Bright, Black and Looking for Work

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In 2006, Radio 4 followed a group of boys on a radical educational scheme designed to revolutionise the prospects of young black men. The scheme, called Generating Genius, was designed to help young black males avoid gang culture, drugs and low expectations, and overcome a lack of role models.

Generating Genius was the brainchild of academic Tony Sewell: "My philosophy is brighter, younger, longer. This means targeting the top pupils rather than those who are struggling, catching them before the age when achievement often falls off, and sticking with them."

But did it work?

Dotun Adebayo revisits some of the boys, reflecting on their stories and what they tell us about the education and employment of young black men. Back in 2006, Marcus Nelson, Simeon Balson Jones, Jamal Miller and Ashleigh Kelly were all selected to be part of the scheme and Dotun allows them to listen to their younger selves, asking them to consider the paths they have taken over the last seven years.

Jamal, applying for a career in banking, doesn't think racial prejudice will cause him problems, as long as he markets himself correctly. Ashleigh criticizes the school system, recalling clever classmates who fell by the wayside. Simeon questions why Generating Genius now takes girls, although their results have never been as low as boys. And Marcus tells Dotun how important it is to do outreach work to convince "people like me" that the university could be for them.

Tony Sewell's views have also changed: "I used to think there was a real problem about teachers not understanding black males. But culture is crucial - and the key issue now is about class and social mobility."


Producer: Kate Taylor
A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.
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