Show Racism the Red Card hosted their annual educational event at the Beacon of Light this week, as local schoolchildren were treated to a surprise visit from four special guests.
Sunderland AFC legends Gary Bennett MBE and Kevin Ball joinedBailey Wright and Aji Alese in a Q & A session, much to the delight of the students in attendance.
Hundreds of thousands ofpeople have taken part in Show Racism the Red Card workshops and annual schools' competitions since the organisation’s inception in 1996, with Dame Dorothy and Easington CoFE Primary schools becoming the latest set of students to participate in anti-racism workshops.
After both sets of students engaged in various morning workshops, the afternoon session witnessed the young people interact with Bennett, Ball, Wright and Alese as the panel shared their own experiences with racism both on and off the football pitch.
Speaking about the importance of events which focus on combating racism through education and reflecting on the afternoon’s proceedings, Alese said: “Events like this are really important. It’s a shame that we’re still having to have them but it’s important to get the message across, especially to youngsters because they’re the future generation.
“I really enjoyed the session. We got asked some very interesting questions, some questions that we were stumped with and didn’t have answers to, but it shows the way the kids think and the way that their brain processes things, so hopefully we got messages across to them that they can take away and hold onto for the rest of their lives.”
Fellow defender Wright feels progress has been made in combatting racism albeit admits there’s still work to be done: “We’re handing over the baton as we get older to the next generation of young inspiring people. You saw the number of kids here today getting educated around racism and what Show Racism the Red Card has been doing in schools, football and in sport, it’s come a long way.
“There’s still a long way to go in tackling racism but the education around it is important. We are educating and putting the time and effort into the next generation, not just with Show Racism the Red Card but in all walks of life.”
Former SAFC skipper, Ball, added: “After being involved with Show Racism the Red Card for 27 years, whenever these events come up, I like to sit and listen to the young people to hear what they have to say. It’s interesting what questions they ask you and it’s interesting reflecting in your own head, what your own experiences were.”
Ball was also quick to heap praise on the Foundation of Light for its ongoing work within the community. “Places like the Foundation of Light where they can come along and learn is of huge importance to the city of Sunderland and the surrounding areas. What is also important is the people that work within the Foundation are people that want to help the young people of today.”