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BAME Rep Newsletter

Read your BAME rep Nathan Epemolu second Update NEWSLETTER covering what he has been up in the months of September and October below:

Well well well! The last 6 weeks have flown by! Between long summer nights and bronzing autumn leaves, we’ve somehow arrived at November. Before things get too far ahead, I thought it’d be great to update to all with lots of exciting news in my role as BAME Rep and the life of Strath Union.

BAME Rep Drop-ins

I’d like to extend a hearty thank you to all who have stopped by and said hello whilst I’ve been out and about and popped their head in when I’ve hosted my drop-ins. It’d been great to meet students at these 2 drop-ins, the first one in fresher’s week and another in October. Details will be follow soon on my Facebook page for the next one, so follow the page for more info on this and all the follow ups to these updates, and I may even make an Instagram if that’s helpful.

Black History Month 2021

Black History Month is always quite a full-on affair, and sometimes, rather draining too. From the highlighting of aspects (both positive and negative) related to the “black experience” here in the UK, to corporate performative measures that we are trying to swerve (HARD), it can be difficult to see where real progress is being made within all the noise. At Strath Union, myself, the VP Inclusion – Nesha Malone, and the Student Union Staff team have been working hard behind the scenes to organise events and lobby change that lasts beyond just one month of the year. I’m glad to say that I think we’ve made a good start on that goal, here’s some of what we’ve been up to.

BAME Society Re-affiliation

Back in September, some students asked about whether we had a BAME society at Strathclyde or not, and the answer is that we used to. However, it seemed to have fell into a sorry state over the last few years. So I’ve followed up and re-affiliated the society this year and will serve as interim President until a point that a permanent President is found – if you’re interested please do drop me an email. However, we do have a Treasurer now, so if you see him around, offer a hearty welcome to Gibson Okaruadjere, who will be joining me on the committee.

We hosted our welcome event on October 25th, where I got to meet some more BAME students like Helen and Naomi and we had some drinks in the union’s Terrace bar for a social. We are hoping to meet over the next week or two and organise a movie night event, please do tell your friends about us! We’ll be making a Facebook and Instagram page in time, but as we are just getting started, our updates will likely be going through the union website, so keep checking the What’s On page to see what we are up to.

BAME in Academia Forum Event

My personal aim for this BHM was to start creating spaces of community and solidarity for BAME staff and students alike at Strathclyde. Part of this, in addition to re-affiliating the BAME Society, was to organise a forum of BAME academics on campus to share their experiences. After discussions and planning in September and October, I’m very glad to stay we hosted a successful online event October 26th. I was joined Dr Esperanza Miyake, Dr Navan Govender and Dr Nathar Iqbal, alongside 15 other academics for the first in a series of safe space forums to discuss decolonising higher education, the challenges, joys and hopes for the future of a more inclusive higher education industry. If you’d like join in the next workshop then you can book a FREE ticket now for our follow up event on December 2nd here.

Strathclyde Commissions new mural to celebrate diversity and Black History

In some exciting developments, Strathclyde University has agreed to commission a new mural spanning the entire gable end wall of the Graham Hills Building to celebrate diversity. This is huge news! Of all the murals currently adorning Graham Hills, there are currently none including BAME people nor many of women. So, it was very welcome when Nesha first asked my thoughts about her idea. I’m delighted that the uni have done this and now the next step is to seek out talented BAME creatives for their thoughts on how the “Proud to Be” motto of BHM2021 can be translated into a timeless piece of art celebrating BAME cultures and diversity in Scotland and beyond. You can read the press release here alongside my further comments. Further news will be coming out very soon on how we hope to collaborate with BAME artists on this paid, supported opportunity.

Interview with VP Sport Kirsty Bannatyne and MARVIN BARTLEY

In a fun twist last week, I was delighted to be invited to join VP Sport Kirsty Banntyne’s work uncovering racism in sport with footballer, SFA Equalities Advisor and now assistant manager of Livingston FC, Marvin Bartley. This was a brilliant experience to talk to someone so well-articulated about the issue of racism in sport, and especially in Football. This comes off the heels of turbulent reaction to the taking of the knee by football players across the UK in a movement to bring awareness to the issue of racism in football, which is unfortunately still very prevalent in the beautiful game, as it is in society. Marvin offers fascinating insight to an insider perspective, and it was pleasure to join him and Kirsty for this podcast episode. A link will be shared in due course.

CRER Slave Trade History Tour of Glasgow

And to finish, something I’ve been waiting all month to do! On the 31st October I finally joined the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights Slave Trade History Tour of Glasgow. This is for me a must-do tour for anyone calling Glasgow home. Only through close examination and knowledgeable context can you see how seeped in colonial trappings Glasgow actually is. From the many, many streets named after slave trading and profiting families and individuals to the many homes and estates now managed by the council and the national trust. And of course, the blatant racist depictions on some of the statues – I can’t look at the Duke of Wellington Statue the same way again. But it almost seems sadly indicting of our society that we generally cheer and revere the traffic cones sat atop the Duke’s head, and use that image on our tourist branding for COP26 without recognising that statue in a tribute on colonial conquest in India. There is plenty of work to do to make everyone aware of the extent of the chequered past of this city and make meaningful efforts to correct our understanding considering what we know now. Having these tours as a regular or virtually available experience for all who wish to explore this important part of Glasgow and Scotland’s past is part of my manifesto. So I’ll be talking to the CRER over the next few weeks to assess how Strathclyde can collaborate to bring this ambitious goal to its end.

All in all, I’ve hardly been twiddling my thumbs, these updates are going to change in frequency to a quarterly updates as to save some unnecessary emails and only send what is going to be super useful to you all, but until next time.

Written by student rep Nathan
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