Black History Makers: Hackney teen campaigning against injustice

Ruby Williams, now 18, with her dad Lenny and mum Kate. Picture: Williams family

Ruby Williams, now 18, with her dad Lenny and mum Kate. Picture: Williams family - Credit: Williams family

A former Hackney schoolgirl, sent home because of the length of her afro hair, has been inspiring young people across the country.

Ruby Williams, 18, received an £8,500 payout from Urswick School in Hackney Central after a battle against its uniform policy, which led to her being sent home when she was 14.

READ MORE: Family who battled against school hair policy to help write guidance

Her story was picked up by news outlets in 2020 and it inspired other children to speak up and reach out with similar stories.

Ruby told the Gazette: “At least some form of good came out of a bad situation and I can help to make sure other kids don’t go through what I went through.”

The 18-year-old is working with her parents, and Hackney Council, to create guidance for school uniform policies in the borough.

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She explained how her family’s support helped her speak out: “I had them with me the whole time I was [telling my story].” 

Ruby has been helping to inspire young Black and minority ethnic children to embrace their natural hair and said the highlight of this year was judging the Top Ten Model Competition’s celebration of World Afro Day. 

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She said it was “amazing” to see so much support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement but added: “It’s also really sad to see how many people don’t support something as simple as that statement.

“I’d like to see people being more open to other people’s experiences and then making changes from there.

“I think that’s the main block to any change, when people aren’t open to the fact that there is an issue.

“They want to say there’s no racism in the UK, that there is no discrimination and shut it down, instead of being like: ‘Okay, let me listen to your experiences’.”

Her father Lenny says he is proud of his daughter for her achievements.

He said: “As a family we stuck together, we said from the get go that we were going to fight this.

“And, I think what we have shown Ruby, and our son, is that in this world, if there is something that you feel you need to fight, you stand up and fight your corner.

“If you accept everything that is being thrown at you, then there will never be any change.”

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