I sat down with the president of the African Caribbean Society (David Adeogun) as part of Impact’s articles for Black History Month. We had an in-depth conversation and spoke about a range of issues concerning black students, black history, the Student Union and the University.
Anjolaoluwa: Why is the ACS so important?
David: It is the hub for black students to find like minds and enjoy, just in general, a safe space. ACS has a unique niche that I think kind of separates it from all other black societies with regards to the scope of influence that it has.
ACS has really become more of an activist movement, where people are trying to get more involved in the black community and stand up for what they believe in
So, traditionally anyways, ACS’s have been the meeting point, the safe space for black students to congregate.
I think nowadays, with the BLM [movement] being pushed to the forefront, ACS has really become more of an activist movement, where people are trying to get more involved in the black community and stand up for what they believe in.
So much so that we’re getting more responses than the universities BME network! And we’re getting invited to more and more things as well!
Decolonisation of the Uni Curriculum?
I listened to the first session of your ‘Identity X’ series as part of your ‘Enlightenment Project’, which was so insightful and so deep by the way. Do you think there is a case to be made that each university’s individual curriculum can and should be decolonised?
100% and that’s happening! With regards to decolonisation, it’s not necessarily the case that I want to see a black man just plastered onto the syllabus or a black woman plastered onto the syllabus.
It’s about showing holistic cases of: History, English Literature, even Geography; looking at how black people are presented, looking at how black history is presented and the way the black community is presented to the status quo.
A good example is Geography. When looking at humanitarian aid in Geography, they tend to focus on presenting countries within Africa as very poor, desperate places, which could be the case for some places; however, with regards to the rhetoric, or at least the precedent that you set for younger generations, it is quite toxic.
Let’s now look at the side of Africa which we don’t like to focus on: its rich resources, its growing economy, its thriving democracies, its thriving societies
Because then, you have a generation, both black and white, growing up to think that Africa is some poor, impoverished continent that bears no relevance to the modern world as it is.
This rhetoric kind of seeps in unconsciously. We have now seen this filter into the education system and this has manifested into a generation which has descended into cultural alienation.
So, let’s now look at the side of Africa which we don’t like to focus on: its rich resources, its growing economy, its thriving democracies, its thriving societies. Focus on those aspects rather than just depicting Africa in a certain way.
And universities aren’t exempt! The medical school for example. From speaking to a lot of medical practitioners, they aren’t taught how to operate on black skin. So, for example, how does a doctor know my skin is inflamed if I have no red pigment on my skin!
Even in treating certain diseases, sickle cell for example, more information and more education in treating such is needed. So, there is definitely a case to be made that university curriculum should be, and hopefully will be, decolonised.
To the university’s credit, they are going through that process. I know the SU has gone through an intensive program and has put in place structures to try and deal with all these systemic issues going on in the university.
The University’s stance on racism, or on hate crime anyway, wasn’t as transparent or robust as they might have thought it was
Uni Response to BLM May?
Well then, I’ll just pick you up on that because my next question was going to be about the university’s response to the BLM protests back in April; I’ve read the open letter issued to the university by the majority black societies, ACS included. So, you’re saying you’ve seen positive action taken by the university since?
So, notice I said the SU and not the University. With regards to the SU, fantastic! I mean the student union is the student union. They are duty bound to make sure that each one of the students is taken care of in whatever capacity necessary.
With the University, even the response to the open letter was very generic and presented a lot of irony.
There was actually an issue ongoing that the university was dealing with at the time regarding a racist incident that happened at Derby hospital. Specifically, a group session where someone was called a “n****r”.
That situation had been ongoing at the time that the open letter was sent out and the handling basically implied that the University’s stance on racism, or on hate crime anyway, wasn’t as transparent or robust as they might have thought it was.
A lot of organisations did kind of jump on the BLM bandwagon, which did kind of wash out the authenticity of the movement trying to call for accountability
So, when the University mentions things such as ‘0 tolerance for racism’ etc., that could be the case on paper as most companies have a protocol on hate crime. However, when it comes to mechanisms to solve it, they are very archaic and very outdated.
I don’t think this was particular to the University, however. A lot of organisations did kind of jump on the BLM bandwagon, which did kind of wash out the authenticity of the movement trying to call for accountability.
It’s so sad that it had to take such a merciless act to bring racism back to the forefront.
So, there is always that silver lining when it comes to the University’s response. It was going to be cliché, it was going to be fantastically well written but, when it comes to mechanisms and actual measures being put in place, that’s where we see the open letter manifest.
That’s where we could have seen all the things that they said in the open letter really come into fruition, but we subsequently didn’t.
But, as I said, the SU and other black societies have been doing fantastically well in holding the University to account and I think work is being done.
The university is open to presenting itself in the best possible light and I’d like to think that to not get a case on their hands, they’ll do what we say. (We both laugh!).
History in Black HISTORY Month?
It often gets lost that Black History Month is about taking control of the historical narrative which for so long has been written Eurocentrically to the detriment of Black figures in history. How is the ACS pushing forward Black History, this month and onwards?
We’re focussing more on the history of black Britain. I think that’s very important to highlight, just because there’s the very assumption that black history is about celebrating the Civil Rights movement in America and that’s just not [all there is to] black history.
I’ve been reading a book by Kehinde Andrews about black nationalism and radicalism in the 20th century and it’s been quite enlightening
So, we’re definitely focussing on the UK, but we’ve definitely been adopting a modern take. So particularly looking at the 20th century and the advancement of black history in that timeframe, because it’s actually been quite good.
I’ve been reading a book by Kehinde Andrews about black nationalism and radicalism in the 20th century and it’s been quite enlightening.
It kind of formulates how I want the ACS to approach black history insofar as it gives you a nice step by step breakdown of how black people have impacted British history in a positive way, starting from even earlier than Windrush, and then working its way to the modern day.
So, with regards to that, you’ll see in the conference anyways!
Fantastic! I look forward to the conference then.
When it comes to the police and civilians in Nigeria, there’s never been harmony between the two
Finally, would you just like to weigh in with some words on the current EndSARS revolution going on in Nigeria at the moment?
Yeah.. that is a madness and it breaks my heart but also gives me so much joy how the movement is thriving. It breaks my heart because this has been the case for so long! When it comes to the police and civilians in Nigeria, there’s never been harmony between the two.
But, with that being said, the tremendous support and growth of the movement in Nigeria has been fantastic!
I’m a Nigerian myself, and I think what gives me so much joy is to see how Nigeria has united. Maybe I’m just uneducated, but I can’t think of another time Nigeria has been so united on a single front to end something or to bring something to the international stage.
I think what this message sends out to the government is that the time of de-facto dictatorship is over
One of my fears was that this movement wouldn’t get publicised on mainstream platforms, but it has! And it’s given it so much traction.
I think what this message sends out to the government is that the time of de-facto dictatorship is over. On the surface, yes, Nigeria is a democracy, but it really just acts like a de-facto dictatorship.
Buhari has A LOT to answer to. And yeah, we stand united with our brothers and sisters overseas.
Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for having me.
Featured image courtesy of Tobi Oshinnaike via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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