Following on from Black History Month celebrations, LJMU invited speakers from different backgrounds to discuss their views on the issues that are still apparent in today’s society.
The conference, Critically Thinking About Race, Religion and Belief/Non Belief, was presented to a packed lecture theatre of academics, students and professionals.
Zia Chaudhry MBE, Barrister and Author was first up, with his talk Muslims from British and International Communities: A history or a future? Zia expressed that as a British Muslim, he is constantly reminded of the threat of extremism, warned of the dangers of radicalisation and told to be on guard and keeping watch on his children to watch how their progress affects the world rather than the other way around. He explored how the media presents Muslims and communicated that some sections of the media fail to promote the message that the planet is big enough for all of us. Following his presentation, Zia commented:
"It was a pleasure and an honour to speak at LJMU's recent Equality and Diversity Seminar. In a world which is in danger of becoming increasingly polarised, initiatives such as the seminar are vital and must be supported so that alternative narratives can be heard. Such narratives are the stories of our fellow human beings whose contributions are often overlooked, yet when such stories are heard they resonate with those who listen. I am delighted that I was able to be part of this initiative and grateful for the insights I gained from others."
Zia was followed by Shaima Hassan, a British Muslim with a Middle Eastern Heritage, currently completing a PhD at LJMU. She shared Her Journey as a Muslim Woman and the challenges Muslims face in the Western Society and within HEIs. From leaving Yemen as a young girl, Shaima enrolled in an all-girls catholic school in a non-diverse area and she highlighted the difficulties that she faced as a Muslim girl growing up - at school she was never asked the question ‘What are your needs’? Shaima explained that her mum was an excellent role model who told her to be proud of her faith, Shaima set up the Islamic Society at university and is now delighted to be a role model for others. Shaima completed her presentation by sharing that she feels how completely accepted at university stating “my experience prior to University left me to not be myself and to hide my faith”. Shaima said
"Unification is not uniformity. The only way you can unite human beings is accepting people’s differences, and what a better time for us as a community to embrace, nurture and celebrate our differences. I was honoured to be given the opportunity to join amazing individuals from other disciplines in sharing my personal ‘journey as a Muslim woman’ with ardent and objective fellow academics and the public. This event champions unification of our community. Well done to LJMU for sending a wonderful message to its members and the public, on the importance of celebrating and nurturing our differences as a community."
After an engaging Q&A session with Zia and Shaima, chaired by BBC presenter Ngunan Adamu, Emy Onuora, writer and educationalist who is currently completing his MPhil at LJMU, presented his talk How can sport help us to think more critically about race and religion. Emy discussed the issues around black athletes both past and present saying - “The idea of racism is still around. It is not an ancient product of some colonial Victorian past”. Emy commented:
"I thoroughly enjoyed the event itself and it was so important to have the perspective of so many speakers, all of whom are experts in their particular field. It demonstrates the level of diversity that exists in and around the academic community and demonstrates that if this potential can be effectively harnessed it could be a powerful force for good. I would like to see this as an annual event that attracts a high profile speaker from politics, the arts, media, justice, business etc. as well as less well known speakers."
Samira Shehu a Level 6 Biomedical Science student from Nigeria is the Chair of LJMU’s African Caribbean Society. Her talk The Black Student Experience expressed her views on how everyone is their own person. Her society the African Caribbean society contributes by supporting BME students, they all share common experiences at university that helps them to enjoy their studies that overall enhances their student experience both academically and socially. Following the event Samira said:
"It was a very inspiring event, the speakers covered a diverse range of topics. The atmosphere at the event was very welcoming and conducive. I really enjoyed all the presentations and I believe everyone in attendance must have learned some new things, or had their minds opened to new conversations and perspectives. The event provided a platform for discussion and debate on topics that are usually overlooked or considered controversial. Ignoring these issues, or leaving it to time is not a remedy. So a lot was achieved in this event in terms of getting the conversation going and also looking at solutions from all angles."
The presentations concluded with an entertaining session from BAME stand-up comedian Ishi Khan Jackson, who said that she was delighted to be part of the conference, highlighting discussions like these are extremely important to begin understanding and planning strategies to move forward together.
Julie Lloyd, Director of People and Organisational Development and event chair closed by saying:
"Equality themed events are great opportunities to encourage the conversation on various aspects of equality and diversity. The event was organised as part of black history month to discuss pertinent issues on race equality, religion and belief and unconscious bias and how working in partnership with organisations and colleagues can help to address them. The calibre of speakers and wide range of topics addressed made for stimulating and though provoking seminar."
Moni Akinsanya, LJMU Equality and Diversity Adviser explained:
"LJMU recently signed up to the ECU Race Charter is planning a University-wide Race Charter Working Group to progress activities around Race Equality. The ECU Race Charter Award recognises, promotes and rewards good practice in the recruitment, retention and progression of staff and students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities."
The launch event, a symposium on Keeping Race Equality on the Agenda will take place on Wednesday 22 March 2017. Full details are available here