Alex Prestage is Diversity & Inclusion Manager at King’s, with responsibility for managing the university’s Race Equality Charter Award; King’s is proud to have maintained a Race Equality Charter Bronze Award since the charter’s launch in 2015, in recognition of our commitment to progressing race equality for staff and students. Below, Alex reflects on the important role volunteers play in maintaining and progressing our work around Diversity & Inclusion at King’s within the context of Black History Month.

UK Black History Month, marked each year in October, celebrates Black histories and recognises contributions that are often hidden or erased. Across King’s this year we’re hosting a varied and exciting programme of events celebrating the contributions of King’s Alum Dr Harold Moody, tackling the issues of reparations and decolonisation at King’s, and screening a veritable plethora of films touching on Black history and race equality.

In the spirit of the month, I’d like to take the opportunity to personally and publicly recognise the contribution of a group of individuals to race equality, and Black history, at King’s: The Race Equality Writing Group (REWG). Between 2017 and early 2019 REWG convened to work in collaboration across King’s to further race equality for staff and students via King’s engagement with AdvanceHE’s Race Equality Charter.

REWG are a diverse group of staff of different ethnicities, nationalities, genders, beliefs, (dis)abilities, working patterns, caring responsibilities and personal/professional backgrounds – they’re academics and professional services, Black and white, and all of them leaders. Many of the team volunteered their time, on top of their day jobs, in order to positively impact race equality at King’s for our wider staff and student community.

When the group first convened in 2017, the task before them was looming: to lead an organisation, like King’s, further along the path to race equity; not an easy task, nor a responsibility that was taken lightly by any of the team! Over the year and a half, REWG collated and analysed mountains of qualitative and quantitative data to better understand the nuances of race equality at King’s split by ethnicity, faculty, directorate, undergraduate, postgraduate, UK national, non-UK national, full-time, part-time – the list goes on! From this insight and further consultation with staff and students, REWG established and articulated four priority issues for King’s to address in order to progress race equality and create a more inclusive university. Talah Anderson, D&I Project Intern, reflected on these issues earlier during Black History Month.

Simply identifying and sharing these issues was not enough – it was for REWG to develop a visionary action plan that would address staff and student concerns and feedback in a long-term, sustainable manner. This required a fine balance of creative problem-solving, blue sky thinking, and pragmatism; one that I believe REWG struck – challenging King’s to increase investment in race equality work and working closely with colleagues across the university to apply race equality perspectives and lenses to existing projects and work.

By the end of February 2019 REWG had engaged over 1,400 staff and students via surveys, focus groups, action planning workshops in an institution-wide conversation about race. To achieve this as a mixed group of volunteers with no prior history of collaborating (or in some cases working on race equality!) demands recognition; all too often responsibility for resolving Diversity & Inclusion issues falls to those who fall victim to them. As such, it’s important for us, as a university and for those of us who practice Diversity & Inclusion in various capacities, to recognise the efforts and achievements demonstrated by our staff and students like REWG.

Earlier this month, REWG’s endeavor to further race equality at King’s, their achievements both personal and collective were recognised by King’s Awards – Race Equality Writing Group have been shortlisted for the Inclusive Workplace Award. Please join me in congratulating each of REWG members; I’d like to thank each of the following for their hard work, and wish them luck at the Awards Ceremony on 21st November:

  • Syreeta Allen (Director of Student Success, Interim)
  • Evelyn Welch (Senior Vice Principal and Provost Arts & Sciences)
  • Sarah Guerra (Director of Diversity & Inclusion)
  • Renee Romeo (Senior Lecturer Health Economics and IoPPN Race Equality Network Co-Champion)
  • Richard Salter (Director of Analytics)
  • Paloma Lisboa (Director of Operations)
  • Natalie Armitage (Case Management Consultant)
  • Lucy Ward (D&I Coordinator)
  • Helena Mattingley (Head of D&I)
  • Evelyn Welch (Senior Vice Principal and Provost Arts & Sciences)