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NUS Black Students Conference 2018

Kaleya Baxe our Black, Asian and Minorities Ethnic Officer at Central Students' Union attended Black Students Conference on the 11th and 12th May 2018! Read her update below on everything that happened!

Oh and just before you jump into reading all the important information below we wanted to highlight that Kaleya and #DearWhiteCentral picked up the Highly Commended award from the NUS Black Students campaign! A massive congratulations to everyone involved and we're excited to see how campaigns like this will shape the future of student life here at Central!

Black Students Conference 2018: Update

Our Key Note Speaker was Professor Shirley Anne Tate, Leeds Beckett University who was the first professor of race and education in the country! During this session we looked into the Student Attainment Gap. BAME students are twice as likely to get a 2:1 in comparison to their white counterparts regardless of background, class, or the grade they joined their HE institution with.

Research shows this is due to:

  • Feelings of isolation

  • Not feeling like extra resources were not for them/not accessible to them

  • Segregation

  • Low teacher expectation

  • Cultural and social differences (e.g. a large number of BAME students living at home making it more difficult to socially integrate)

Results from a BAME student experience review:

  • Anxious about starting

  • Anxious about group work and group assessment.

  • Because of common occurrences of racism from peers

  • Not enough black staff in supportive roles

We also explored ways universities are dealing with this:

  • Unconscious bias training masks institutional racism.

  • EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) keeps racial injustice going by

  • Replaces anti-racist strategies

  • Doesn’t help students who still experience racism

  • Doesn’t lead to decolonisation of curriculum

  • Has not lead to feelings of safety for BAME students

  • Problematises the culture within institutions rather than looking at institutions as systemically racist

Ways to deal with it:

  • Review curriculum

  • Change white faculty have more BAME staff in all roles

  • See this issue as a teaching and learning issue, NOT an equality and diversity issue

Professor Shirley Anne Tate is also currently in the process of opening a centre for Race, Education and Decolonisation where people can study BA’s, MA’s and PhD’s in the subject. There will be waives for refugees.

Changing the name of the NUS Black Students Campaign

There was a Motion submitted to change name to Students of Colour Campaign

  • A survey was done and amongst Unions and found this to be the most popular name

  • It is a name that is inclusive of all

An Amendment was also sumbitted to replace motion with African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean Campaign (AAAC)

  • Many thought term ‘people of colour’ to be a historically racist term and did not identify

  • Argued that although People of Colour is a now an academically accepted term students/people in communities do not use/understand why and do not identify

  • AAAC was not included in the survey for the name change

  • Apparently, all the results of the survey have been lost so there are no records of how many people/unions took part and it cannot be replicated so people don’t trust its findings

  • However, excludes communities that do not identify in those 4 categories such as Latin American


  • First the amendment to change Students of Colour to AAAC did not pass, I voted against as I felt it was exclusive

  • Then whole motion did not pass on the grounds that the research was not done effectively and more should be done in the next year to re-vote on a new name at next Summer Conference. I abstained based on concerns with the original survey and the strong feelings of people in the room

We then participated in a workshop on Mental Health in PoC Communities

We explored the possible links between barbershops and male mental health during this session as well as ways to tackle Mental health in our communities:

  • Studies show black males go to barbershops to get much more than a haircut. Great campaign to get barbers first aid trained and encourage them to start conversations around mental health to help refer people. Some campuses have worked with barbers for an event giving students free haircuts while they’re encouraged to talk about mental health.

  • Diverse counsellors

  • Many BAME students don’t feel comfortable sharing their issues with white counsellors, especially if it’s linked with racism

  • ‘Look out for your mates’ training

  • Training peer to peer support

  • Focus groups on BAME student experience accessing wellbeing

  • These focus groups ended up becoming a space where students felt really comfortable discussing mental health and expressed finding it more helpful to have these wellbeing societies/sessions run by peers rather than discussing with staff/accessing the unis other wellbeing services

  • Education and awareness around mental health and trauma

  • Before fixing services we need to address the issue that many people in the BAME community cannot even identify their feelings and don’t recognise the trauma that they carry. An officer found students to be very dismissive of their own feelings/experiences.

  • Stop generalising language around mental health

  • We must recognise that one model for addressing mental health does not fit for all. Different people are at different stages. PoC’s still have many cultural taboos around mental health that must be addressed. We should do more focus groups around what their experiences are. Also call counsellors should have cultural bias training.

Women’s Caucus

Work in the past year:

  • Black Girl Magic Campaign during Black History Month celebrating Black females in NUS

  • Event Breaking Barriers inviting Black academics to share how to breakthrough barriers they faced

  • My Black Female Hero campaign, created debates around who we as Black women look up to

Discussion on Colourism:

  • Although we might look to ourselves to determine our own worth, it can’t be denied that “beauty is a currency” and we want to be seen as valuable by employers and people in power

  • How colourism relates to body shape: being skinny and dark-skinned is acceptable but being thick and dark isn’t. However lighter women like mixed-race women are more widely accepted no matter what they’re body type

  • Colourism and natural vs straight hair often stems from cultures and/or older generation in the home

  • However, sometimes it isn’t always as explicit as your mum telling you your hair looks messy naturally. Sometimes it’s about walking into a space and your expectations of what you receive in that space might change depending on your hair style or makeup e.g. not expecting to get a job because someone else was present who was lighter-skinned or wore their hair differently

  • Discussed the new fake tanning phenomenon where more and more white women are trying to look much much darker

  • “Why is it ok for you to be a white woman with a tan when it’s not ok for me to be my colour as I am- it’s white supremacy all over”

  • “White people like to appropriate our culture without being involved in our culture. They want our lips, our hair, our skin tone, but not on us”

  • Practical suggestions for how to psychologically free ourselves from these narratives:

  • Curate your Instagram so you only follow black girl pages

  • Buy from black-owned stores

  • “The power of the black dollar” look at Black Panther, Fenty Beauty

  • However often it is still white people profiting, with Black Panther, Fenty Beauty half owned by a white man, although black plus size ASOS model is great ASOS still owned by white people.

Other Significant Motions

107: Against Brexit

  • A part of the motion was debated that wanted NUS BSC to campaign on calling another referendum on the Brexit DEAL so we can decide what we get

  • Arguments against were that the referendum cause so much racism and xenophobia and we’d be putting our communities in danger

  • Conference voted to remove these parts but BSC will continue to fight against Brexit, just not for a referendum on the Brexit deal.

501: Creating a Trans Rep role on Committee: PASSED!!!

Thanks for reading! #NUSBlack18

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