#BameOver, Mental health, and Wellness.
#BameOver, Mental health, and Wellness
It snowed this November; a white cold blanket of velvety sparkly frozen water enveloped the surface of the earth and the scenery looked magical and beautiful covering a multitude of imperfections. For a moment, I thought of our common humanity, a world united by snow, sledging in Meanwood park, snowball fights, everyone unified irrespective of race, colour, creed. The snow united us. Utopia can happen, there is hope.
I am excited about being involved in the recruitment process of two new Ambassadors to the Business and Culture schools respectively. Candidates attended an informal discussion where they responded to questions we had prepared, standards were very high, candidates were very passionate about the role and lots of experiences and ideas where shared. We have just to finalise recruitment in the Events School and I look forward to meeting everyone this December. I hope to put in place a plan of events and activities for 2022 including multicultural events. I anticipate a flow of feedback from ambassadors and the community which will in turn meet the needs of our diverse student community.
What are some of the needs identified already?
As I reflect on the month’s activities, I realised how much has been achieved, yet there is still a lot more that we as a common humanity can allow to flow into our experience. Following on from meetings, campaigns, focus groups, discussions, three important points have arisen that will positively impact our overall student experience and community:
- #BameOver – the acronym BAME/BME originally created to ensure equality monitoring being no longer fit for purpose.
- Mental health awareness - the effect constant campaigning has on ‘culturally diverse’ people both negative and positive.
- Wellness – how to look after ourselves, protect ourselves from racial trauma, and our overall wellbeing post covid lockdown.
At the 2021 Freshers fair, a few students were at first reluctant to join the Black, Asian & Minoritised Ethnicity Community, commenting that they didn’t want to join a community based on the colour of their skin and didn’t like the acronym BAME.
In my role as Convenor, I explained that here at LBSU discussions have occurred and the response has been to continue to use the ‘BAME’ acronym albeit, written in its full form as ‘Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicity’ until we decide within the community how we would like to be referred to going forward. I will love to hear from the community about the BAME acronym, please share in the MS Teams group and I am also planning to meet with the ambassadors on Thursday 9th Dec to hear their thoughts and feedback in the matter.
But where did the term originate? Why is it no longer fit for purpose? How else can diverse ethnicities be described? The acronym BME originated from the 1970’s anti-racist movement to unite communities to fight discrimination. Initially, BME stood for Black and Minority Ethnicities to represent Black (people of Africa and Caribbean origin, generally described as black post slavery and colonisation). The term evolved to BAME to include Asian communities mostly of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indian origin). Debbie Luxon, a community reporter for the Cambridge news explains why the BAME acronym is part of the problem and writes,
BAME stands for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic. It’s a term the media, governments and politicians have used for years in the UK to describe anyone who isn’t white British. But how do people who count as the B, A, and ME feel about this label, and is it actually helpful? A lot of research uses the definition of BAME to try and understand population patterns. BAME are often identified by the data as disadvantaged because of social prejudice and systematic oppression and underrepresented in all aspects of culture.
So, what started off as a means of trying to overcome ethnicity disparities via the introduction of ethnicity monitoring forms, we all know too well, has become part of the problem. Statements from feedback include:
- I feel boxed in, I not sure where I fit in.
- The term minority ethnicity makes me feel like I am less than, inferior, which affects my mental health.
- I am Asian, but Chinese Asian, what do I tick?
- My skin tone is not black, do I tick ‘other’ as I am of mixed parentage, Brazilian and English?
- Ethiopian culture is completely different from Eritrean, but we get boxed together as Black!!
- Feels like a tick box exercise….
Overall, I believe we can borrow from the pronoun and gender identities descriptors in which individuals declare their gender and pronoun. So, for example, I will then identify as Gender - female, Pronouns- ‘she, her, hers’ and Ethnicity/culture - African/Nigerian/Yoruba British or British Born with African/Nigerian/Yoruba heritage. Eventually you will not have a common term to box everyone in to but for now these general BAME categories serve as tools to ensure diverse communities are treated fairly and equitable leaving no one out. In the interim, we shouldn’t be hasty to throw the baby out with the bath water, and I will continue to work towards the best outcome for Leeds Beckett students.
I am proud that LBSU is committed to working with students and the university via the Race and Equality Charter and as Student Convenor, I support the #BameOver campaign.
Mental Health and Wellness in 2022
I attended the November BME hub Reps meeting, and I am pleased to report that the hub is committed to the #BAMEover & other acronyms campaign. The new name which has been agreed amongst reps and the wider community has been approved by Leeds City Council (LCC) and the rebranding is hoped to be executed in 2022. The hub is also committed to supporting communities with their Mental health and Wellness needs and will continue to put on Wellness events in 2022. In addition, I hope to organise opportunities for community ambassadors to attend future hub meetings to reinforce relationships between the hub and the university. This will provide, for example mentoring opportunities for students and create links with diverse community leaders.
Furthermore, I hope we in LBSU can organise a mental health/wellbeing event in partnership with the hub in 2022. This should give students access to culturally diverse experts in Mental Health from the wider Leeds community.
Also, at the Nov meeting, Annette Morris, former BME hub and Women’s hub project development worker gave a presentation about her new role- Involvement Lead (Mental Health Transformation Leeds). Annette’s role involves setting up pilot projects in a few areas of Leeds, one which includes Woodhouse and Headingly and its student population. The project aims to tailor make the mental health needs of individuals, diverse populations, and ethnic groups. I am hoping we can be part of the discussions at LBSU as we are in one of the catchment areas for the pilot project. This will be invaluable for students as we can literally help shape mental health policies in Leeds and effect real change in student mental health services.
Annette (photograph) was featured in the Yorkshire Evening Post in June of 2020 (link below) in response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests last year.
As the year draws to a close, I would like to thank everyone for their support in my new convenor role and look forward to serving continuously in 2022. I will keep updating MS Teams with opportunities and respond to comments and questions, do continue to network here. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and may the Festival of Lights bring you and your family much happiness and joy.
LBSU Black, Asian & Minoritised Ethnicity’ Student Convenor & PhD Candidate
Annette Morris interview:
BME HUB: https://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/networks-forums/bme-hub/