I Heard What You Said

Jeffrey Boakye

25 May 2023
384 pages


Shortlisted for the Bread & Roses Award
An Amazon Best Non-Fiction Book of The Year

‘Essential reading‘
The Guardian
‘Sharp and witty with moments of startling candour‘ The i
‘Revealing and beautifully written‘ – David Harewood

A thought-provoking and fearless exploration of how we can dismantle racism in the classroom and do better by all our students.

Before Jeffrey Boakye was a black teacher, he was a black student. Which means he has spent a lifetime navigating places of learning that are white by default. Since training to teach, he has often been the only black teacher at school. At times seen as a role model, at others a source of curiosity, Boakye’s is a journey of exploration – from the outside looking in.

In the groundbreaking I Heard What You Said, he recounts how it feels to be on the margins of the British education system. As a black, male teacher – an English teacher who has had to teach problematic texts – his very existence is a provocation to the status quo, giving him a unique perspective on the UK’s classrooms.

Told through a series of eye-opening encounters based on the often challenging and sometimes outrageous things people have said to him or about him – from ‘Can you rap?‘ and ‘Have you been in prison?‘ to ‘Stephen who?‘ – Boakye reflects with passion and wit on what he has found out about the presumptions, silences and distortions that underpin the experience of black students and teachers.

‘Hugely important‘ – Baroness Lawrence
‘Deeply compelling, intellectually rigorous and essential‘ – Nels Abbey
‘Makes a powerful case‘ – Rt Hon Lady Hale

Essential reading . . . perhaps most of all for those Black children who may be currently going through school not realising why they are made to feel small, out of step and unworthy. For them in particular, it could be a ray of hope.
I Heard What You Said makes a powerful case: until we have rid our educational system of its dominant whiteness we cannot hope to give all our children the educational experience they need and deserve.
Revealing and beautifully written.