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Black academics are agents of change at UON’s first BHM conference

Date 15.10.2020

Powerful rhetoric, eye-opening research and game-changing ideas and action formed and informed University of Northampton’s first Black History Month conference, held yesterday (14 Oct 2020).

#Blackintheivory brought together influential Black speakers from across the world to lead a conversation about their lived experiences of being academics of colour – Blackademics – in a largely white profession.

The event was organised by the University’s newly named Global Ethnic Majority (GEM) staff Network. Independent of the University, it holds a number of functions, including offering commentary about policy, consulting on GEM measures that will impact on staff and also provides advocacy work.

The event took its name from the social media phrase coined by keynote speaker, Dr Sharde’ Davis. The hashtag is used to generate discussions about academics from different ethnic backgrounds, their research and life in academia and to share resources and offer their peers support.

Dr Davies – from the University of Connecticut – examined how universities are active agents of equality, diversity and inclusion. She detailed Black women’s stories of their journeys to the front door of the Ivory Tower.

She also cited examples of how Black female academics are often asked to provide for free what white academics are often paid for, such as providing recollections for diversity related projects.

Dr Derrick Anderson, CBE spoke about ‘navigating the ivory’ and his professional life in corridors of power where black people have historically been denied access to.

He outlined his work helping large, public sector organisations drive forward equality, diversity and inclusivity change noting that organisations can help themselves by creating and supporting coalitions of changemakers.

Bukola Adisa – founder of Career Masterclass – gave a career coaching class for students and imparted positive words of advice for them to seize control of their own professional narratives after relating how she personally tackled discrimination in the workplace.

The event also featured research presentations by GEM Network members Dr Patrice Seuwou and Nathan Dodzo on the student attainment gap, from UON’s. GEM Network co-chair Gavin Douglas presented his research about the attainment gap for Fashion students.

Yesterday also marked the official launched of the University’s new, Black History Month reading list. This has grown out of UON’s Library and Learning Service’s work to broaden the range of texts offered and widen the horizons of students and staff.

The list is a dynamic, live document which staff and students are actively encouraged to take part in updating and helping grow. The team are conducting other work in this area, such as supporting more BAME/GEM reading aware staff development.

The team are also working on a wider decolonisiation reading list for staff and students who were interested in exploring black authors and musicians including children’s books.

Marcella Daye, Senior Lecturer in Tourism Management, co-chairs the GEM Network with Gavin. Both spearheaded the #Blackintheivory conference.

Marcella commented: “With our #Blackintheivory conference line-up we aimed to cover topics of interest to various local stakeholders, academics, students, professional staff and university management.  The GEM network plans for this event to be the first of many initiatives to showcase the ongoing work of equality and inclusion at UON and the wider community.”

You can watch the conference again online using these links:

Introduction and research presentations.

Bukola Adisa.

Dr Derrick Anderson, CBE and Dr Sharde’ Davis.

The GEM Network welcomes UON staff members to join; for more information, email: gemstaffnetwork@northampton.ac.uk