Posted on Thu 29 Oct 2020 at 15:27 by Freya Jackson
Black History Month
Black History Month has been celebrated in the UK since 1987. The month exists as an annual celebration of the contributions and achievements of the black community. From contributions within the LGBTQ+ community, to music, sport, science and politics. However, as time evolves, so does the purpose of Black History Month and the recognition that every month we should be celebrating culture, educating ourselves and having conversations surrounding these topics, as uncomfortable as they may be. The first memory I have of actively celebrating Black History Month was in 2008 when I was nine. In October, the elections were taking place in the US and Obama was soon to be elected the first Black President the following month. With hope of change and progression, my teachers delved in educating us about other black activists throughout history who have made monumental changes, and for the first time I started to digest how monumental this election was.
At the age of nine, growing up in Croydon, I saw race, but was I colour blind? I had never, before this point, considered the difficulties that my equivalent peers could face simply because of views others held about what the colour of their skin meant. If I wanted to be Prime Minister one day then I would do everything in my power to do so, and I thought that would be the same for my black peer. I was blind to the extra hurdles that they would face on the way. The UK is yet to have a black Prime Minister and is far from having enough black representation in parliament. After the 2019 election, 63 members of the House of Commons were from an ethnic minority. If the House of Commons reflected that of the general population, there would be 90.
This is the case in almost every industry, from the arts to business strategy, the educational field and scientific fields. I write this aware that I, myself, am part of an organisation that is heavily white. It is more important than ever that we educate ourselves on black history in the UK, but also reflect on the systematic racism that still exists and is embedded in our institutions that creates hurdles for our black community. Racism is not in the past, it still exists in the present, and unless we actively make changes it will continue to exist in the future. So as Black History Month comes to an end, we need to reflect on the past and look to the forthcoming possibilities.
During Black History Month The SU staff and student representatives organised a range of events but we will continue to host events throughout the year. Events included film nights, a writing competition, a poetry evening, how to be an anti-racist ally workshop and much more. Thank you to all our student groups who put together events for Black History Month, particularly African Caribbean Society who, in previous years, have solely organised the month on campus. A huge part of Black History Month is also about educating yourself. Whether it is listening to a podcast in the morning or reading before bed. It is incredibly important that staff and students continue to do so beyond October. The library has also put together a Black History Month reading list with resources available online. This will continue to be available after Black History Month.
More than just a month- Looking Forward
Carrying out the work that we need to do to improve the black experience at Bath is integral. Some of the biggest issues facing black students at Bath were identified after the Anti-Racist forum the SU carried out in March, in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement. From the forum a report was produced by the SU and the SU and university have since been working on the delivery of these actions.
- One of the main actions identified from the forum was that their needed to be more resourcing within the EDI area of the university. Since the report, two new roles have been appointed, a head of the newly established Race Taskforce and a new lead within the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team. The Race Taskforce is a group within the university that will be responsible for the delivery of the Anti-Racist Report, including signing up to the Race Equality Charter.
- Another point raised from the forum was the lack of black student representatives within the SU. Over summer the SU and University jointly set up the Student Ant-Racist Action Group which 3 black student representatives sit on. This group meets ever 4-6 weeks and is designed to hold the university to account of what they are doing to fulfil the asks of the anti-racist report. Membership also includes the head of Student Services, The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching.
- As an SU we are continuing to lobby the university to recruit a black councillor. Currently, students who request a black councillor can use the Be Well- Talk Now service or be referred to Off the Record in town.
- In terms of learning and teaching, the SU is lobbying the university to create and commit to a specific action plan for decolonising the curriculum, as highlighted on the SU Top 10 for this year and we hope to get this as a standing agenda item in as many meetings as possible. The SU officers will be meeting with Peter Lambert, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and teaching to help deliver this. We are aware that student input is integral in this area and the steps towards decolonisation will vary across faculties. Some faculties, such as engineering, have already drafted papers and taken the first steps to achieve this.
- The report noted the lack of a full rounded harassment campaign and that NeverOK was very focused on only sexual harassment. A new role, Anti-Harassment and Training Officer, has been appointed to lead on creating an effective campaign over the next 12 months that will address racism on campus and in the wider community, and lead and develop training available for staff and students.
This is by no means the end of the work that we need to be carrying out, it is only a start.