*My speech to the Year 11 Leavers of Childwall Academy, Liverpool dated 25 June 2014. **A separate blog follows about my experiences of the actual day, having returned to my former High School after 20-years.
Lord Mayor, School Governors, Principal Kerfoot; Staff and Year 11 Students.
Firstly, thank you for inviting me to your Record of Achievement Ceremony 2014 here in the beautiful city of Liverpool and my hometown. Today, completes your fifth year of compulsory secondary education.
Exactly twenty years ago to this month, I was sat just there listening to others give this talk. One of the people present on that day was the newly elected Head Teacher Mr Philips, whom is here with us today. I learned from Principal Kerfoot that my ceremony was Mr Philips first and I know this is Mr Kerfoot’s first, so many coincidences.
Anyway, why have I been asked to come along today and give the Record of Achievement Ceremony Speech to you the Year 11 Leavers?
In 1994, I wrote in my own Record of Achievement portfolio that I wanted to be a Policeman after leaving Childwall. As a boy born in Toxteth near the City Centre and later moving to Wavertree just before starting Childwall, all I dreamed of was being a Police Officer. I had spent thirteen years with the St John Ambulance at Edgehill and several years with the Air Cadets within the 1966 Wavertree Squadron, in preparation for my public service as an adult.
Upon my first attempt, I successfully got in to the Greater Manchester Police and later became a Detective within the Criminal Investigation Department and dealt with the most serious of crimes committed in our society. I later moved to London and joined the Metropolitan Police as a Detective within Counter Terrorism at Scotland Yard, doing my bit to protect our country from the biggest threats in today’s world.
My time at Liverpool College and Salford University after Childwall and before the police where I studied media and film, had equipped me well for later life. And ultimately, led to my studying a Master of Arts in Writing for the Screen and Stage. Of note, the reason I didn’t join my home Force of Merseyside Police was because I didn’t want to be bumping into my mates and/or arresting their parents for being drunk and disorderly on a Saturday night.
My time in the London Police was not the best, and I became unwell at work.
As well as being mixed-race; my mum being white and my dad black, I’m gay too. I know what you’re thinking, a black gay Scouser? A human disaster!
I had allowed racism, homophobia and bullying in the police to not only affect me, but my home life and those around me too. So, I decided to challenge this discriminatory behaviour which in any form like sexism and offences against disabled people should not and are not acceptable in Modern Britain.
Sometimes, you have to stand tall and stick to your principles however difficult things may get. In short, I’ve been challenging discrimination in all its disguises for some five years now through the British Courts and the UK Parliament and I guess it’s made me who I am today.
I decided to quit the police after eleven years service and pursue my other love which as Mr Philips will be able to vouch for, is “the arts”. Any chance I had of taking part in a class assembly here at Childwall I was there, with a variety show or two after school also. Before joining the Police Service whilst studying at university in Manchester, I also took part in television programmes particularly for the BBC and Channel 4 – but, not Hollyoaks I’m glad to say.
So now, I spend my time in London writing and working on film projects whilst standing up for those who can’t always do it themselves as an equality advocate. This involves me being an Ambassador for a cancer charity, raising awareness that racism ruins lives, writing books, writing articles for newspapers and magazines, running a blog and working on my film projects. I’m invited to our Parliament too, to speak about inequality issues and appear on television doing the same – so, a lot going on. I’ve noticed also that as my public profile is rising, so is my waist. But, I do love the odd burger or two.
Strangely, I nearly never ended up here at Childwall School or the Sports and Science Academy as you like to now call it as I was meant to go to King David High School where many of my nieces and nephews have gone and still go. But clearly, I’m happy I did come here. I was never an academic, but was a good pupil. I was always respectful to my teachers and indeed my peers, and remain friends with many of them to date. I fondly remember my last two years at Childwall I was a School Prefect, with the odd detention for ‘laughing out loud’ keeping my feet firmly on the ground.
As you go off into the big wide world after today’s ceremony, you will have at your feet every opportunity other youngsters throughout this United Kingdom will have at theirs and I mean this sincerely. It shouldn’t and doesn’t matter whether you come from a poor or rich family, are black or white, gay or straight, a boy or girl and disabled or not disabled – the world is literally your oyster, but you have to go out there and grab it from tomorrow.
I’m the last child of eleven, but I always remember My Mum saying to my brothers, sisters and I that whenever somebody says to us we can’t do this or can’t have that – it means the total opposite, she was right. We didn’t take no for an answer, and neither should you.
My point being, only you sitting in front of me now are the obstacle to your success. I have learned that I too am the only obstacle in my way, to achieve all the things I want to.
I have a friend in Los Angeles called Alice who is five years out of high school and one of the biggest lessons she says she has learned is that no matter what you do, how good you are to everyone and how hard you try to be accommodating, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like you or tries to push you down.
But remember this, it’s not how many times you fall that’s important but the fact you keep on getting up.
I have no doubt that with hard work, you can achieve all you can. But, always try and remember this too … whilst your finding your way in the world, always be respectful to others regardless of who and what they are. Think about how you would want others to treat your brother, sister, mum, dad and maybe in the future son or daughter. Equally, try and stay humble. Most if not all of us in this room are Scousers and we know more than most if there’s one thing a Liverpudlian doesn’t like, it’s a know-it all.
So to finish, usually when speakers end their talk they recite a quote from one of the world’s great Statesmen or women like for example Nelson Mandela or Winston Churchill. But, being an uncle to over thirty children, I like to think that I can still be cool and get down with the kids but also be adult enough to chat over lunch with Mr Kerfoot and your other teachers – so, I’m finishing with a quote from the film Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg …
“If you wanna be somebody. If you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention.”
On this note, I wish each and everyone of you the best of luck and success in all you endeavour and offer my congratulations today on your Record of Achievement. Go forth and take care, thank you.