The University of Westminster hosted the second Black History Year event of 2021, titled ‘Activism and Academia’ as part of activism month.

Activism and academia
Deborah Husbands (top centre) hosted the event welcoming Lisa Shoko (top left). Manvir Grewal (top right), Paula Cadenhead (bottom left) and Dominika Opyrchal (bottom right) joined for the Q&A session.

The event on 15 February was hosted by Deborah Husbands, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and founding member and Co-Chair for the University’s BME Staff Network, and welcomed Lisa Shoko, founder of Lisa Shoko Racial Equity Consulting, a start-up that delivers anti-racist workshops. The event gave the audience an insight into the challenges, experiences, and reflections of a Black woman and student activist in a higher education institution.

Lisa was enthusiastic to speak at this event and share the perspective and experiences of students, starting with her experience of moving from Zimbabwe to the UK and not having experienced racial tensions until she went to Liverpool where she was bullied for the colour of her skin, making her feel out of place.

After a year abroad in China, Lisa found the University of Kent’s Decolonise UKC project, which she felt very strongly about as it gave students the opportunity to start voicing the experiences they were going through. Being a part of the group and interacting with other students who had been through similar experiences was an important part of this project to Lisa.

She also spoke about the demands that came out of the Decolonise UKC and Afro-Diasporic Legal Network manifestos and she introduced her thesis on ‘Searching for Belonging: Institutional Racism and the ‘Silent Crisis’ in Higher Education’, which was followed by a Q&A.

Talking about the event, Deborah Husbands said: "Lisa's talk offered a compelling account for the importance of decolonising universities. She highlighted the need to create spaces where 'vulnerability and trust' can co-exist using the power of storytelling to reflect the tensions and optimism in our community. These kinds of shared spaces already exist at the University of Westminster and can help us to become better informed as we undertake the work needed to become a decolonised university."

Find out more about the upcoming Black History Year events.

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