Vital Link Educational Limited was set up in 1993 by five people: Gilroy Brown, Head Teacher of Foundry Primary School, Eileen Daley, Manager of a Community Enterprise, John Cockcroft, teacher and librarian at the Martineau Teachers’ Centre in Birmingham, Sitinder Bahia, a teacher and myself who had run the Multicultural Resource Unit for nearly 15 years. Three of us had been involved in All Faiths For One Race (AFFOR) which had been based on the Lozells Road for many years, and was known for its hard-hitting publications, including “Talking Blues” and “Talking Chalk”. These were about black peoples’ experience with the police and education services respectively. AFFOR had been set up in 1971 to protest against a South African cricket tour. Clare Short was one its early directors.
Sitinder subsequently went to Australia, and Fiaz Hussain, a teacher for some years at Foundry Prinary School, joined as a Director.
In the first few years Vital Link organised courses for teachers at a teachers’ centre. Teaching packs were developed to support teachers in the classroom to continue to address equality issues, particularly at a time when the National Curriculum was perceived to be a reaction to themulticultural and anti-racist initiatives which had been introduced over the past two decades.
The first pack “Victorian Britain – invisible Victorians” included brief introductions to people who had struggled for justice and equality in the Victorian period. Victorian Britain was, and is now, a National Curriculum topic. The use of these materials was intended to ensure that subject matter was included which was relevant to different groups of children. Above all it should encourage teachers, and others, to appreciate the experiences and achievements of many people excluded from history texts. While Mary Seacole is relatively familiar now, Dadbhai Naoroji is still unfamiliar, often among people of Indian origin. A fine book by Zerbanoo Gifford on the subject (Mantra) went out of print very quickly because mobody recognised him. The Vital Link presentation makes the link with more familiar people: Gandhi and Jinnah, who both helped Naoroji be elected as M.P. for Finsbury in NorthLondon. Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells abd W.E.B. Du Bois were all Americans, and while there is a considerable amount of information about them in that context, their time in Britain and Europe is not familiar generally. The First Pan African Conference, held in London in 1901, included Du Bois when a letter was written to Queen Victoria concerning the Berlin Conference which divide African land among European nations, without reference to any African, or person of African origin. Women in Britain led movements which fought against inequality and injustice, people like Elizabeth Pease and Annie Besant are among those presented in one of the packs.