Posted on Mon 27 Nov 2017 at 19:02 by Ikenna Offor
Greetings and salutations, good people! It's Ikenna, your Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Rep. I’ve just returned from London, where I had the pleasure of attending my first-ever NUS Black Students’ Campaign Conference – and, let me tell you, it was LIT.
As is often the case with most first-time experiences, I genuinely had no idea what to expect, and initially found myself feeling a tad nervous because I was rolling solo. However, after meeting (and chatting to) so many beautiful, intelligent and downright amazing brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings from all across the UK, my nerves evaporated faster than dew on a hot morning.
Besides the networking opportunities, there were also a plethora of thought-provoking plenary and workshop sessions – all led by intensely passionate student activists, organisers and educators – that focused on the myriad issues that disproportionately affect Black students at local, national and international levels.
Some of my personal highlights from day one included a spirited workshop session on how to draft effective motions aimed at tackling still-prevalent institutionalised racist practices (such as the attainment gap), as well as an eye-opening plenary on the shocking trial-by-media tactics deployed against courageous Black student activists like Lola Olufemi (the Womens' Officer at Cambridge) and Zamzam Ibrahim (President of the University of Salford Students' Union) .
But it wasn’t all work and no play! The aforementioned activities were followed by a fundraiser dinner for UFFC (United Friends and Family Campaign) – a coalition of individuals affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody. Though for a serious (and very worthy) cause, the event’s vibe was light and cheerful – there were poetry recitals, karaoke performances and even an impromptu stand-up set.
On day two, in addition to strategic plenaries focused on translating local movements into national and global campaigns, there were also thought-provoking workshop sessions on QTIPOC (Queer, Trans and Intersex People of Colour) inclusion, toxic masculinity and disability inclusion strategies – lots of food for thought!
In his closing remarks, Ilyas Nagdee (the current NUS Black Students’ Officer) listed the campaign’s recent accomplishments – especially highlighting the many successful celebrations of Black History Month by several member SUs – and pledged the BSC’s continued and unwavering support to all who take up arms in the fight for liberation, equality and diversity.
If I had to distil the essence of the weekend into one word, it would be “hope”. For students of colour, the march to full equality is still a long way from over, and the road fraught with strife. But, like Mandela once said, our struggle is at a decisive moment - and I, for one, take great comfort in the knowledge that I am not travelling alone.