BHM: Reflection, Sadness & Jubilation!!!
As October closed to an end, the clocks went back, and the month of November was born. I cannot help but wonder; when will black history, simply be synced with world history? What else can be done to neutralise negative, fetishized and exoticized narratives about Africa, the Caribbean and even the dark-skinned untouchables in India? When will we as a collective humanity, truly accept our rich diverse cultures and learn from each other symbiotically?
As I traversed from one BHM event to another coupled with academic committee meetings, including my first LBU Race Equality Charter meeting; despite the praise that we are having more conversations and awareness, it is essential that these meetings result in meaningful action. Within our community, some feel despondent that change will not be seen. I’ve heard phrases like, “we are exhausted, I don't want to go to my grave still fighting the same things; this feels like a tick box exercise again; I'm done with attending another black, BAME, diversity consultation; this discussion feels like the same one we had five years ago; we don't know how to reach and attract qualified personnel or students in diverse groups”, etc. As your Black, Asian & Minoritized Ethnicity Students’ Community Convenor, I will be working with the Students’ Union and the University to ensure that the needs of our Community are at the forefront of this work and that change happens.
So what happens next?
It occurred to me that perhaps what is needed is a sort of 'match making' system to allow academia, diverse communities and community leaders to link easily. There are countless community leaders making waves in Leeds and UK wide, that Leeds Beckett University can forge relationships with. There are opportunities for mentorship, internship, and leadership and I had a host of conversations with community leaders in the hope of finding potential panel members for our proposed, ‘BLM: What happens next’ event.
For example, I had the opportunity to meet with Bafta award winner Bob Clarke, Founder & CEO of Mama Youth Project, and Chief Creative Officer of Licklemor Productions where the tv show Life and Rhymes was created. Life and Rhymes is a-first-of- its-kind entertainment show that celebrates the spoken word, and it beat Ant and Dec, The Masked Singer and Strictly Come Dancing to win the coveted BAFTA for Best Entertainment Programme.
Sadly, it is with great sorrow that as I write, I have just found out that one of our Leeds Beckett University alumni and community leaders, Bridget Brown Robinson has passed away. Bridget was involved in countless community projects including Operational Manager at Black Health Initiative (BHI), the Leeds Black Music Festival organiser, Minister at Church of God Prophecy and served as a Culturally Diverse (ex BME) Hub Rep. Bridget wore many hats and spent a lot of her time advocating for equality and equity in the diverse communities of Leeds. Bridget’s passing pushes home the urgency and need for my continuing role as convenor in networking with the wider Leeds BAME community and developing links (match making) for LBU. Bridget will be greatly missed in person, but her legacy lives on with us to build on.
Bridget Brown Robinson RIP, Grand Rising, À??.
BHM Events, Black Panther & Ancient Yoruba Sculpture (Àwòrán) Practice
On a more positive note, it was a delight to present a screening of Black Panther at the cinema in the new Leeds School of Art (LSA) building. The BHM film screening event at the new cinema at LSA has allowed me to foster a new relationship between the school and LBSU. Hats off to Annabelle Pangborn, Director of the Northern Film School and our new Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Co-ordinator. We have established a framework for potential future film screenings featuring diverse cultures, BAME storylines and characters e.g., Hidden Figures, Eat, Pray, Love and Coming 2 America, etc, etc.
Other BHM events include, LBU School of Cultural Studies event, A conversation with artist Yinka Shonibare CBE speaking about his work including the recent commissioned David Oluwole sculpture in Leeds. This sculpture is to memorialise Oluwole, sadly and controversially, a man with mental health challenges who died because of racial harassment and brutality in 1969. In addition, I attended the Culturally Diverse (ex-BME) Hub Wellness event in which the importance of self-care and mental health awareness was explored. This allowed me to be mindful of how campaigning can impact our mental health and remember to take time out for self-care and support.
I also had the pleasure of hosting the virtual unveiling photoshoot of Dr Geraldine Roxanne Connor Maquette at LSA Photography, Broadcasting place on 21st October 2021 This carries on the Yoruba ancient tradition of honouring notable people by sculpture (Àwòrán) and marked 10 years of Geraldine’s passing. The event broadcast live on FB featured LSA photographer Ricky Adam and LBU student videographer Lawrence Clarke-Russam. Geraldine Connor Foundation, Lascelles Family, Harewood House, and the Culturally Diverse (ex-BME) hub continue to support the sculpture project which aims to have a large civic sculpture commissioned by March 2022. In response to the 2020 BLM sculpture audit, this sculpture will contribute to the sculpture stock in Leeds and redress the balance of visibly missing sculptures from diverse communities in Leeds. Watch this Space!!!
LBSU have plans to continue to mark black history, year-round and I also aim to incorporate other community histories e.g., who has heard of the Partition of India by the British and the following dissolution of the British Raj in 1947? I am also excited about the prospect of organising a cultural dress, multicultural ball next year, and hopefully a Hive ‘meet and greet’ for Xmas before term ends. In my role as convenor, I look forward to ideas, feedback, and suggestions from the wider student community.
Live. Love. Shine.
By Lara Rose (PhD Candidate, BAME Student Convenor)