Black History Month in the UK provides us with an opportunity to reflect and recognise the contributions of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. Originating in the US, Black History Month is now celebrated across the globe. To highlight this important time, we’re talking to some of the people behind our BAME Advocate programme and discussing what Black History Month means to them.
I’ve always had an interest in discovering the stories and experiences of people who have traditionally been overlooked. I studied history at my previous university, and it was clear from the content of the course and the makeup of people on the course that certain experiences were overlooked. When I saw the BAME Advocate role at the University, I was excited to contribute my ideas for change and have a real impact on University policy and practices for the benefit of ethnically diverse students.
My aim is that the projects the BAME Advocates have created, contributed to, and delivered have a genuine, tangible impact on the lived experiences of ethnically diverse students and their academic outcomes. I hope that the insights and suggestions we have given to the University are continuously carried forward and used to improve the many diverse student experiences we have on our campuses. I hope that this role encourages other students to speak out and educate themselves on experiences outside of their own.
BAME Advocates have worked on a number of projects for Black History Month such as creating a newsletter and conducting interviews with Black members of staff at the University. Personally, I have been taking the time to learn more about my own history, particularly Caribbean food history. My baking Instagram page with my sister became an ode to traditional Caribbean bakes, which was really fun to do.
Black History Month is important for societies like ours where there is a general lack of acknowledgment of people who are viewed to be different. It serves as a reminder that these people and stories, hidden from mainstream learning, are equal contributors to the world we live in as those we already know a lot about. Black History Month encourages those who don’t know to learn, those who don’t care to start listening and those who are tied to the history, to wholly embrace it.
We also spoke to our Director of Equality Diversity & Inclusion, Patrick Johnson, to discuss the BAME Advocates initiative and the importance of Black History Month.
Back in 2019, there were a number of recommendations from a report by the National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities UK about the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students. We decided to set up a BAME Advocate scheme in response to this, in order to address the unequal outcomes and experiences of ethnically diverse students. Our scheme was introduced in Spring 2020 with the aim to:
- Enable students from BAME backgrounds to express their opinions on their student experience in a safe space, addressing both overt and structural inequalities within the University as an institution, the legal sector, and society more generally.
- Enable BAME students and the University to co-create and co-deliver activities and events aimed at improving the experiences and outcomes of BAME students.
- Learn more about the support we provide for those who identify as BAME.
The BAME Advocates are involved in a range of different projects, for example:
- Working with staff to improve the inclusivity of the curriculum
- Raising awareness amongst students about Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic issues
- Working together with academic staff and Campus Deans to provide solutions to issues faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students
- Promoting race equality and act as role models for other Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students
- Organising events on specific issues in relation to race equality.
The recruitment process for new BAME Advocates runs every September and again in February if there are any vacancies.
The BAME Advocates and our academic Widening Participation champions are promoting the great events that are going on in the areas local to our campuses as part of Black History Month. The Advocates are keen to ensure that the University’s celebration of Black history and achievements are continuous as opposed to restricted to one month of the year. They are also committed to ensuring that the history and achievements of all ethnic groups are appreciated through the work that they do.
For me, Black History Month is about celebration and raising awareness. I have written several articles and given presentations specifically around race equality in higher education this month.
Black History Month is important because it provides a spotlight for the positive contributions of Black people in history and today, as well as highlighting the ongoing challenges they face. It gives an opportunity to have a dialogue about Black history and culture, and about the day-to-day reality of being Black in the UK.
Of course, it is important for this to happen all year round, but a focus can also be helpful.
Black History Month should be important to everyone because it is important that we all have a shared understanding and knowledge of the positive contribution made by African and Caribbean people in the UK and across the globe. It helps to counter what can be sometimes quite a negative portrayal of Black people. There are numerous events that our students can get involved in that are taking place throughout the month and beyond. They can also engage in diversity and inclusion activities, initiatives and training. This may be through the Student Union or Campus activity or external initiatives.
Discover more about our Black History Month events and how you can get involved.