Cambridge rallies in support of Lola Olufemi
Speakers included Lola Olufemi and Jason Okundaye
Last night a huge crowd of students, academics and members of the general public gathered outside Senate House to support the Decolonise the Curriculum campaign and in solidarity with Lola Olufemi.
The rally was organised by campaigns across Cambridge, including Cambridge Defend Education, Critical Theory and Practice, the BME Women’s Network FLY, the CUSU Women’s Campaign, the CUSU BME Campaign and Class Act.
It began with an introduction from co-organiser Safieh Kabir, who said that the demonstration was organised both "to express solidarity with Lola" and "to remind the racist media that this is a campaign with a lot of support."
The first speaker of the night was Dr Priyamvada Gopal, an academic who has stood very publicly in support of Lola and the Decolonise campaign, tweeting throughout the media storm.
I repeat: NOT ONE SINGLE WHITE MALE WRITER will be harmed in the adding of a few BME writers to any syllabus. Not one single one. Not even a token sacrifice of a Guy on a bonfire.
— Priyamvada Gopal (@PriyamvadaGopal) October 25, 2017
She said although decolonisation is a complex aspiration, it is also as simple as the fact "it is unacceptable to have any institutions, still less a flagship university, so deeply unrepresentative of the diversity of this country and its peoples.”
She went on to say: "What I cannot stress enough is that this is something that we all have to do.”
She was joined by Cambridge student Jason Osamede Okundaye, who was the subject of a racialised media controversy back in July.
Jason called on white student allies to "stand in solidarity with students of colour and make sure that we’re not the only ones taking the hit."
He was followed by Lola herself, who was greeted by the loudest cheer of the evening. She began by thanking the crowd, saying: "This is the kind of spirit and the kind of momentum that we need to keep up."
She quoted Toni Morisson, who said: "The very serious function of racism is distraction". Lola went on to criticise the mainstream media who, "rather than engage in a substantive or meaningful way, wilfully misconstrued the process, and worse, targeted me in order to distract from the task at hand."
She reminded the demonstrators: "Decolonising curricula is not an end point but an ongoing process", and this process is not new, but "there has always been agitation across faculties and across departments that paved the way to make it possible for us to voice our dissatisfaction and our outrage in this way."
She encouraged students to "join a decolonise the curriculum workshop, or a working group, bring it up in a supervision, draw from writers from the global south as much as you can, make it impossible for them to oversimplify what we’re trying to do by oversimplifying it as a case of 'black students vs white students'."
There will be a working group tonight focusing on Decolonising the English curriculum at 5pm in Mill Lane Lecture Room 9.
Featured image credit to Natalie Khoo.