MENTAL HEALTH, ACTIVISM TRAUMA, POST COVID RECOVERY, SHIFTING NARRATIVES
Pancake Tuesday marks the beginning of March, perhaps we should have a pancake flipping competition, lol!! February has been a tumultuous month of stormy weather, snow, breakdowns, and allegedly on 22/2/22, a new 5d portal opening that shifted the time space continuum resetting existence as we know it!! And indeed, the beginning of the end to lockdown but with frightful news of war, awful and distressing footage of African and Asian students escaping a war zone, being refused exit from and entry into neighbouring countries for being black!!! Nevertheless, it highlights the importance and urgency of the work that still needs to be done in shifting perspectives and narratives about African, Asian, and richly melanated (dark skin) peoples.
The good news is a new term ‘global majority’ is now been used in some universities to describe the BAME community to counteract the reductive properties of the term ‘minoritized or minority ethnicity’. Furthermore, Leeds Beckett University and others are now committed to nurturing positive Race and Equality Outcomes for students via the Race Equality Charter. We also are almost fully able to attend university in person on both campuses and we welcomed students back with a Refresher’s Fair where I met with new community members. I also attended the joint communities’ event - Refreshed: Connecting you with your communities’, hosted by Convenors and Officers in which we had pizza and games fostering further networking with community members. I sang at the Global Showcase International Night and stayed on to mingle and speak with potential community members and discovered some immediate challenges facing a few students. All the above events were well-received by the community, it enabled students to meet like-minded people, socialise, settle into university life, and learn where and who they can come to for support and guidance.
In various discussions in meetings, I attended in February, Activism trauma has been identified to be affecting community members post Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, alongside coping with lockdown and coming out of lockdown. Constant exposure to images in social media, tv and even involvement in activism itself or awareness and feedback sessions in focus groups can all affect our mental health. Amy Hall (2014) in her New Internationalist online article entitled Beyond Burnout reports that, ‘Activists exposed to traumatic situations seldom seek help to deal with the psychological impact – but support can be vital for their health.’ Leeds Beckett Students’ Union are currently carrying out Mental health focus groups where feedback from students is been collated with the aim of providing tailored support to student communities and I am attending these. Also identified is the stigma attached to mental health in our own communities; I urge and encourage students to not suffer in silence and seek help and support when needed from the Student Union and/or University Support, Pastoral, and welfare Services respectively
I was involved in a focus group for the Race Equality Charter (REC) to feedback challenges and concerns from the community. I also had a meeting with an LBU school Dean, school administrator and the LBU Welfare team, to discuss mental health, activism trauma and fatigue to discuss what can be done. In this meeting, it occurred to me that it is sometimes difficult to respond to the question of what the university can do to support students with their mental health because it is like a surgeon asking a patient to recommend his own surgery. I also noted that the reason for the difficulty is coupled with the fact that, the overall activity of supporting BAME students is a new initiative and still in embryonic development phase, indeed foetal phase and thus we are not just taking baby steps but foetal steps!! I continue to be involved in Leeds Community projects, plan and attend events, including focus groups and university committees to both keep up with research outcomes and contribute to dialogue as shown below:
- HEPI / Unite Students webinar on ‘Living Black at University’: Launch of new research into the experiences of Black students in student accommodation, online event. (a link to the recording of the event is in MS Teams)
- Approaches to Decolonising Research Liverpool Moore University, online event
Ongoing meetings and planning
- Race Equality Charter focus groups and meetings
- Culturally Diverse Hub
- Culturally Diverse Women’s Hub
- LBU Academic Board Briefing and Meetings
- Convenors and Officers Meeting
- Planning regular social events – to liaise with BAME ambassadors
- Multicultural Day/Night event
- Black ‘history’ event – (Effect on Mental health, PTSD, African Holocaust, Current BLM activism) to liaise with Union Affairs Officer, community and BAME ambassadors
- Nightlife- event on campus or in collaboration with external host
- Screening of Geraldine Connors’ Carnival Messiah the Movie
- International Anti-Racism Day/ Int. Women's Day Event 29th March 2022 (tbc) #breakthebias
International Women’s day and International Anti-racist days are in March, the theme for Women’s day this year is #breakthebias so it will be looking at unconscious bias, behaviour, micro aggressions etc. I've been reflecting on some of the challenges discussed at the December Ambassadors meeting and I am looking to organise an intersectional event. (Int. Anti-Racism Day/ Int. Women's Day Event #breakthebias.) I hope to have approved some external panel members and looking at Tues March 29th (TBC) to do an online event. The aim of this event will be to seek solutions to some of the still present racial discrimination in some work placements experienced amongst our students and explore what to do, who to go to, etc. This should also equip students for the workplace on graduation. Please feedback in the MS Teams community chat any thoughts and suggestion and if you want to be involved in organising this event.
Another concern that has been raised is updating narratives and exploring shifting perspectives or in other words, ‘decolonising’ narratives, curriculum, etc. My role as BAME convenor is crucial in engaging with school deans and course directors to ensure academic reviews of outdated narratives in the curriculum. I am keen to encourage inter-school collaborations and the cultural school has already taken the initiative to diversify their module choices with new multicultural briefs. In other to foster relationships with external organisations and create opportunities for students, I have been in conversations with Leeds Art Gallery (LAG). Students are now invited to Have their say - share views, opinions, and feelings on some of the culturally controversial LAG collection for a new exhibition. This is an exciting opportunity to be part of the decision process for the exhibition – open to anyone in the community – please sign on Eventbrite, link is also on MS Teams (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/summer-2022-exhibition-interpretation-workshops-tickets-253200267817)
Have a great month of March!
Lara Rose – LBSU Black, Asian and Minoritized (global majority) Ethnicities Convenor