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The Student interviews African and Caribbean Society President Elizabeth Kwenortey

ByAmalie Sortland

Oct 11, 2017

The Student sat down with the President of the African Caribbean Society, Elizabeth Kwenortey, to talk about Black History Month at the University of Edinburgh.

What is your vision/your plans for the Black History Month?

I hope that the Black History Month isn’t only temporary or a phase. I hope it implants in the university and gives us the opportunity to be prominent and seen because quite often we are not seen.

We shouldn’t only have attention for a month. We should have attention across the academic year. I hope this month gives us more exposure because we are a diverse and talented bunch as black students.

Why do you think these measures are important?

I think Black History Month is important because it gives us the platform, space, area and time to bring forward some of the talented individuals that the black community has here in the present but also in the past.

Our past leaders who did good things, influenced industries and made a change, but, for example, because of something as basic as the colour of their skin, they haven’t been viewed as the same or had the same prestige as other people.

I mean, there are black people in science, like portrayed in the movie Hidden Figures, in music, in politics, who are not recognised properly.

We are always told about Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, but there are so many others.  I think Black History Month is a great opportunity to show off the range of skills held by the present and past Black community.

Do you think the university is doing enough to support and recognize the challenges and history that African and Caribbean communities are facing here and elsewhere in the world?

In terms of academia, there have been courses and lecturers who have been dedicated to including and bringing Africa and the Caribbean into the curriculum, which I think is a good step forward.

Personally, I have experienced that my curriculum has been exposed to courses that have given me the opportunity to talk about Africa, which is the topic I care a lot about.

I did Religion, Violence and Peacebuilding with the School of Divinity and I was enabled to look at South African Apartheid and the Rwandan genocide.

Now, there are other circumstances where it’s out of the university’s control. The university can’t control what people say on nights out, the way black students are spoken to. There’s still a lot of work to be done.

Generally, across the UK, the education system just needs to work harder to make us feel more included.

What is your favourite event of the month and why?

I don’t know if I can pick one, there are so many! I have to thank Diva Mukherji, who is the current Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) convenor, for giving us such a wide range of events. There’s something for everyone.

What do you hope to achieve as the president of the African Caribbean society?

I want to get people more aware of Africa and the Caribbean.  I want to get more people involved no matter where they’re from, and get them seeing and appreciating the talent, the culture and the appropriate ways, whether that’s through fun events, but also through debates and talks.

I want people talking about the issues but also doing something active about them.  I think you can get active from whatever year you’re in too, which is why I applied to be president in second year. I want to come out at the end of second year knowing that we were active and tried to make a change.

What are your future goals and aspirations once you have completed your presidency? After your degree?

I plan on going back to Ghana to live permanently there. It’s a beautiful country with so much history and so much going on. Every country needs a little bit of help, and I want to go back and help my country.

I would also love to host a show at some point, an educational program for young people where I can talk about my subject.  Religious Studies isn’t necessarily held to high esteem, but I want to speak of it in a way that raises awareness or educates people.

I would love to create a network of free speech, where other young people could come and talk about whatever they want as well, from football to music to fashion to hair.  I love hearing about people’s passions. I’d really like to make a change and make my parents proud.


Image: Hajira Kamran / Photographer

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