Leeds United midfielder Weston McKennie was joined by and Andy McVeigh, a West Leeds artist hailed as the “Burley Banksy” to surprise students at Co-op Academy Oakwood with a visit to discuss the importance of allyship.
The workshop with Andy McVeigh involved collaborative discussions and activities around Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+, Racism and important anti-discriminatory messages.
Pupils were surprised when Leeds United player, Weston McKennie, got stuck in helping them create posters about the topic, before announcing his favourite piece of art.
Mckennie joined the whole-school assembly to talk about allyship and later gave a speech touching on his own experiences.
The USA international footballer spoke to representatives from the Premier League during the visit and said: “We’ve been painting some pretty cool designs today in support of the LGBTQ+ community and Black History Month, it was really nice to see the kids expressing themselves.
“If we as players can help to bring awareness to important campaigns through the game they love and act as a positive influence, I think that’s really important.”
Andy McVeigh, the ‘Burley Bansky’ has painted countless electricity boxes around the city in a bid to cover up unsightly graffiti, using his home football club Leeds United as his inspiration.
He said: “The children were brilliant, full of enthusiasm and ideas. Their energy energises you. They came up with some super ideas, slogans and colours and were great fun to be around.
“Being an ally is more important than ever in my opinion. Discrimination seems to be more prevalent in the last decade or so than it was before. In most school classes, there is a mixture of race, colour, ability and heritage.
“In my experience, children don’t even ‘see’ these differences between people, they don’t care where you are from, what you look like, or who you love. Giving them the chance to express this through art is so important and means they can set good examples and values for others too as they get older.”
Rimah Aasim, Headteacher at Co-op Academy Oakwood, said: “Young people need to know that it is important to stand up to prejudice and support people no matter who they are. Inclusion for all is really important. The pupils were enthused about creating their street art. It was a useful reminder of the meaning of allyship and the groups for which allyship is important.”
The workshops hosted by Andy are in collaboration with the Leeds United Foundation. The workshops, which form part of the Premier League Primary Stars initiative (PLPS), offer engaging sessions to primary schools that help children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.