The Presidents at The Students' Union at UWE hosted a range of events during the 2020/21 academic year to extend their Black History Month campaign into a year-long Celebrating Black Excellence campaign. This was aimed to showcase Black people of excellence, address misconceptions about Black history, and empower the Black community to achieve greater heights. Details of the events and activities can be found below:
Jane Ojiako organised and chaired a panel event titled ‘Decolonising the UWE curriculum’. This event focused on raising awareness to students on the need to take ownership and involve in decolonising their UWE curriculum. The key highlight was rather than continuing to operate within inequality power structure, decolonising the curriculum seeks to address inequalities and uses education as a tool for liberation and transformation. For this to happen we need to move away from constant conversations to action, ownership, accountability and transparency.
At the event we launched two campaigns focused on decolonising the UWE curriculum they include;
Speakers: Emmanuel Adukwu, Ann de Graft-Johnson, Xavier Baker, Saharla Ismail
You can watch the recording here
In October, Alisha Airey (BAME Project Officer HAS) and Jane Ojiako had a discussion on the degree awarding gaps that exist between different students at UWE Bristol.
According to Universities UK (2019), there is a 13% ‘gap’ between white students receiving a 2:1 or first at university compared with BAME students. Beyond the racialized award gap, transition into good careers, leadership and senior positions is much lower for black students than their counterparts even with similar classification. The concerning question is how can we really make a difference?
The event focused on inspiring black students at UWE Bristol with discussions around experiences we have both faced in academia, awarding gap and possible ways of tackling the BAME Awarding Gap at UWE. There was an emphasis on students not feeling limited by their characteristics rather, they should have an undying desire to be the best they can.
To celebrate our creative students within the UWE Bristol community an arts competition was organised for students to create pieces that showcase Black history and heritage. We had entries from well talented students, ranging from paintings to drawings and even a music video.
Entries were judged by an external panel including three young black Bristol creatives, Stacey Olika, Olamiposi Ayorinde and Elysse Lawrence who are all thriving in their various fields and being role models to the younger generation. Decisions were made based on clear interpretation of the theme, creativity and originality, quality of artistic composition and overall design, overall impression of the art. Winners and participants received cash prizes (£250, £150, £100) and certificates.
In March 2021, Joey (VP Community and Welfare) and Jane Ojiako organised a virtual Talent Show event to provide students with a platform to showcase their talent and also create awareness of the diverse talent we have at UWE Bristol. It was an evening of great performances by 16 of our very own students. Performances included poetry, drumming, singing, Interpretative Dance of the Bristol riots and lots MORE! The winners were awarded certificates and cash prizes (Winner: £150, 1st Runner: £100, 2nd Runner £50). We believe events such as these are important as the students feel acknowledged and empowered to follow their passion and talent whilst studying.
One of the most direct and sustainable ways to support the Black community is to shop at Black-owned businesses, many of which have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Jane Ojiako made use of SU social media platform (Instagram) to amplify and promote some of the Black owned businesses in Bristol.
To support these businesses further, an item was purchased from each of them to give away to our students. These businesses can also be supported by searching the following names on Instagram; Darkeurearrings (Accessory Brand) Seph Group (Creative/ Photography Company) Effortless Evangelism (Clothing Brand), Prosper Market Food (Food).
Chinwe Nnajiofor (Natural Hair Influencer) and Jane Ojiako had a discussion event focused on celebrating the beauty of natural hair. During the live session we addressed certain misconceptions and provided practical advice on taking care of natural hair with hair routines, mistakes to avoid, and tips on recovering damaged hair.
Check out @uwebamesociety Instagram IGTV video for full video. Also support Chinwe by buying her natural hair e-book; find out more by clicking on the link on her Instagram bio @Igbocurls.
Amplify is a joint Students' Union and Centre for Music project combining the Centre for Music Amplify project (which every year celebrates and promotes the work of hip hop, grime and rap artists and producers at UWE Bristol) and The Students' Union Celebrating Black Excellence campaign. This project was being led by our President Augusta Nnajiofor, Kat Branch; our music enrichment strategic leader, the Vice President for Community and Welfare; Joseph Ante and Samuel Ikpe; the Vice President for Societies and Communications.
Students were expected to make videos of themselves singing to an original track. Students could send in acapella, podcasts, links or videos of anything related to their music and at the end, each of the participants were called in for a live coverage (COLORS concept) at the centre for music. The winner stands a chance of winning a free mix and master of their track and, a music video for their track.
Amplify was a great medium for young upcoming artists, producers and creatives at UWE to showcase their talents and build a fan base on their craft as the university is seen as a very diverse community with over 30,000 students.
This was first known as the Language exchange programme then later changed to ‘In My Language’ due to the fact that there was already a Global language program organised by the Students’ Union. This project was being led by the Vice President for Societies and Communications, Samuel Ikpe.
In my Language is a programme set out to enhance better communication skills between students and educate them more on the different languages spoken across the University. At the start, it was difficult to decide what languages would be used to kickstart the project. Therefore, it was decided that students received information on pleasantries in various languages as this was seen to be the first form of conversation when people meet. To accomplish this, a focus group of students who spoke different languages was created ranging from Swahili, Somali, Shona, Oromo, Patois, Pidgin, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibibio, French, Spanish and Arabic. A script was created to help structure their speech as seen below, and they were asked to present in their various languages.
“Greetings my fellow students, my name is …………, How are you? What’s your name? It was nice to meet you. Goodbye.”
As seen above, it was made short and straight to the point for ease of learning. Videos were scheduled monthly on our Students’ Union social media platforms. So far, we have put out videos in Patois featuring one of our students Jheanelle Williamson, Arabic featuring Salma Alnajjar and a Valentine’s day special video teaching students how to say “I Love You” in different languages in celebration of the Lovers Day.
Amplify continues into the Academic year 2021/22 and we plan on dropping as many videos as possible to continue the great works. Make sure to follow the SUatUWE Instagram page as well as Facebook to stay updated.
Raising funds was an important aspect of the Celebrating Black Excellence campaign to support great work locally. We selected a Bristol based charity organisation called ‘Bristol Black Carers’ who focus on providing culturally appropriate support and services to black and minority ethnic carers in Bristol.
We are incredibly proud of all that we have achieved during an unprecedented year. We would like to extend our gratitude to all staff at UWE Bristol and The Students’ Union who contributed to this campaign. The opportunities that have been presented through the host of Celebrating Black Excellence events have made an impact to the lives of many students and we hope that the work this year can be carried out in the next Academic year with some in person twist.
Visit the 2019/20 Black Hall of Fame, celebrating the successes of some black students, staff and alumni of UWE Bristol.
Visit the 2018/19 Hall of Fame Gallery, celebrating diverse Black cultures, Black role models and achievements of Black people.
Check out Black History Month 2019 to see our previous campaigns.