‘On top of the moon!’: BAME Students’ Officer Max Kafula on renaming The Sugarhouse

‘Thank you to everyone who signed it and helped make this a success!’

LUSU’s Executive Committee recently approved a petition to rename The Sugarhouse. The petition was brought forward by the student group “Why Is My Curriculum White?” (WIMCW) and supported by SU BAME Students’ Officer, Max Kafula.

The move came in an effort to understand Lancaster’s history better. As a former prominent slave trading port, its legacy is most evident today in the names of buildings and streets – The Sugarhouse being just one of many. The group felt it was time to learn about the past and move forward creating an identity we can all be proud of.

As a prominent voice in the petition’s campaign, The Tab Lancaster spoke to the BAME Officer to find out his feelings on the decision and why this is important.

“We can learn about our history and highlight the significant injustices that was caused by the Empire”

Upon hearing about the success of the petition, Max Kafula was understandably “on top of the moon!”. For the BAME officer, the change was as encouraging for both students and the public.

He said: “The main impact that everyone will feel, is that we are moving away from celebrating our colonial past and instead reflecting on it. This is a moment that we can learn about our history and highlight the significant injustices that was caused by the Empire.”

“A plaque to me is a form of celebration”

Whilst optimistic about the results, Max is aware some students are still doubtful about the change. When recently asked for their opinions on the name change, there were some students who felt it was “performative” and “virtue signalling”. Other students suggested a plaque might have been better to raise awareness about the history of The Sugarhouse. Max addresses both of these concerns and said: “A plaque to me is a form of celebration. Hence having a plaque outside a nightclub to reflect on our colonial history is inappropriate.”

And to those who felt the act was performative, Max agrees that just changing the name on its own would be performative. He explained that these actions are also being supported by “educational programmes about the history of Sugarhouse and ensuring that people will be fully educated on its colonial roots.”

He understands that some are still reluctant to accept the decision, but stands firm in his belief that education is vital to acknowledging the past. There’s a lot to learn that can help us understand the present day too.

“The main change I’ve seen, is how for some the colonial impacts are still faced today”

Speaking more on the importance of the decision, Max also shared how conversations about Lancaster’s colonial history have changed since the petition. By taking a look at his comments section, he can see an active debate taking place and concludes: “We all agree that we need to remember the Empire, both good and bad. The main change I’ve seen, is how for some the colonial impacts are still faced today, some have learned for the very first time about Lancaster colonial roots and for others it’s about what’s the best way to remember a nightclub that means so much to us Lancs folks.”

In addition to this, he’s certain that the impact of the petition has meant people are doing their own work to educate themselves more on the history.

“We all need to know about our history and how it can still effect people today!”

For future plans, Max is hopeful that the university will continue to support new measures and “will fund initiatives on Lancaster’s colonial history”.

He stresses the importance of learning history and how “it can still effect people today!”. His words  reflect the feelings of many BAME students in stating this. When previously asked about the change, many BAME students were open to the idea and there was a general agreement that more needed to be done to understand the impact of the past. Max is clearly fulfilling his role as BAME officer by honouring these feelings and making progress with the university.

To Max, changing the name is a statement and a sign of positive change. The Sugarhouse is iconic to Lancaster and its students, and as students we still get the final say in what the club should be renamed. It seems we can all look forward to more changes in the near future.

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