S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys Project

Thursday 10 March 2022

By Kevin

The inspiring S.M.I.L.E project is founded by renowned artist Kay Rufai and includes some of our students at Bolingbroke Academy. The project allows students to explore mental health issues which arise amongst black boys, whilst also challenging the stereotypes of black boys in social media and everyday society.

Kay Rufai is a British-born Nigerian who specialises in photography, poetry, film making, mental health, plays and immersive art. Kayson, in Year 8, who took part in the project, told us that, "Kay is funny, intelligent and his style was likeable - especially the way he dresses". The artist is well known for his charisma and he has successfully launched amazing projects. This project was a response to the brutal stabbing among young black boys in London throughout 2017 and has growing support with members of the South London community.

S.M.I.L.E is all about empowering the black community. Kayson informed us that, "We looked at how people interpret the way black boys act. Black boys attract hate. If you're black on an electric scooter, you're more likely to be stopped than a white boy. We should tell people how we really are deep down, rather than thinking about who we are just by what we wear or look like."

The workshop included multiple exercises focusing on society and the lack of understanding in culture. Kofi, in Year 9, told us that,  "One of the exercises were pictures of 20 random people that ranged from a black police officer to the Queen. Out of theses 20 people on the board, we had to choose 3 who we thought we could trust the most. I felt that I had made a deeper understanding about where black people really stand in today's society and hierarchy. Even amongst our own community we don't see many black faces in positions of trust."

Kay wants to shift the narrative to a more public health perspective to empower young people to have the tools to manage their wellbeing, which ultimately reduces the propensity to commit crimes and allows young people to create a medium to express themselves without actually feeling like that's what they're actually doing. In support of this idea, Kayson told us that, "I felt good inside because it showed me that a lot of black people have done a lot of good in the world and it makes me proud of who I am." One distinctive remark from Kayson was that "He's proud to be different!" showing his loyalty to his ideology.

The students who took part in this project were:

Milan

Raheem C

Raheem D

Salim

Ijaah

Nikoi

Kofi

Jacques

Ka'El

Kayson

Anthony

Kahrel

Mishael

Ramari

Well done for participating!  The exhibit of their photos was on display throughout February in the Southside Centre. Well done to all those who contributed. We're so proud of you!