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October is Black History Month when Kingston University students, staff and alumni will be coming together to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the Black community. The University will be marking the month by sharing some exceptional achievements and inspiring stories, while encouraging discussion on where we are now as a society and aspirations for the future.
Black History Month is a time for reflection – to explore Black history, heritage and culture, leading to a greater understanding of issues around race and equality. The theme of this year's national campaign is Proud to Be. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the campaign invites Black people of all ages throughout the UK to share what they are proud to be as part of their identity.
The Union of Kingston Students will be hosting a series of events for our student community throughout October. Highlights include a market at the Not My Beautiful House exhibition space, the launch of mini podcast series Spotlighting Black Voices and an LBGT+ Poetry Panel at Penrhyn Road campus.
Contact us to add your voice, share your contributions or promote an event about Black History Month at Kingston University.
Black History Month means peace, love and empathy. It is a beautiful time for all people to come together and remember the past and celebrate the achievements of today.
For me, all our stories are valuable and should be valued locally, nationally and globally. Black History Month is a time of self-discovery, a time to reflect and a time to consider our own legacy. We are all people of importance.
‘Stronger together' is what I believe in and will be doing.
Mata Ayoub, Chair of the BAME Staff Network
Through my art, I wanted to create a new movement of people that would protect civilians and empower individuals – like the Black Panther movement in the ‘70s against police brutality.
There is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that means a lot to me during these times:
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Joy Julius, former Kingston School of Art BA (Hons) Fashion student
Joy Julius, a former Kingston School of Art fashion student, produced a collection inspired by the anti-SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) movement in Nigeria for her final major project. Her collection was crowned the inaugural winner of the Black Excellence Prize at the Graduate Fashion Week Awards.
The anti-SARS movement resulted in a series of protests last year calling for an end to police brutality by the nation's Special Anti-Robbery Squad. The campaign sparked interest from around the world with #endSARS trending on social media. The six looks in Joy's collection combine military-inspired silhouettes with the traditional clothing worn by activist Aisha Yesufu, an iconic figure during the protests. As a Nigerian-Swiss national residing in London with members of her family living in Nigeria, Joy decided to use her collection to raise awareness and take back control.
Black History Month is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of Black history in the United Kingdom and to celebrate the societal and cultural contributions people of African and Caribbean descent have made to Britain. It also provides further impetus for us all to engage in conversation, to listen and explore a history that is often overlooked or undervalued.
In the past 12 months, our staff and students have been taking part in important discussions about race and lived experiences, many led by our BAME staff network, and we will continue to listen, learn and take action.
I will be attending a selection of the Union of Kingston Student's events this year and I strongly encourage you to attend. It is important for our University community both to learn, and to support our colleagues.
Professor Steven Spier, Vice-Chancellor
Chief executive of Kingston Race and Equalities Council (KREC) John Azah OBE, who holds an honorary degree from Kingston University, talks about Kingston's Black history, focusing on three individuals who have shaped the Royal Borough.
Starting with the 18th century coal merchant Cesar Picton, Mr Azah outlines the contributions of healthcare pioneer Dr Neslyn Watson-Druée CBE at the start of the 21st Century and continues through to the present day with Ian Thomas CBE, the first Black chief executive of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
I hope this year's Black History Month will serve as a reminder that we need to do more. Celebrating and reflecting on the contributions that Black and Brown people have made and continue to make to our society, should not be something that we only do for one month a year.
If we really want to address systemic racism and social injustice, celebrating the contributions Black and Brown people have made to our society – as well ensuring their histories are not ignored in the future – should be something that we do every day of the year. Only then will we have heeded the words of the African-American activist in the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks:
"To bring about change you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try."
Dr Karen Lipsedge, Associate Professor in English Literature
Students and staff can find a wider list of resources and suggested readings by logging into the iCat online library with their Kingston University username and password.
''In 2004 the University's archive received the extensive library and archive of Vane Ivanovic – shipping merchant, diplomat and Olympic athlete. Within his collection was a photograph of Wartburg Castle in Germany. The archive team were amazed to see that hidden beneath decades of dust and discolouration were more than 100 original signatures of athletes, dignitaries and journalists from the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
"Much like his performance at the Games, the most prominent and recognisable signature was that of Jesse Owens, the Black American athlete whose four gold medal victories defied, if not dispelled, Hitler's dangerous notion of white Aryan supremacy."
Dayna Miller, Archivist, Kingston University
As part of the University's Black History Month celebrations, we are looking to share a range of contributions from students, staff and alumni across our website and social media platforms throughout the month.
For one of our pieces of content, we would like to highlight some of the inspirational Black figures and role models that have had an impact on members of our University community.
We are also looking for other contributions themed around the month – these could be proposed blog posts or creative content inspired by Black History Month, including art, poetry, music or anything else you would like to share.
Get in touch with us to share your contributions or find out more about Black History Month at Kingston University.