In Conversation with this Year’s BME Officer

The Student conversed with Ayanda Ngobeni, this years’ elected Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer for the University of Edinburgh. She was asked about her role, her background, and campaign.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I would describe myself as a “go-getter” who’s deeply passionate about three things: Existing as a woman while being Black, justice and accountability, and Africa. At the heart of it all, I want to be able to live out my fullest potential in life whether [it] means growth as an individual or learning about myself along the way.

My goal is to be able to create that environment for others. Race, gender, sex or religious orientation should not be a hinderance from one reaching their fullest potential and thriving.

What are the main goals you have as this year’s BME officer? 

I have made six pledges for my term which can be found on the Students’ Association website. My main focus is on improving signposting mechanisms and a specific reporting system for racism and microaggression in the new reporting system the university is set to implement.

The second is ensuring the university [applies] the Race Equality Charter Mark as a means to make sure the school is held accountable by an external body, to really test whether there’s measures to combat racism and microaggressions.

What are your thoughts on the Black History Month events that have been held (within & without) at the University? Did any stand out?

The BHM events had a specific duty this month. With the momentum of Black Lives Matter having picked up, forcing the world to stand up and pay attention to the way our society is an oppressive system based on race.

We had to be mindful of this while celebrating our Blackness. Our theme this year is connecting the past to the present. This looks at how history has shaped modern society in an effort to combat the discourse of how racism and discrimination is a thing of the past; rather showing the links of the past and the present e.g. how your race determines how people will treat you whether it’s a police officer or a peaceful protest.

The events I have seen and planned this month have balanced us celebrating our Blackness and the very real struggle of existing while Black.

What is the biggest challenge you believe you will face and what is the impact of COVID19 on your campaign?

For this, I would like to answer these questions together, my biggest challenge right now is Covid-19. For my campaign, I was going for a means of integration in the BME community that would strengthen our bond and make us better known to other BME students.

This is also an effort from me to support the whole individual as the university has many different factions: your career aspirations, sexuality, academics… but it is rare to find a space that supports the individual and the intersectionality between identities. My hope was that integration through social events might have elevated our sense of community. I am still trying this through my online campaign; we are slowly making progress.

The next event to be hosted by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Liberation Campaigns and curated by the Black and Minority Ethnic Students Campaign will be ‘Copy Right’. This event, to be held October 28th, is exclusively for Black students in the University and is aimed to facilitate the literal reclamation of one’s own image. If you are interested in this event you may find the relevant information by searching ‘Copy Right’ on Facebook.

Image: via learning