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22 October 2003 1319 BST
Students write for equality
Picture: Inemesit Essien and Nikki Sambandari.
Inemesit Essien and Nikki Sambandari are two of the contributors to Equal But Different.

A group of sixth-formers from Norwich has made a booklet which explains what it's like to be a black or ethnic minority teenager in Norfolk.

They hope it will lead to a better understanding of people's feelings, writes Anita Miah.

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The students from the City of Norwich School have produced a collection of writings in a booklet called Equal But Different: Young People's Voices.

The work brings together poetry, prose and accounts that have been gathered from interviews and questionnaires with 60 high school students in Norfolk.

Racism a problem

Nearly all of those who were interviewed had suffered racism. This ranged from name-calling to a serious assault, resulting in a court case and a prosecution.

Picture: Anna Sallnow.
The booklet was the brainchild of Anna Sallnow.

The idea to seek out these stories came from PhD student Anna Sallnow.

She was working as a multi-cultural advisor in London before moving to Norfolk and starting her research.

"I was coming up from London one day when I heard a talk on the radio about a young black footballer who had been living in Thetford as the only black teenager in a mainly white place," said Anna.

"I'd never really considered what that was like before.

"My research was going to be very second-hand unless I got young people involved and I felt very much that their voices needed to be heard," she added.

Students' research

Anna's next step was to set up a research group. Fifteen youngsters were brought together to work in an editorial team.

Their backgrounds can be traced to Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, Malawi, African America, Cyprus, Fiji, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Hong Kong.

For many of those involved it was the first time that they had talked about their experiences.

Raising awareness

There was a common belief that it was important to raise awareness of how certain behaviour can affect others.

Picture: Shamma Yousafzai.
Shamma Yousafzai hopes her work will help make people less judgmental.

17-year-old Shamma was one of the students on the editorial team.

"I think that people think there is no racism in Norfolk, which is why there is more likely to be more," she said.

"The people who are left are going to get so much more abuse than if there was a larger population of black and Asian people.

"Hopefully this will start opening people's minds," she added.

Rural racism

The finished product touches a range of issues surrounding rural racism.

It asks questions on what is it like to experience prejudice and discrimination when you live in more isolated parts of our county.

It also discusses why people don't tell their parents about any problems they have with racism.

The stories in the booklet confront these difficulties in a moving and often disturbing way.

Culturally diverse

The booklet points to a different and emerging picture of modern Norfolk as a county that is more culturally diverse than you'd think.

For example, the number of young people coming from dual heritage backgrounds is growing and already stands at twice the national average.

The students hope their work will offer individuals a means of support, as well as educate others about the experiences of young people living in the county.

Seventeen-year-old Vickie was another member of the editorial team.

"I just hope that it will make people think a bit more about what they say and try to be more understanding to other people and other cultures. Not to treat them differently," she said.

Read extracts from Equal But Different »



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