It has returned once again! This Saturday (22nd October 2016), our annual conference BME Women, White Uni commences to celebrate incredible, and dare I say, radical BME women.
The initiative began last year, and as Shruti, our Co-President last year (2015/16), brilliantly explains…
The idea is to celebrate the stories and the histories of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) women at King’s, and to bring to everyone’s attention that their representation is missing from the hallways around us, from the history of King’s College London as we know it.
Much has developed at King’s since last year. Black and Brown Shut It Down, #BlackOutTheWhiteWall campaign, the creation of the WoC and Non-Binary PoC Network, the Wall of BAME (at Strand Campus), the Open Doors initiative and last but not least, I Rise Magazine – due to launch its first issue next month. All of this was a direct response to the tireless campaigning by our BAME activists here at King’s. Those who rebelled against a white, privileged and male dominant curriculum (I’m a History student, reading what Etonians have to say about history is not fun whatsoever), by walking out of their lectures and seminars. Those who had faced intimidation, told straight to their faces to “wait for their time” to celebrate BME achievements in academia. The lone Muslim girl in her seminar strictly guarding what she had to say on certain topics because of Prevent. The lone BME who constantly feels overwhelmed. Due to this initiative last year – BME Women, White Uni can certainly be seen as the starting point of much needed and long overdue change to happen within the solemn – and sometimes exclusive walls of King’s College London.
But, the work is not yet complete. We must go further if they are to listen to us.
The aim of this campaign is to capture the diversity of BME women, as well as their accomplishments. However, as Shruti once again points out, this initiative absolutely does not claim to see each accomplishment and experience of BME women as ‘the same’.
But it’s really important to make clear that we’re not putting this work out here as a collection that is representative of every BME woman on campus – every single one of them will have differing and varying experiences in one way or the other, and too often the problem with work like this is that it is expected to be reflective of the BME woman’s experience, or that one of us have been expected to speak for all of us. There’s a diversity and breadth to these voices that we did not expect to see when we began our work.
It is obvious that all of our identities and experiences will be different. The experiences of Black women are different from Latinas. The experiences of a Muslim woman is different from a Hindu woman. The experiences of a cis woman of colour will be different from a non-binary person of colour. Although, the acronym BME is quite problematic in the sense that it assumes that every ethnic minority experiences the exact same prejudices and injustices. In that we are very totally different. Our experiences of making it in the world is so very different. However, it is this diversity that we want to celebrate. Rather than using it as a divisive force – it is uniting us BME women instead.
When I went to the conference last year, I remember feeling a bit of trepidation. I thought to myself, “Well, I’m a woman, I’m black, and I’m definitely an intersectional feminist”. However, little did I know how much my race and intersectionality intertwined. I vividly remember scribbling down my thoughts at that very moment, listening attentively to what each panellist had to say. One that hugely struck a chord with me at the time, and still does today, was Dr Deborah Gabriel’s defiant assertion “We cannot let them label us…to put us into categories”. I remember her saying these words with such power and rage, and given that I have such hideous memory – this is significant! When the panel discussions ended, I got that “I’m going to take over the world!” feeling that everyone pretty much gets after hearing such inspirational stories for hours. I was amazed.
Right now, I have the immense privilege of not just being the BME Officer of the Intersectional Feminist Society, but being able to organise the very conference this year. The conference will be made up of four panel discussions – BME Women in Academia, BME Women in STEM, BME Women in the Arts and BME Women in Politics and Leadership – and a workshop titled “Why is my curriculum White?”. Such discussions are meant to stimulate thought and debate, thinking about these real-life issues in an unapologetic way.
The schedule is as follows:
10:30 – 10:45: Introduction to the conference by Imaan Ashraf (Co-President of the Intersectional Feminist Society) and Rahma Hussein (BME Officer of the Intersectional Feminist Society).
10:45 – 12:00: Introductory Panel – BME Women in Academia
12:15 – 13:30: Panel – BME Women in STEM
13:30 – 14:00 – Lunch break
At the same time as lunch, workshops will begin.
13:30 – 14:15: Workshop – Why Is My curriculum White? (run by KPoC)
14:00 – 15:15: Panel – BME Women in the Arts
15:15 – 15:45: Workshops, Why is my curriculum White?
15:45 – 16:30: Panel – BME Women in Politics and Leadership
16:30 – 16:45: Last chance to partake in workshops
16:50 – 17:00: Closing remarks by your People of Colour Officer
We hope that you find the event intellectually stimulating and inspiring! I would also like to thank the People of Colour Association (KPoC) for supporting us through and through! Purchase your tickets here: https://www.kclsu.org/ents/event/3615/ (you know you want to!)
Love and solidarity,
Rahma and the IFemSoc committee
Rahma is a 2nd year History student at King’s College London. Being the current BME Officer of the Intersectional Feminist Society, she is also a political campaigner, as well as being the Founder and Editor of I Rise magazine – aimed at WoC and non-binary PoC – due to launch next month. If you’d like to speak about this event further, or have any questions, feel free to send her a message though Twitter. Also, if you wish to quote this article – permission to do so must be sought beforehand.