We want to thank everyone for attending the town hall, sharing their stories and giving their time to us. It was a long and overdue session but I’m glad we had the chance to come together.
The purpose of the Town Hall was to share with Black Students, develop a Black Students Caucus, political education and come together to develop ideas and demands for a better UCL for us.
We started off with some political education co-produced by Ngozi Elobuike and a collective of Women of Colour from MSc Public Health.
Using the three sections of ‘resistance, ‘resilience’ and ‘reclamation’, we were taken through a Black history that articulated the differences between ‘race’ and ethnicity, Black Reconstruction, racial capitalism, migration and colonialism.
On resilience, Ngozi posed the question “How does Blackness respond to denigration?”
“It adapts uniquely to a racial caste system though not without a hit to mental, physical and spiritual fortitude.
When we are kept for marrying, we jump the broom.
When we are kept from reading, we sneak pages.
When we are starved economically, we create our own communities.
What ways/examples can you think of?”
When looking at resistance, we were taken through the decolonial movement, slave revolts, civil rights movements and riots.
With ‘reclaiming the future’, we spoke about different visions for a liberated future for Black people. The Harlem Renaissance, Kwame Nkrumah, Marlon James and defunding the police.
“For many of us, spoken histories or song is our birthright” - Ngozi
Lavinya from the Black Curriculum Project also came and spoke to us about the absence of Black life and history from the national curriculum and what we can do as Students to change this. We were able to touch on the Black Supplementary School Movement and how the Black Curriculum Projects runs its own supplementary school.
“I had to pay £9K to learn that information”
“We can look around and see artefacts and remnants - why aren’t we being taught about this”
“The british curriculum has deliberatley removed parts of its history to remove periods of slavery and colonisation. All children need this and not just black students”
We heard from students who spoke about the white-washing of the curriculum across Africa and how this does everyone a disservice.
“We don’t own our education system” - talking about the African Education System
“I had to get up and leave”
“I can’t handle modules about race”
For resources and more information on how you can get help, please see this page.
This section was facilitated by Kay-Lee Walker and Kadeejah Kallo who led us through a discussion about how we’re feeling at the moment.
When talking about mental health, there we mixed feelings expressed. Some felt overwhelmed and acting on ‘autopilot’, while others were glad there were less things for them to focus on their academics, career and extracurriculars. Below are some quotes by students:
“I don’t know how they expect us to focus”
“Everything was autopilot”
“I had to get up and leave. I can’t handle modules about race, especially when you’re looking around and you can’t meet anyone eye to eye”
There were many experiences and incidents of racism at UCL spoken about. There was a continuous sentiment of having to bare it all:
“I didn’t come here for 6 years to fight for them to not say the N-word”
“You have to pick your battles”
“You listened to me and ignored me. And now you care”
“We’re often taught to firm it within the academic experience”
On the commodification of Black death in the media and in academia:
“I don’t know how they expect us to focus”
“WHITE PEOPLE MAKING CAREERS OUT OF YOUR LIVED EXPERIENCES”
On being the ‘only one’ and isolation:
“The whole pressure of my family is on my shoulders”
“The only other Black person was a security guard and we got to know each other. You can’t make this sh*t up”
“Being Black is cultural capital” / “We are relegated to being entertainers”
“Someone like me wasn’t supposed to be here”
“Go where you are wanted”
“especially when you’re one of a few Black people or the only one, you feel like a token”
“It's hard to say because as Black people we need to go to these “good” schools to get ahead, but in a way we are contributing to this system”
Many students related with an anecdote of staff and students attempting to use more slang, speaking with different accents, talking about irrelevant ‘Black’ topics in an attempt to ‘relate’ to them. This spoke to feelings of alienation, condescension, infantilization and othering:
“You notice they start using more slang”
Speaking on the lack of useful advice and guidance for Black students when we reach out:
“I went to my tutor to ask about pursuing a masters degree and they told me there was nothing. I came to find out my white counterparts got scholarships that I didn’t know existed”
Black Students Caucus
The formation of the Black Students’ Caucus came through the creation of the Black Lives Matter Statement and the generation of a ‘Black Students Action’ group.
The Black Students’ Caucus is a political space for Black students to learn, share, heal and collectively organise for Black Lives at UCL and beyond.
If you would like to join the Teams group or get actively involved in the caucus, fill out this form
And finally, if you haven't done so already, sign this petition for race quality at UCL