Amanda Denise Graham https://youtu.be/gNZ2C1NZu0I

As a student, I have received limited references associated with diversity through the curriculum or reading list offered at previous institutions. I have had to investigate external educators such as Bell Hooks, Jane Elliott, Nate Bowling and Robin walker to empower my own narrative within a predominately white educational patriarchal scheme, these individuals have assisted my current teaching practice on the importance of diversity through selected imagery and case studies relevant to the retail sector. I have recently read a blog on diversity in the classroom, Bowling (2018) states “Academia and public schools are spaces where people of colour often feel underrepresented, unwelcome and unheard”. I agree with this quote and feel it is my responsibility to ensure diversification is present within my classroom and throughout my content delivery and reading list, to foster collaborative teamwork. And support my black students. 55% of my new cohort are from ethnic minority backgrounds, which is a deciding factor when I arrange guest talks and industry projects to support their learning and future career aspirations.

Nickson mentioned in a research paper Brown and Hesketh 2004, P.35, (cited in Nickson 2018 P4)‘“who you are” matters as much as “what you know “Certainly, soft skills, such as friendliness and team working ability, and traits such as emotional intelligence have been highlighted as the skills that are of greatest importance in the current labour market. This quote resonates with the collaborative qualities required for teamwork projects, and the emotional intelligence students will need to apply to their future diverse working environments. However, I cannot stop to think, of the deeper level of nurturing required to support my black students. As an employee at the Fashion Retail Academy, our objective is to prepare our students for employment or university. Using my industry experience as an educational learning tool, I advise and coach my students on the vocational opportunities we offer through practical based projects to support their employability in the areas of Buying and Merchandising, Digital Marketing, Fashion Marketing, Retail Operations; and Visual Merchandising.

With the uncertainty of the economy looming, I continually explain to my students, the importance of showing excellence through their digital and written work, to their white counterparts. I focus on emerging trends such as sustainability and technology and teach these methods through an Afrocentric lens. Using museums as an initial inclusive teaching resource, to support their unit projects.

These industry projects give my students the opportunity to work towards a three-week live brief, which they present back to senior management. Last year my students worked with both ASBO magazine and Converse to create a retail store of the future. The students had to incorporate elements of sustainability and technology that would attract the generation z consumer, along with devising an on and offline marketing strategy, which paid homage to the historical and contemporary influencers relevant to the brands DNA.

Jason Forrest is a Fashion Retail and Sustainability Lecturer at Fashion Retail Academy in London.

Hooks, B (1994), Teaching to Transgress, Published in Great Britain, Routledge
Nickson, d. (2018) Soft skills and employability: Evidence from UK retail – Dennis Nickson, Chris Warhurst, Johanna Commander, Scott A Hurrell, Anne Marie Cullen, 2012,
Bowling, N. (2018) Students of Color Need to See More People of Color. That Shouldn’t Be Controversial., Education Post. Available at: http://educationpost.org/students-of-color-need-to-see-more-people-of-color-that-shouldnt-be-controversial/ (Accessed: 13 July 2018).

James Baldwin (2018). Available at: https://youtu.be/NvJiyBE_wo0?t=8s (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Jean Michel Basquiat (2018). Available at: https://youtu.be/PUsy5RObL2U (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Dog woof (2018) Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco – Trailer. Available at: https://youtu.be/bHSuOCynwDw (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Dazed (2018) Spirit of Buffalo. Available at: https://youtu.be/beuoh6j0hbq (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Brooks, m. (2018) B&W home movie clips of Frida Kahlo. Available at: https://youtu.be/aLXMZNAYJaU (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
http://www.boomforrealfilm.com/ (2018) Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat – Trailer. Available at: https://youtu.be/PUsy5RObL2U (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Huawei Mobile UK (2018) Reveal the Real You’ ft. Campbell Addy. Available at: https://youtu.be/asUG7hXE_GE (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
CNN (2018) Meet hip hop’s favourite artist. Available at: https://youtu.be/TsQoO-34nIk (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Made to Measure (M2M) (2018) Get to Know British Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief Edward Enninful | M2M. Available at: https://youtu.be/qZIJzHvNBN8 (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Merlin] AWAL Digital Limited, [Merlin] Because Music, UMG (2018) Little Dragon – Strobe Light (Official Video). Available at: https://youtu.be/wujabGE8aDQ (Accessed: 1 August 2018).
Amanda Denise Graham (2018) Amanda Denise Graham. Available at: https://youtu.be/gNZ2C1NZu0I (Accessed: 1 August 2018).

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This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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