Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King's College London

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Women of Windrush

Windrush Day is marked annually in the UK on the 22nd June. Vanessa Bovell-Clarke (she/her) who works in Student Support & Wellbeing Services at King’s College London,  reflects on the women in her own family and the sacrifices they made so that those who followed them do not have to.


Vanessa sat looking out to sea at the Family House in Barbados

Vanessa at the Family House in Barbados.

For many people, the word ‘Windrush’ often brings to mind images of sharply dressed, young black men and women setting sail for new opportunities and a new chapter of life in the United Kingdom. More recently, the word has become more synonymous with this same generation as well and even their children being forcibly sent away from the UK, labelled as illegal immigrants by the very same government who first requested their help to rebuild a post-war Britain in the 1940’s.

With both my paternal and maternal grandmothers no longer living, I often wonder what they would make of the Windrush scandal having worked so hard themselves to build lives and plant roots in what I now call home.

Clotelle Eudene Roach (or Granny Clo as she was known to me) was born in Black Rock, St Michael on the island of Barbados in 1937, one of four children. Orphaned by the age of 15, Clotelle quickly took on a maternal role and played a huge part in providing for her siblings along with her older sister, Sylvie.

Granny Clotelle passport photo.

Granny Clotelle.

To make ends meet, she worked jobs in catering and as service staff, in the homes of the wealthy (and mostly white) in Barbados. The remnants of British colonisation were clear to see across the island, with limited opportunities for many black Bajans and much of the island’s wealth circling amongst direct decedents of plantation and slave-owning families.

In 1958, Clotelle set sail for the UK in search of a new destiny once her husband, Ricardo had travelled to London ahead of her (as was often the case for couples at that time) and found and prepared a place for them to live. Once settled in East London, Clotelle came into her own and took on a plethora of roles including seamstress and school lunch lady as well as offering her skills in baking and sewing to private clients and friends in the local community.

Further across to the west side of the Caribbean, Hermine Gertrude Morrison (aka Granny Babs) was born in Cave Valley, Jamaica in 1941, the second youngest of 11 children. In a similar fashion, Babs came to England after being ‘sent for’ by her husband, Lesley after he had settled in London in 1963. Just like Clotelle, Babs also threw herself into multiple jobs including work in a shoe factory, wig making, catering and hairdressing.

Granny Babs pictured on her wedding day.

Granny Babs pictured on her wedding day.

Growing up, my grandmothers were the physical embodiment of home, stability, family, strength and damn hard work. I witnessed them prepare gargantuan feasts of brown stew chicken, rice and peas, fried flying fish and cou cou (a cornmeal-based dish, also Barbados’ national dish) for crowds of family, friends and even neighbours on a regular basis. Both were regular attendees and very much involved in the church; some of my core memories include Sunday services and church fetes. They did this all whilst working multiple jobs and fulfilling the role of mother in an era that viewed parenting as very much a solitary and gender-conforming role.

It was only as I grew older, that I recognised the gravity of what they had accomplished. As part of the Windrush generation, being amongst the first in their families to move their whole lives to an unfamiliar country was a massive feat in itself. Facing daily racism in said country was an additional struggle; my Granny Clotelle told us of a time she was stopped by a white woman in the middle of a market, who tugged at the back of her skirt and said, “Let’s see your tail then?!”

This generation faced an untold number of difficulties and struggles most of which were steeped in racism, despite being such an integral part of rebuilding the UK economy, filling roles in nursing, catering, manual labour, hospitality, cleaning and much more.

I wonder about the mental health of my grandmother’s, the burdens they had to bear, the pain behind smiles and the silent struggles that were shared with no one but God. Throughout all of this, they were able to bring such life, culture and happiness to their families, which I will forever cherish. Their struggles and personal sacrifices serve as a reminder to me that I do not wish to and nor do I have to, continue to be ‘strong’ at the expense of my wellbeing. I am lucky to have multiple paths that lay ahead of me that do not necessarily include children and motherhood, but where I am encouraged to speak my truth about injustice and my pain.

November 2021 Barbados Independence Ceremony. Left to right: Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra Mason, Rhianna, Prince Charles.

November 2021 Barbados Independence Ceremony. Left to right: Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Dame Sandra Mason, Rhianna, Prince Charles.

In 2021, Barbados became a republic, officially denouncing the UK and it’s Queen as Head of State. Jamaica, alongside many other Caribbean countries are set to soon follow. This true independence feels like a poignant reflection of the next generation, as we prepare to live life to the fullest, honouring the Windrush legacy as we do so.


References/Relevant Articles:

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Windrush Day – King’s Legal Clinic Q&A

To mark Windrush Day we met with Shaila Pal, Director of King’s Legal Clinic to find out more about their recent work to support members of the Windrush Generation. 

The King’s Legal Clinic aims to further the education of KCL law students and promote social justice. The Legal Clinic has allowed King’s students to help victims of the Windrush scandal in practical and proactive ways. You can find out more about the Windrush Justice Clinic’s award winning work in this article


 

Tell us about yourself and your role at King’s. How did you get involved with this work?

I am the Director,  Supervising Solicitor and Senior Lecturer  at King’s Legal Clinic (the Clinic) which is part of the Dickson Poon School of Law.  The  Clinic aims to promote social justice and educate our students by providing them with experiential learning opportunities.   Our students work on legal cases and research projects under the supervision of lawyers either as part of an assessed module or on an extracurricular basis.   I teach and supervise clinic students and oversee the running of the Clinic, this includes developing new partnerships and clinics.

When the opportunity arose to develop a Windrush Justice Clinic (WJC) for King’s it seemed a perfect opportunity as  it aligned with the Clinic’s aim to proactively engage students in equality and race issues through experiential learning. Following the brutal killing of George Floyd , as a Clinic we had begun to  reflect more deeply on what our social justice mission means. The Clinic has long recognised the link between the hostile immigration environment and racism and have developed a range of immigration advice services to counter this. We also have an active strategy to work with marginalised  communities both in the UK and internationally.

I led on developing the WJC at King’s with great support from the Law faculty, the Clinic team and more widely at King’s.   There have been challenges along the way, but it has been a positive experience and really brough home how much my own values align with King’s. In the first part of my career I worked as a legal aid solicitor specialising mainly in refugee and immigration law. I had always been committed to working with marginalised  communities and   enabling   access to justice, the transition  to teaching  and clinical legal education was quite a natural one.

 

When we talk about the ‘Windrush scandal’, what do we mean?

People arriving from the commonwealth from 1948-1971 are commonly referred to as the Windrush Generation.  ‘Windrush’ derives from the ship ‘HMT Empire Windrush’ which brought one of the first groups of Caribbean people to the UK in 1948.   Many of the Windrush Generation were invited  by the British  government to the UK to take up jobs, for e.g in the newly formed NHS,  where there were shortages in the aftermath of WW2.     The people of these colonies or dominions , as there were then then known,  were given a type of citizenship   and were British subjects.  This accorded them a right of free movement within the empire and an ability to transmit their status to their children.

The essence of the scandal is that the Windrush generation , and their children,  who arrived in the UK  were residing here lawfully, they were either British or had  settled status. However the Home Office issued no formal paperwork  in many instances, as there was no legal requirement to do so.

In 2010,  the Home Office destroyed landing cards and other records  belonging to Windrush migrants, making it is difficult for Windrush arrivals and their families to prove their legal status following  changes in the Immigration system and notably the Government’s  2012 hostile environment policy.  The hostile environment policy aimed to make the UK uninhabitable for undocumented migrants by  tasking landlords, employers, the NHS, banks and many others   with the function of enforcing immigration control.  This meant that many of the Windrush Generation were  unable to prove their lawful immigration status , some were  detained and deported, lost their right to work and rent, access to bank accounts, claim benefits and access to healthcare etc.

In 2018, the UK government finally accepted that it had wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights to the Windrush generation.  Following acknowledgement of the scandal,  to date more than 12,000 people have received documents from the Home Office confirming they are now legally living in the UK.   In April 2019, the government established The Windrush Compensation Scheme (‘WCS’) which aims to provide victims with recompense for their suffering.

The WCS scheme has been extensively criticised and whilst attempts have been  made to improve it,  many consider it not fit for purpose. In November 2021, the Home Affairs Committee on the  WCS  found: ‘Instead of providing a remedy, for many people the Windrush Compensation Scheme has actually compounded the injustices faced as a result of the Windrush Scandal’.  There are numerous issues with the schemes;

  • Low uptake, only 5.8% of the people who are believed to be eligible for compensation have received a payment.
  • Complex application process requiring detailed calculations, supporting evidence and information.
  • Hostile approach to assessment of evidence.
  • Inadequate legal advice provision. Legal aid is not available.
  • Delay in decision making, for e.g. 23 people have now died without receiving a decision.
  • Low amounts awarded.
  • Inadequate appeals system.

Initial estimates had suggested the scheme could be forced to pay out between £200 -500 million and that at least 15,000 applications would be submitted.  Thousands of people have been affected by this scandal, but many are reluctant and often frightened to ask for help.  The estimate of eligible claimants has been revised down by the Home Office and current stands at 4,000 to 6,000 claims.

 

What does the Windrush Justice Clinic aim to do?

The WJC is a collaborative partnership made up of community organisations, law centres and university legal advice clinics striving;  to help victims of the Windrush scandal receive the compensation they deserve;    research  the accessibility  and fairness of the compensations scheme; and share and  disseminate the WJC  clinical  legal education  model of  collaboration.

King’s joined the wider WJC collaborative partnership  in  October 2021.   King’s part-funds a solicitor at Southwark Law Centre and 20 King’s students have been involved in;  supporting community outreach sessions to raise awareness of the WCS and build trust in the elderly Windrush community in Southwark;  and provide casework support to the SLC solicitor in complex cases involving vulnerable clients.

The WJC has carried out  preliminary research, led by the University of Westminster,  into unmet need for legal advice for people making claims under the  WCS which  found the process was to complex for claimants to navigate, legal assistance was required, the current advice framework in inadequate and there is considerable unmet legal need.

 

Have any of the cases you’ve worked on surprised you?

I have been struck how the Windrush scandal has impacted a wide variety of people from all walks of life and ages. King’s  WJC is representing clients from a variety of countries in the Commonwealth, including those with  Jamaican, Dominican,  Indian, Nigerian and Canadian heritage.   We have younger client’s who are victims of domestic abuse,  experiencing  serious problems  in accessing housing support due to the inability to prove their lawful residence.  An older client who’s highly successful  career in creative industry  was  stalled for a number of years,  which  had a  devastating impact on his life including  health issues, financial issues and the  resultant breakdown of significant relationships.  A daughter who  experienced  significant delays returning to the UK to care for her elderly and unwell mother. Many people’s lives have been impacted and it is humbling to hear about their experiences.

 

What lessons do you hope we have learnt from the treatment of the Windrush generation?

There is much to reflect upon and learn, this is something we are planning an event around to take place in either September or October 2022, so watch this space!  For  me the following are critical as a starting point:

It is important  to assess the root cause of   any  problem and  we have to address   the historic and ongoing racism which permeates immigration legislation in the UK.   Whilst there  has been some acknowledgment ,  there does appear some resistance.    It was recently reported that   the Home Office is  suppressing the release of   a government commissioned report  which finds racist legislation led to the Windrush scandal.

Public sector equality duties must be carried out in a meaningfully and robust fashion.  In 2020 the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that the Home Office has acted unlawfully by not properly considering how it’s hostile environment policies  affected black members of the Windrush generation.

A functioning and effective legal aid system is vital to protect people’s rights and keep a check on government.   When the hostile environment immigration policy was introduced, large parts of immigration advice was removed from the scope of legal aid,  therefore Windrush victims  were unable to access to   vital free legal advice.  Many Windrush victims  currently need legal  assistance with their  compensation claims in light of its complexity and the historical trauma suffered, legal aid is not available and this  is another reason for the low uptake in the compensation scheme.

A government compensation scheme should  be administered by an  appropriate  department  who is not viewed as the   perpetrator of the harm by the victims.  Distrust in the Home Office  has been cited as a reason for the low uptake in the scheme, the  rules of the scheme itself require a level of evidence which perpetuates the culture of hostile environment:

“From my experiences with the Windrush Compensation Scheme / Home Office, and their responses to my claim, it is almost like they are telling me the following: “We are really, really, sorry for punching you in the face, however, we are sure you’ve recovered now, it wasn’t that bad of a punch, so here is another punch in the face, but don’t worry about that one, because you’ve already recovered, please accept some tape and cotton wool to make a plaster out of.’” Windrush victim testimony provided to Home Affairs Committee

 

What is the future of the work of the WJC?

The WJC has been  great success so far ,   it won Best New Pro Bono Activity Award at the 2022 Law Works and Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards.  Most importantly we  are supporting clients and providing our students with a valuable learning experience, where they can develop  an understanding of structural inequalities in society and work with clients from diverse backgrounds.

We want the WJC to help as many people as possible through casework  in partnership with Southwark Law Centre, build capacity in other Clinic’s and organisations across the UK,  and carry  out  further research on unmet legal need and systemic issues  with the compensation scheme.


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The Windrush Generation – Britain’s Builders

To mark Windrush Day, Hannah Gordon, a first-year English student at King`s College London, remembers the legacy of the Windrush generation and their contribution to Britain.


 

Picture of the ship Empire Windrush.

The ship Empire Windrush.

Waving hands and smiling faces spill out of the Empire Windrush as it approaches Tilbury Dock. A new generation of hopeful arrivals determined to make their mark in the ‘mother country’ and build a better life for them and their families back home. Unbeknownst to them, they would face racism, inequality and discrimination that would define British race relations for years to come.

The Windrush generation, as most are known, have become the face of the dynamic global hub, which is Britain. In 2018, the Windrush Scandal became headline news with numerous cases of wrongful detentions and deportations of these migratory pioneers, who were invited by the British government to live and work. This scandal prompted widespread condemnation but more importantly, a conscious drive to honour the contributions of the Windrush generation. Subsequently, every year on the 22nd of June we celebrate Windrush Day commemorating their indelible sacrifice to Britain.

Both my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation. My grandmother was a night shift nurse in the NHS for 40 years and lived in Ladbroke Grove during the Notting Hill riots. My grandfather was an auto- electrician and then a machine operator- spanning 30 years. So, as we approach Windrush Day, what better time to learn more about the effort, resilience and duty of this generation who helped mould Britain into the cultural powerhouse it is today?

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian)

Lord Kitchener (calypsonian).

Contributions to the Public Sector

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

Picture of two nurses from the Windrush generation.

The NHS is a cultural institution to Britain. It embodies ideas of equality and accessible rights to all – regardless of circumstance. No wonder it took a staring position at London`s 2012 opening ceremony- think Britain think NHS. Today, 20 % of the NHS’ workforce is from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds and it is the most diverse workforce in the whole of Europe. Caribbean nurses from the Windrush Generation played a massive part in building the NHS helping to fill the labour shortage. Despite experiencing racism and discrimination, they pursued in their roles demonstrating dedication to their job, family, and Britain.

Many of the Windrush generation also worked in Transport for London. Transport for London actively recruited in the Caribbean and by 1956 they had enrolled dozens of workers – both men and women. Around 20% of TFL workers are still from Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds today. This transport network, iconic to London, still bears the Windrush imprint.

Contributions to Music
Large sound system.

Sound System.

Music has been long associated with the Windrush generation. From the sound systems, which became a vocal point for black youth seeking identity in hostile Britain, to genres like Reggae, Dub and Ska. Dub, which remixed records, became the premise for modern day genres like drum and bass as well as house music.

Contributions to Literature

As the conversation surrounding race in fields of education and literature becomes more prominent. Writers like Zadie Smith, Malorie Blackman, Sam Selvon and Benjamin Zephaniah are more widely recognised. Walk into waterstones and their books are in some of the most noticeable displays. The influx of diverse literature was a massive contribution of the Windrush generation. Writers like Sam Selvon helped popularise the creole voice in writing and his subversive style is often adopted by ‘contemporary figures like Zadie Smith’.  Other mobilising movements, like the Caribbean Arts Movement and the Caribbean Voices helped attract an audience to these new styles of writing.

Sam Selvon sat at a desk holding papers.

Sam Selvon

I have only scratched the surface of the Windrush Generation’s achievements. There are so many more exciting stories and experiences to share. We must continue to read, educate, and honour the debt they paid for this country as Britain`s builders.


References

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2 years on – reflecting on George Floyds murder

Jennifer Hastings, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manger here at King’s College London reflects on the 2nd anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. 


Today marks the anniversary of the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer. George Floyd was not the first (or last) victim of police brutality, however his death acted as a catalyst for protests and campaigns across the world. Organisations and brands joined in, many making a financial commitment or enacting race equality action plans with renewed vigour. Popular narrative also changed, as people with influence developed a greater understanding of what it means to be “anti-racist” (and how it’s not just a synonym for “not being racist”).

King’s senior leadership team released a statement committing them to addressing racism at King’s, and we developed a Black Lives Matter Plan as a sub-section of our Race Equality Action Plan. As EDI manager, and a white woman, I recognise that there is still a lot of work to do. I also acknowledge that King’s does not exist in a vacuum but in a world built on systemic racism where, in many parts of the Western world, whiteness is the invisible status quo. Campaign zero has developed a live tracker that puts into stark focus how pervasive police brutality is across America and, in recent events closer to home, a 15 year old Black school-girl was strip searched by police prompting a safeguarding review that concluded “racism was likely to have been an influencing factor.” We saw the Covid19 pandemic disproportionately impact Black and Asian people and extensive research illustrates how Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities are more likely to experience various forms of poverty, from overcrowded accommodation to unemployment. The ethnicity pay gap persists yet organisations are not currently required to report on it in the same way as they are for gender.

Back in 2020, so many people promised to do better. Fast forward two years and there’s still resistance to the term “white privilege” and questions of whether race equality work is even necessary. Only last week the Chief Executive of Advance HE wrote a piece in defence of its Race Equality Charter following criticism of “egregious wokery”.  I’m sure there are various reasons why someone may denounce the existence of racism, however the term “white fragility” seems particularly apt. In a paper published in the International Journal of critical Pedagogy in 2011, Robin DiAngelo defines white fragility as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

The work to be anti-racist, both as an individual and as an organisation, was always going to be challenging. Raising awareness has its place but we mustn’t shy away from the less palatable side of activism. Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matters movement reminds us that Every successful social movement in this country’s history has used disruption as a strategy to fight for social change.” And, in the midst of the hashtags, we mustn’t forget why Black Lives Matter was set up; Trayvon Martin was 17 years old when he was killed by George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty. His mother, Sybrina Fulton said: I want the world to know that my son was unarmed and he was 17 years old. He wasn’t committing any crime. Trayvon’s only crime was the color of his skin … which is not a crime.”

The ability to debate the existence of racism is a marker of white privilege and, for many members of the King’s community, the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder will be a particularly difficult time. If you teach, consider how a student’s engagement with their course may be affected. If you line manage people, be mindful of how this day may impact the mental health of your team.

Students can access support via the Counselling and Mental Health Support Service and staff can access the Employee Assistance Programme. We recognise that these services may not meet the needs of everybody and have signposted to further options below.

  • Black Minds Matter UK is a registered charity that connects individuals to Black therapists. Their aim is “to make mental health topics more relevant and accessible for all Black people in the U.K., removing the stigma and remodelling the services to be relevant for the Black community.”
  • The Lambeth and Southwark branch of Mind has a directory of mental health services that you can filter according to your requirements, including to connect with counsellors who share the same ethnic background with you
  • Rethink has a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic factsheet that includes a directory of services
  • For those who want to educate themselves further, take a look at our anti-racism resources

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Experiences of racial discrimination on clinical placements: A narrative analysis of medical student perspectives.

KCL Intercalated Bachelor of Science (iBSC) Primary Care Student Luckshi Jegatheeswaran is currently researching medical student experiences of racial discrimination whilst on clinical placements. Luckshi is inviting KCL medical & intercalating students, between the years 2 – 5 to contribute to the project by sharing their experiences.


Why is this study important?

The purpose of the study is to understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination – whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff and to understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

The NHS boasts the UK’s most ethnically diverse public sector workforce. Increasing awareness of the experiences of people of ethnic minorities within the healthcare team (from medical students to senior staff) is crucial. This will facilitate greater understanding of the experiences of these groups. It will also allow the identification of areas where measures that will empower and create safe workspaces can be taken, benefiting the well-being of healthcare professionals from ethnic minorities.

What is the aim of the study?

  • To understand how medical students can experience racial discrimination- whether directed at them, other students, or members of staff.
  • To understand the immediate and lasting emotional impacts of these experiences.

Who can take part in the study?

  • Medical & intercalating students between years two and five.

What is involved?

  • You will complete an anonymous survey. The survey will ask you to state your course and year of study. You will be asked to describe your experiences of racial discrimination on medical placements.

How do I take part?

  1. Read this participant information.
  2. Submit your experiences using this online form

For further information please contact Luckshi via email: luckshi.jegatheeswaran@kcl.ac.uk

 

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

To mark the United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s College London shares how you can make a difference and tackle racial discrimination. 


The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of the harm caused by racial discrimination. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination.

I only just this year learnt that the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. It held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001.

“Youth standing up against racism” is the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2022. A theme that should be close to all university’s hearts especially those like us that have declared themselves determined to be anti-racist.

Young people have the option of posting their opinions regarding discussions on human rights and racial discrimination at Voices of Youth, which is UNICEF’s online bulletin board for young people.

As part of the King’s community, there’s various ways for you to play your part in standing up against racism. EDI will be hosting active bystander training for students on 28th & 30th March and 1st April which you can sign up to here.  We are also delivering microaggression training to staff & students, which will teach you to identify, call out and respond to racial microaggressions. If you have witnessed racial discrimination and wish to report it, you can find out how on our Dignity at King’s webpages.  This also includes the option of reporting anonymously, which helps us monitor patterns to inform our proactive work.

Our Race Equity Inclusive Education Fund (REIEF) has provided over £99,000 across 13 projects, two of which are particularly relevant to today (Gargie Ahmad is bringing anti-racism into education and training for mental health research and practice, and Sapphire Williams is exploring anti-racism globally). Gargie will be telling us more about their research in an upcoming blog.

Proud to Be Me

This blog is part of a series celebrating Black History Month 2021 and the theme ‘Proud To Be’.

Aysha Nasir Rao, a third year History Student and Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive of the KCLSU, reflects on this years Black History Month theme of ‘Proud To Be’ and her experience studying the module ‘Investigating the Colonial Past of King’s College London’.


I am proud to be a Muslim.

I am proud to be Pakistani.

I am proud to be a woman.

I am proud to be the child of immigrants.

When I think of what I’m proud to be, these are the first that come to mind. The list could go on and on, but I think the things about myself I carry the most pride in are the things I was taught to be ashamed of, my heritage and faith being two of them.

Being a 90s baby, my formative years took place in a post 9/11 world (I was 5 years old) in Canada where it was definitely not a good thing to be a proud Muslim or Pakistani. This was made abundantly clear to me and my family living in a very small suburban town in Ottawa, where my family’s faces were some of the only brown ones I saw.

Some of my earliest memories are of beautiful Canadian winters, playing in the snow during Christmas time, lights and snowmen lining the streets. But this handful of memories are some of the only happy ones I can recall. The moments that I remember surprisingly clearly over twenty years later are of me in class being taunted by other students, of my teachers not stepping in when this happened, and of this tangible feeling that almost overnight people in my everyday life no longer liked or trusted me or my family. Even as a child I noticed how differently strangers would treat us, and worse how those in our own lives did.

It’s funny the things that leave such a lasting mark on us and affect us years on. That moment for me took place outside my family home. My neighbour was also my closest friend at school and who I sat next to everyday. It used to be a routine for me on the weekends to take my toys to her house and sit and have lunch with her family. This one particular weekend, around a month or so after the attacks, we were talking about her birthday party. She said to me, in the nicest way I think she thought she could, that her parents no longer felt I should be coming over to their house or playing with their daughter anymore. I remember not understanding why, I mean her family knew me so well and had only ever been nice to me, I spent more time at their house than I did at my own most weekends. She mumbled something or the other about what her parents thought of my family, which I assume was shared by the other parents at school because the same thing happened every time a birthday came around in class. Eventually I stopped taking the bus to school, I’d walk to my seat and spend the day not talking or being talked to. I started to learn to be quiet and slowly a sense of shame grew in me.

I think if my parents hadn’t made the decision to leave, I wouldn’t be writing about my pride right now. I credit a lot of this change to the community we made in Manchester. Though I was surrounded by so many different cultures, faiths and faces it was the first time I felt embraced and comfortable with people outside of my family (at the age of 7). I eventually got back in touch with my faith and my culture. I tried to re-learn Urdu, I started praying and proudly wearing my cultural dress, and it felt as though I unlocked another part of me. Like I wasn’t fully me because I wasn’t accepting all of me. And now that I’m in touch with my roots, I’m knowledgeable of my heritage and the incredible shoulders I stand on, I am so proud of who I am and what I represent. A brown Muslim woman.

Now as an adult I’ve reflected on how these events shaped me. Though it’s given me a great deal of resilience, once I got to KCL I noticed how much it was still affecting me in a negative way. King’s was certainly a culture shock. Though at the heart of the most diverse city in the world, Strand and more specifically for me the history department, was far from it and I found myself feeling alone and out of place again, a feeling I hadn’t felt at this level since I was a child. It’s not like those in my classes weren’t welcoming or kind, but looking back the last time I felt this out of place and was in a majority white space, I was five years old living in Canada.

I really found it difficult to feel the sense of community others felt and began to look for this at other universities where I felt more comfortable to express myself and where I was surrounded by more black and brown faces. This lack of comfortability was cemented in my first semester for my ‘Worlds of the British Empire’ module. When discussing the significance of Robert Clive’s statue, otherwise known as Clive of India, I shared what I felt his memorialisation represents especially when someone from my background is to walk by and see it. This was met with barely an acknowledgement, a sigh or two and was ultimately brushed off easily by the other students and not touched on again. By the time I was in second year, 2020 finally brought some much needed attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. Though this was brought about by instances of horrific police brutality with the death of George Floyd, and dozens of other black men and women during the summer alone, the world was forced to stop and listen to the conversations that have always been had within family homes and black and brown communities the world over.

Here in the U.K, people were also forced to confront the histories of some of their most celebrated figures, Nelson and Churchill for example, who have deep ties with the slave trade and colonial legacies. I saw some changes being made past appearances at King’s, the creation of the ‘Investigating the Colonial Past of King’s College London’ led by Dr Liam Liburd being one. I again debated the presence of another statue, but luckily to a much more empathetic class.

Part of the assessment for this module was to create a poster based on our own research into King’s colonial past through King’s extensive archive (though we were limited due to COVID). Mine, which is attached below, went with a Star Wars theme and likened the British Empire to that of the Emperor Palpatine’s Imperial Army. It serves as a summary of some of my key learnings from the module.

King’s: An imperial story poster

Though it’s only scratching the surface, I wanted to highlight what King’s stood for at its inception but to end on what King’s legacy and what it aims to be now, especially since I am now a tiny part of that legacy. With an institution as old as King’s, Oxford and Cambridge being the only two older English institutions, there wasn’t much doubt that the university I now pay a large sum of money to had a hand in subjugating my ancestors through empire and has its own links to the Atlantic slave trade. Looking at the poster again, it raises the question for me of if we can ever achieve a fully decolonised curriculum at King’s or if those two things are in conflict with one another. It’s an interesting question for all of us to think about.

Being a history module, the class was not the most diverse (to be expected), but Dr Liburd and the other students created an encouraging space for us all to share our thoughts which were respected and not belittled and where empathy was always present. Though Dr Liburd this year has gone on to a great position at Durham University, the module is continuing with Dr Jean Smith. Speaking with Dr Smith earlier this month, it was lovely to hear how committed and determined she was to making this classroom space just as safe and comfortable for students.

For any single or joint honours history students on the fence on selecting this module, I can definitely say you won’t regret it, even if colonial history isn’t your main area of focus. The debates we had in class opened my mind to new ideas, I learnt the histories of abolitionists that were never taught to me in school, I learnt how to conduct research on my own which we don’t get a chance to do until third year, and most importantly, my beliefs were challenged regularly in a way they haven’t been in other classes. And as a bonus, it’s also a welcome break from writing the longform essays we’re unfortunately too used to.

Change always happens slower than we would like, but on the brighter side the History department is in the process of redesigning the first-year curriculum and have just met this week to discuss the second-year curriculum, both with decolonising themes being at the centre of these talks. For me this means in a few years, the history degree will be more attractive to those from minority backgrounds, and they will have a chance at studying a more honest view of world history. On this subject, I was able to have an open conversation with Professor David Brydan about decolonising the History curriculum, what challenges there are and what he sees happening moving forward.

 

Aysha Nasir Rao in conversation with Professor David Brydan

How do you define decolonisation it in relation to the curriculum?

It means different things to different people. The simplest strand is a deep diversification, that there is a diversity of voices in our primary sources, secondary reading and the geographical scope of the topics we cover. Then, on a level up, it is about challenging ourselves on what we teach and the perspectives we teach from. For example, I teach the global Cold War. One of the easiest things to do is to have load of primary sources from all over the world, but the more difficult thing to do is saying that the Cold War is a Western construct and thinking about the second half of the twentieth century as “The Cold War” is a very narrow, western-centric view of that period of history in which the Cold War was one of lots of different strands of things going on, of which decolonisation was one. Thinking about how and to what extent, even if at all, we can think about the Cold War beyond the western lens is not something easily done but is something you must embed into all of the conversations we have in our teaching. And finally, I think with conversations surround decolonisation you have to think of anti-colonialism as well and people who fought against it. Sometimes I worry that the language is a bit too neutral in a way and instead what we should be talking about is anti-colonialism in the same way we talk about anti-racism and an ant-racist curriculum, rather than a de-racist curriculum. And bringing it back to the Cold War, you can easily include a lot on the fight against colonialism in all of its forms and anti-colonialists in the source material.

Do you see or feel that there any roadblocks to having that open safe space within a classroom to discuss conversations such as this?

I don’t think it’s necessarily about specific roadblocks and I haven’t found situations where there are individuals who are hostile to having these conversations. There are a lot of people who don’t care that much and there are people who see these conversations through a hostile lens, but I’ve never experienced that in my classrooms.

I think it’s more about what we have been discussing before where it’s the wider political environment makes people reluctant to engage in the conversation because they fear that they will be misinterpreted or create difficult situations in even raising these topics. It’s such a difficult thing to target because it often comes down to the dynamics of the group and the institutional dynamics and you can’t just pretend it’s like having an open conversation amongst friends where you won’t necessarily be judged. I think working out how we create these kinds of environments is really hard but one if the things I was struck by the other day was the importance of dialogue, not just amongst students, but staff-student dialogue and I was interested by what you said about having these conversations with staff members made you feel more comfortable and changed your perspective as well. I think if everyone was able to have those detailed conversations with us and vice versa, then we would be able to create those environments where people are more comfortable. We’re limited with the time we have with students in a group setting so what we need to do is find a way to almost shortcut that process, for lack of a better word. So dialogue is what I would put the most emphasis on, but I’m not entirely sure how we would create those environments for all students in the little time we have with them in each class.

How would you tackle apathy to these issues within the King’s community?

Again, I would emphasise the process of dialogue. I think if you were to throw the question of decolonisation in with no preparation, then those who are inherently interested in it will already have ideas and those who haven’t thought about it before won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. And so, for the people haven’t been exposed to these ideas before, I think we really need to embed it in the formal conversations we have throughout the year so that people in lots of different classes covering a variety of periods and topics have had these important conversations about what a decolonised curriculum means and what a decolonised approach to their topics means. And through that people will develop. People will not be apathetic because they will gain a greater understanding if its importance, especially in a historical context. And this needs to be a long-term pedagogical process, not something that is just thrown in every now and again in isolation but discussed throughout the modules and built into the curriculum

And I would say, the only times I’ve had unsatisfactory conversations about it has been when I have just thrown it in there without giving students that preparation, and where it has worked well is where there has been an ongoing dialogue.

Are there plans for introducing decolonisation topics for specific modules that are compulsory for history students throughout the course for example, HSSA or History and Memory?

I think faculty members are doing that anyways because of conversations being had by a lot of people, especially more recently. There is currently a curriculum reform process going on in which these conversations re being had in the background, but I wouldn’t say there’s a set strategy where every module will have it set out this way. But I think one of the things we should do is talk to students about that, which is what we’re doing with the redesign of our first-year curriculum, and say ‘this is what we’re doing, what do you think about it, what reading would you like to see, are there any topics you feel we missed etc..’, and then thin king about decolonising the curriculum as part of those conversations would be really useful thing to do.

Do you know if there are any plans to include modules which directly deal with this subject matter, such as Black in the Union Jack or King’s Colonial Past?

We are reforming the curriculum year by year and we are in the process of reforming year 1 right now. We actually have our first meeting about year two this week and this is where students can be more selective in their modules choices and focus on their interests. I don’t have specifics about this, but this is why dialogue like this is so useful, so when it comes time for departmental meetings about reforms to be made all of these conversations can feed into those discussions.

In your time at the department (3 years) have you noticed any change with regards to embracing decolonising movements?

I can see that a lot has changed since the three years that I arrived at least in terms of the modules that I’m aware of being taught, but I also don’t think there’s been a grand transformation either. I think the process was already happening beforehand and it’s definitly an ongoing but slow moving. And so yes is my answer, but I don’t think by any means the problem has been solved. Going back to your first question, this is very much a process and it’s not something where we can do ten things and it’s not an issue anymore. Inherently this is something that must be embedded in our thinking going forward and we will naturally find new and different ways to decolonise the curriculum because the problems won’t always be the same. And we need to constantly be including students because it is a process of dialogue and people’s ideas around this and how to best tackle these issues will change over time, and I think partly changes in the department will come from constantly pressure and dialogue with students.

With regards to having a more representative student body, how do you think we should engage students from underrepresented backgrounds to be interested in history in HE, especially as there is this disparity compared to other faculties?

This is definitely a humanities problem, I think. Generally, History attracts people from higher socio-economic backgrounds whose university choices aren’t necessarily dependent on job prospects straight after graduation, as well as the perception that humanities won’t lead to as well-paid jobs which then feeds into the backgrounds of the students on our courses. But it also has to do with History and the way it is taught in schools and what is taught in schools.

So, with regards to what we can control I think working with schools is really important. I and other members of the department have done a lot of work like this and have these conversations that we’re having but within the school context as well, which is difficult because they’re more constrained by a national curriculum. For example, Toby Greene in the department designed an A-level module on pre-colonial West African history and put together resources for teachers to use with the intention that this is something that schools should be teaching and incorporating, especially since topics like this aren’t available for A-level students to do. So yes, if we can help to decolonise schools in regard to what they’re teaching then that will hopefully feed through to the backgrounds of the students who then come to study history at university. And if your experience of history is studying the Tudors over and over again in school, why would you feel like a history degree is relevant for you.

School teachers have more constraints that at university because they need to get their students to get good grades and they have a curriculum they have to follow and exam boards and so the desire to do this kind of work may be there, but they don’ have the time or resources to do so. I think in university we face fewer constraints and have more intellectual freedom so in that sense it’s easier for us. However, we do have institutional constraints. For example King’s at the moment thinks that we should have fewer modules and all modules should be run by multiple members of staff, so that for example constrains to some extent what we can do, but we still ultimately have the freedom to teach what we want. But also, for us I think the constraint is also a time constraint because it can take quote a long time for change to happen especially since it’s all very collegiate and there are processes to follow which ultimately delays things. Partly, there’s also a degree of institutional inertia in that it’s easier to teach things you’ve already had to teach and kept the same than it is to prepare new courses every year which teachers don’t always have the time to do that especially when a lot of staff are early in their career and people are on fixed-term contracts, they are normally coming in a picking up pre-existing courses rather than having the time to design their own.

The publication you were a part of in 2019 raised the problem of syllabi struggling to keep track of re-interpretations of history and thus teachers resorting to teaching the history they were taught at school. How do you think can we integrate new ideas and topics into these very familiar narratives?

The teaching and learning document we did was a collaboration between historians and schoolteachers, and it was written for the Historical Association for schools. It was published three years ago but the initial thoughts to do it started about five years ago.

I don’t think we talked a lot of decolonisation in this, but we certainly had thought about it. I had written about the Cold War, and I tried to write about the Global Cold War and introducing decolonisation topics into that.  But the interesting thing about this is that I think if we wrote it now, we would do it differently and I think both the academic historians and the teachers who contributed to it would have possibly put more emphasis on Black history, history of migration and on decolonising the curriculum generally because these conversations have been more prominent in the last five years.

I think reading it, it was quite ahead of its time but also so much more has changed especially with what has been brought up in the world with the BLM movement and so on. It suggests how fast things can change and how slow some of these processes are because when this was published it was thought to be cutting-edge research to give to schoolteachers but now the world has changed so much and suddenly doesn’t seem so cutting-edge and needs to be re-evaluated.

And we don’t know what’s going to happen in the world in the next five years and the way we understand history is always shaped by what is going on around us and so this is very much going to be an ongoing process.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think I would just emphasise the dialogue point. I think it’s easier to think that this is something for academics to do and that it has to be a top down process but if we’re talking about decolonising the curriculum as a shift in power dynamics that extends to the classroom as well, it has to be partly about democratising the curriculum to a certain extent and integrating the views and ideas of the students in dialogue with academics, a kind of partnership model of education and curriculum reform. This might sometimes be quite difficult to do practically but I think that dialogue and collaborative working is so important.

The opposite of colonisation

Our latest blog in a series to mark Black History Month is brought to us by Chenée Psaros.

Chenée is a Learning Developer at King’s Academy and Co-chair of Proudly King’s, the LGBTQ+ staff network. She is South African, the daughter of immigrants, the decedent of settlers and an immigrant herself. Her forefathers were white colonisers who benefitted from colonial conquests in South Africa and then, when it became a republic, benefitted again from Apartheid. It is through the lens of a white South African she explores the discourse about decolonisation in higher education in the UK.


As questions of identity, race and inequality are becoming more prevalent and strategies to address social inequities are sought, British universities are endeavouring to ‘decolonise’ their institutions. From the University of Bristol’s Decolonising Education course to our own Voices of Decolonisation KED Talk, you would be hard pressed to find a university in the United Kingdom that has not prioritised decolonisation in the last few years. George Floyd’s death catapulted systemic racism to the forefront of our focus and universities were quick to commit to anti-racist rhetoric and support for marginalised groups. However, much of the discourse around decolonisation and systemic racism are used interchangeably, we should approach the use of these terms with care, because although they are inextricably linked, they are not synonyms.

The opposite of colonisation is not decolonisation, it is repatriation. If universities gained wealth from Britain’s colonial past, we should be asking how repatriation of what was lost should take place. Settler force erased entire indigenous cultures, languages and epistemologies; these are lost forever. The act of the former imperial power trying to ‘decolonise’ for the indigenous populations they oppressed is deeply uncomfortable. ‘Decolonisation is not a metaphor’, and in their seminal text of the same name, Tuck and Yang (2012) argue that decolonisation situated outside of the indigenous context is another form of settler appropriation, used to alleviate white guilt and in doing so undermines the indigenous voices that are key to the discussion.

Much of the debate of decolonisation has focused on statues. Recently, the University of Cambridge made the decision to return a Benin bronze statue to Nigeria (Khomami, 2021). Similar acts have occurred throughout Europe. However, the most concentrated focus on decolonisation and HE is the 2016 fight to remove the statue of Cecil John Rhodes which looms over Oriel College at the University of Oxford. The pinnacle of the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford movement coincided with the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 (Mohdin 2021). Students who led the movement called for the statue to be removed because they wanted to address ‘the toxic inheritance of the past’ (Rhodes Must Fall Oxford, 2018) and bring attention to the underrepresentation of students of colour. To date the statue has not been removed (Badshah 2021).

This was not the first statue of Rhodes students demanded be taken down. The Rhodes Must Fall Movement in Oxford gained momentum after a less well known, but more successful campaign at the University of Cape Town in South Africa (Chaudhuri 2016). In 2015, students protested about the lack of transformation more than twenty years after Apartheid fell – out of two hundred, there were only five black professors, and the university was not actively diversifying their staff (Peterson 2015). Students wanted change, they did not want the statue of the person who was responsible for the loss of their tribal lands and the rape of their ancestors to hold a place of honour. They protested, the fight was ugly, but the students won. A symbol of oppression was removed and the university reviewed their practices.

It hard to imagine in today’s times who is comparable to Cecil John Rhodes. His wealth and influence in Africa were vast, he had not one, but two countries named after him, a monopoly on Southern African diamond mines, the British Army and his own police force at his disposal. His power was great and far reaching; his forces sequestered native land, pillaged tribal property and raped indigenous women. He might well have been a man of the times but his single-mindedness to expand the British Empire was unparalleled. His legacy lives on. Beyond the statues that honour him, the wealth he gained in Africa allowed him to bequeath vast endowments to Oxford University and establish one of the most famous scholarships of all, the Rhodes Scholarship.

The Rhodes Scholarship was established in 1903 to promote unity between English-speaking nations and when it was set up only white men were eligible to apply. It was slow to diversify, women only qualified in 1977 and black people from South Africa only in 1992. It has since gone on to support people like Bill Clinton, Rachel Maddow and Naomi Wolf. It was in 2018 that the scholarship was opened globally. However, in that same year, of the ninety-five scholarships available fifty-five were awarded to students from the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, only ten were awarded to students who were from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana and Malawi (Rhodes Scholar Database 2021). The demographic data about the students who were selected was not available, but it is doubtful that many indigenous students won the scholarship.

The inequalities that have shaped South Africa from the colonial past (Gebrial, 2018) and apartheid were violently acted out this summer. Riots and looting caused the destruction of businesses in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. The unrest was catapulted to the forefront as Covid lockdowns had so adversely affected people. South Africans, unlike people living and working in Britain, were not able to participate in furlough schemes or apply for social security payments to help them out in times of need. The access to vaccines that might have allowed people to return to work sooner was limited because the UK and other wealthy nations stockpiled it. When South Africa asked for Oxford Astrazenca patents to be made available to produce vaccines locally, they were denied (Nocera 2021, Stone 2021, Watney 2021). When the South African government purchased vaccine from Pfizer they were subsequently charged more than their European counterparts because they had not invested in the development (Thanbisetty, 2021). Universities were at the heart of developing vaccines, can those who claim they want to decolonise, work with companies who exploit countries with less global capital?

There is much rhetoric about how higher education can decolonise its institutions, its practices and its curricula. How we move forward to being more culturally competent is at the heart of the discussion. While universities have histories intertwined with wealth from slavery and occupation, we need to acknowledge, living in a former imperial power, that individually we do too. We are not blameless. Regardless of our nationality, ethnicity, race, gender, if we currently reside in the United Kingdom we benefit, to different degrees albeit, from the legacy of the power and positioning modern day Britain inherited from her colonial past. Decolonial work cannot happen in the palace of the colonisers, the Global South needs to have a stake in how decolonial work should take place. If we are committed to decolonisation, we should acknowledge that it cannot take place without indigenous perspectives and contributions of those territories that were once occupied. The Oxford example demonstrates how the appropriation of a movement did not bring about change and how the settler perspective overshadowed the colonial one because of global power constructs. Universities should move beyond decolonisation and explore what repatriation looks like in an HE context. If we really want to make the world a better place, we could do it through scholarships, how we share knowledge and resources, and how we fund research.


References:

Happy Black History Month

Helena Mattingley, Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s reflects on what makes the cut into history curricula and shares her ever growing reading list.


Each October we mark Black History Month to  celebrate  the achievements and contributions of Black people now and throughout history, and noting the deliberate neglect or active removal of Black people from history.

British History as taught in schools is highly edited, not only in terms of historic periods, but who within those periods has the spotlight. History is produced in re-creating – who and what is chosen, how it is presented, and the selective memory and even more selective re-telling.

History is created from the pieces left behind, cherry picked and woven into a narrative by curators which typically matches their world view. It’s taught as being History, rather than curated evidence of the past – by which I mean it’s presented as Truth with a capital T.

My perception of what I was taught as history was like looking through a microscope and being told I could see the whole of UK History. To have a real understanding, we need to recognise the prejudice and bias of the evidence, of the historians, and what makes it into public consciousness is not a true reflection. I want to add more microscopes and more perspectives until I can see a broader representation of the past to continue my self-education.

This is why Dr Liam Liburd’s work to design a King’s Colonial History module is so important. Through inclusive scholarship, a cohort of talented students have uncovered and pulled silenced histories into focus. New voices and perspectives are bringing an important dimension of our past to life, and challenging the simplistic default white narratives.

Self-education is a powerful took, which is why I’ve been building a reading list. What would you add to this?

  • Black and British, David Olusoga
  • Black London, Avril Nanton and Jody Burton
  • Black Tudors, Miranda Kaufmann
  • Staying Power, Peter Fryer
  • Empireland, Sathnan Sanghera

You can use the comments section below to share your own inclusive must reads lists

 

I am proud to be

In double celebration of Black History Month’s 2021 theme of ‘Proud To Be’ & a special birthday, Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at King’s has penned poem to mark the momentous month.


image of sarah guerra, director of equality, diversity and inclusion

Sarah Guerra, Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at King’s College London.

I am proud to be 

A daughter of immigrants (They get the job done. Yes, I am proud to be 

a Hamilton fan, too.)

A diasporic Trini and Mauritian and grateful for all the roti that’s brought to my life 

Politically black even with my light brown sugar skin  

A daughter of nurses and a lifelong devotee and beneficiary of the NHS 

Someone who started life in that council block in Joyce Avenue, N18 

A sister of a Met police officer (but terrified at what tragedy any day might bring) 

A mother of four unbelievable young women who will all leave their indelible mark on the world (and on me!) 

A committed and demanding partner for life – Who knew my Beautiful Stranger awaited me at that Somerset House basement party? (I only want to be with you.) 

Surprised to discover the joy of hard cardio in my fourth decade, such a regular at Tooting Leisure Centre that they all know me (Yes, Citizen Khan is an icon, cheers Adil) 

A born and bred Londoner – unusual for being from ‘the North’ and now joyous in Tooting – have you been? Home of Sadiq and in Lonely Planet’s top 10 coolest neighbourhoods on EARTH (the Guerra effect?)  

A survivor – of rape and sexual assault, and of racism and sexism in a world that has tried its best to keep me down 

An Equality Warrior battling for the rights of everyone, particularly those society often chooses to overlook  

Seen by others as brave, adventurous, scary and hilarious 

An Olympic standard Netflix binger (other providers are available) and avaricious reader and cinema enthusiast (Shonda, Ava, Steve, Spike, Zora, Zadie, Toni, Chimamanda thank you for enriching my life so!) 

A world traveller – 42 countries at my last count (a real source of pride and pleasure) 

A foodie – pondering food, cooking and eating are really some of my most favourite activities 

Channelling the gifts of Maya Angelou: Still I rise in my career despite the snakes and ladders, concrete ceilings, glass cliffs and ritual humiliations  

A brown girl in the ring at King’s – all too often the only one 

A smart woman and a thought leader. People listen when I talk, and they remember my name (picture and hear Irene Cara here – Fame, I’m going to live forever) 

Someone who may have no rhythm and be tone deaf but who dances to the beat of her own drum (and sings the tunes in her own head – thank you Tracy, Madonna, Tina and Beyonce for being the soundtrack of my life)! 

Someone who loves passionately and commits evangelically to what she believes in  

I am proud to be me – my own little piece of black history celebrating my half century 

A black, bi, menopausal, warrior princess  

Sarah Guerra  

Happy Black History Month 2021 and Happy 50th Birthday to me. 

 

 

 

 


Learn more about Black History Month 2021 – Proud To Be – here.

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