‘Unis have failed black students for too long’: Grad raises £50k for ‘Free Black University’

Melz Owusu wants universities to pay to educate people in anti-racism

A Leeds grad has raised £50k to start a “Free Black University”, and wants unis to start donating money to help educate people about racial justice.

Melz Owusu, who’s about to start a PhD at Cambridge, started the campaign after seeing universities’ problems with the black attainment gap and the mental health services for black students. “Universities have failed black students for too long”, says Melz.

Melz aims to raise £250k and eventually create an online library of radical texts, provide online lectures, and even open a space with teaching rooms and a book shop for black people to access and learn in.

Since their time as an undergrad, Melz has been working to decolonise the curriculum and diversify universities. Yet the confines of existing universities are too restrictive, believes Melz.

“The transformation I and many of my peers were campaigning for could never fully be realised within the current structures,” says Melz. “There is not enough space for imagination and so transformation was limited.

“We want to use the Free Black University to show the wider higher education landscape just what can be done and how freeing and liberating education can be for all.”

Underpinning the projects is Melz’s belief that “the transformation of minds is critical to the transformation of society”.

It aims to focus on climate justice, introduce online lectures, and address the lack of mental health support for black students at universities. Last year, The Tab reported that a third of unis didn’t employ a single counsellor who identifies as BAME.

From there, Melz is aiming to produce a podcast, publication, and free online library of black radical texts.

As the endeavour grows, the end goal of a physical space and an annual conference for black radical thinkers looks increasingly tangible.

“Free and accessible education centred on the freedom of black people which necessarily succeeds the freedom of all people,” is the campaign’s final objective.

Since its inception at the start of the month, the campaign has raised £53,000 from 1,500 donors – an average donation of £35. Most of the recent donations on the Gofundme page aren’t small, either – £50, £75, and £260.

The level of support is something in itself, but crucially it means there’s enough money donated to actually begin setting things up. “I feel so excited about it!” Melz told The Tab.

“This money will enable us to set up the organisation – begin paying thinkers and folks in the community to develop open source lectures with us. If this sounds like something you can get behind, please do consider donating and sharing the campaign far and wide.

“In the grand scheme of things, it is just a drop in the ocean of what we are aiming to raise but we are deeply thankful to everyone that has believed in our vision and has donated so far. Our next aim is to put pressure on Universities to donate to the fund as an aspect of their work towards equality, diversity, and liberation.”

You can find the fundraiser here.

Photo credits: Will Stanley Film and Photography

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