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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 8, 2022


Time for Reflection

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

Good afternoon. I remind members about the Covid-related measures that are in place, and that face coverings should be worn when moving around the chamber and the Holyrood campus.

The first item of business this afternoon is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is Hazel Peters, who is a college student from Greenock.

Hazel Peters (College Student, Greenock)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

I owe my nomination to speak to a letter that I wrote to Stuart McMillan MSP about my experiences as a black-mixed-race person navigating Scottish schools. Speaking about that experience seems to be an obvious choice, but sometimes I get tired of saying controversial things. I am emotionally weary from recounting my past traumas. Passion about an issue does not prevent fatigue from that issue.

I get tired of telling people about the likes of Joseph Knight, who was an enslaved black man who lived in Perth and won a court case against his enslaver in 1778, and that, way back in 1488, when King James IV ruled Scotland, there were black Moors from north Africa in his court.

I am deeply committed to improving the school experience for black people and people of colour, and to ensuring that teaching includes parts of history such as I have just mentioned. The opportunity to speak to the Scottish Parliament seems to be too good to pass up, but it is not the job of a 17-year-old to carry the weight of changing the education system on her shoulders. I would rather talk to you about what I expect will be a shared experience for many of you: youth groups. Previously, I thought that youth groups were irrelevant—that they were reserved to church halls, and were about pool tables and tuck shops. Despair about the future of youth groups washed over my head.

That was until I joined Intercultural Youth Scotland. IYS is an Edinburgh-based charity that supports young black people and young people of colour. It was a turning point in my life. I found something that I did not think existed in Scotland. For the first time, I could spend an evening surrounded by black joy: young black people dancing to Afro beats, with long braids swinging and dark skin shining, carefree and happy.

I understand at first hand how youth groups bring young people together, help us to grow in self-belief and provide opportunities for personal development. I never dreamed that a youth group would lead to opportunities including performing at the Edinburgh fringe or running a small music festival. I now know what is at stake when people talk about the important place that youth groups have in our communities.

In closing, I urge the Scottish Parliament to reflect on the value of youth groups and the investment that they make in future young minds.