On Tuesday, the Lower School welcomed former Saracens captain, and former headmaster of Downsend and Cumnor House, Floyd Steadman to the Hart Smith Hall. Addressing first the Lower Fourth and then the Third Form, he gave a candid talk about the realities of coming of age during the 1960s and 70s before becoming one of the few black players in English club rugby.
He spoke openly about the discrimination he faced in the past, reiterating to pupils that he was judged on one thing, and one thing only: the colour of his skin.
The Lower School was captivated as he shared the adversities he has overcome and the underestimation he has surpassed.
Mr Steadman also introduced pupils to the concept of unconscious bias and the need to challenge any preconceived notions they may have about others. He stressed the importance of having respect for every individual, celebrating diversity and addressing bias to create an equal society.
The Q&A sessions that followed each talk allowed pupils to pose sensitive and thoughtful questions, eager to hear more from Mr Steadman about how to actively challenge bias and tackle racism in today’s world.
Overall, the talk was an excellent opportunity for the Lower School to expand their empathy. The College is grateful to Mr Steadman for his time as well as his generous donation to the Library, which has received two copies of his memoir A Week One Summer.
By Georgina Smith, English Department
Third Form pupil, Lucy Peer, said: “Mr Steadman spoke about his experience with racism and encouraged us to reflect on ideas such as unconscious bias. He also suggested that, for society to keep moving forward, we might need to have brave and potentially messy conversations.
“Mr Steadman spoke about his childhood and he recounted that teachers and carers told him to give up on his dream of becoming a teacher. He explained that he persevered and went on to become a Headmaster. This was truly inspiring, and I know that from this experience I have learnt more about aspects of unreported British history. I will take away the fact that even though we have grown as a society from when he was a boy, inequality is still around us today.”
Lower Fourth pupil, Chris Cohalan, said: “On Tuesday morning, Floyd Steadman came to the College to give the Lower Fourth a talk about equality, diversity and inclusion, and he shared some of the racist comments he had experienced when at school and on the rugby field.
“He told us about how he suffered as a child and his time in care due to an unstable home situation. This really made me feel how lucky I am to not experience physical harm and how hard it must have been to pull through and achieve what he achieved. It showed me the difficulties that he faced and the perseverance he had, as well as the mental and physical strength he demonstrated. Overall I think that he is a very inspiring man and shows us all that anyone can do anything with the right mindset.”