Tuesday 01-10-2019 - 16:27
By Franklin Jacob, NUS Scotland Black Students' Representative
Today marks the first day of UK Black History Month – a celebration of the culture, heritage, and achievements of Black people throughout history.
The idea of Black History Month dates to Dr Carter G Woodson, an African American historian, who saw the contributions of African Americans were “overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them”. In the US he successfully advocated for the establishment of the global phenomenon we now know as Black History Month.
It goes without saying that I wish there wasn’t a need for Black History Month. I wish that Black people didn’t continue to face racism, inequality and injustice. But they do. That’s why it’s right that we concentrate our minds on the tremendous contribution Black people have made to society, not just here in Scotland and across the world. And it’s right too that we do not forget, or overlook, the history of oppression faced by Black people here in Scotland, historically through to the modern day.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate Black History Month. There are plenty of ways for students’ associations to get involved.
Start a conversation with your institution
Just as structural barriers persist in Scottish society, our education system is no exception. And there’s no time like the present to start a conversation with your principal about improvements that could be made at your institution.
In research with students across the UK, NUS found that 42 per cent of BAME students said they did not feel that the curriculum reflects issues of diversity, equality and discrimination. While there is good representation of BAME students at our universities, compared to the BAME population in Scotland as a whole, an attainment gap persists. A report conducted by NUS UK and Universities UK found that in Scotland there is a 11.4 per cent gap between the likelihood of white students and students from BAME backgrounds getting a 1st or a 2:1 degree classification. The message from this work was clear: we need to see all institutions, without exception, working to overcome the inequalities faced by Black students. That means strong leadership from college and university bosses; conversations about race and racism; racially diverse and inclusive learning environments; gathering evidence, understanding what works and acting on it.
As Black Students representative, my predecessor, Titi Farukuoye, launched #beingBlackmeans. It’s simple, all folk taking part have to do is share what being black means to them on their social media as part of Black History Month. And don’t forget to use the hashtag #BHM19.
I’ll be running this campaign at UWS, and would encourage students’ associations, student groups, and individual students to take part too!
Attend one of the many events taking place
The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights have worked with a range of partners to pull together a fantastic programme of – over 60 – events taking place across Scotland to celebrate Black History Month. Find out more here.
Let’s always remember that students are the driving force for change. This Black History Month, get involved in ensuring our campuses are reflective, diverse and representative bodies, ensuring fairness, justice and equality for Black students.