A powerful video clip performed by a hip-hop artist, who also works at a south-western Sydney public school, has been launched by the Australian Human Rights Commission to send a strong anti-racism message to young people.
Shannon Williams aka hip-hop star, Brothablack, is an Aboriginal education officer at James Meehan High School. He wrote and performed the song for the video clip, What you say matters. The clip was produced as part of a suite of resources the commission developed to empower young people to say no to racism.
The video, filmed at the school, features students acting out racist and anti-racist vignettes performed to Williams/Brothablack’s lyrics and rap-beat music.
National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, said the resources found on the What you say matters website were produced to educate young people about racism and to empower them to respond when they experienced or witnessed it.
“We hope the What you say matters clip and resources will be seen as a positive initiative aimed at preventing racism from happening in the first place and ensuring that, when it does, young people are better able to respond in a way that is safe for them and those around them,” Ms Mitchell said.
She said more than 2,000 young people aged between 13 and 17 were surveyed about their experiences with racism and asked what they wanted to know about it. The data was used to build the resource.
It was found almost nine out of 10 young people surveyed had experienced racism. Almost half had experienced it at school, and one-third on the internet.
Ms Mitchell said Shannon Williams partly wrote the lyrics in response to these findings and also drew on his own experiences of growing up in Sydney as an Aboriginal man.
The artist then workshopped the video vignettes with the James Meehan High School students. The scenes acted out were based on real life experiences and issues that were important to students.
Mr Williams said the clip was “confronting” but the young people featured in the scene where Aboriginal students were picked on because they didn’t look Aboriginal were “some of the bravest people I’ve met in the country.
“To talk about one of the hottest topics in the Aboriginal community in the country, which is falsifying the proof of your Aboriginality, all the students in that scene were Aboriginal so it was a really gutsy effort.”
He said he believed the resource would be invaluable for educators to use as a tool to strike up conversations with their students about racism, particularly during the transition to high school.
“This is something that is applicable to everybody, racism happens everywhere. I know a lot of educators … have struggles in finding ways to talk about racism. With tools like this it will ignite the conversation quite easily.”
James Meehan High’s deputy principal Peter Flew said the production raised anti-racism awareness among the students.
“Besides the video clip having an impact on the school, the students featured are real people who are going to carry the message on in the school. All the other students are going to see them as role models and that racist comments are not ok.”