Students looking back on Black History Month at RHUL

‘I think maybe getting it more embedded in our studies as a general thing’


When people think of October, our minds are automatically drawn to Halloween. October is also Black History Month: A month celebrating the history which has all too often been forgotten and unacknowledged. Black History Month is internationally recognised, with the month it falls on varying depending on your region.

The central idea of Black History Month is to shine a light on the contributions made by Black people throughout history.

‘We’re proud to be joining forces with Black student leaders’

An email sent out by the Student Union on the 2nd of October said: “This year, we’re proud to be joining forces with Black student leaders from across the Higher Education sector to deliver a series of webinars focusing on different topics related to Black History Month. Attendees will have the opportunity to feed into a Q&A session during each webinar.”

The seven webinars the Students’ Union had organised focused on different aspects of the racial discussion, ranging from the role of universities in racism to how to be an ally beyond social media.

On top of it, the History Department organised their own events for Black History Month, one being a panel discussion with Dr Emily Manktelow and Shahmima Akhtar named “How can we decolonise the university without first decolonising Britain?”

‘Maybe be more vocal on the university social media’

Whilst the majority of students are aware it is Black History Month, some students told The Tab Royal Holloway they weren’t aware of what events the university is holding.

When asked about how the university can improve reaching more students and engaging the wider community with Black History Month, a group of second years said there’s been a problem with the email system. One said: “I know lots of the university information is on emails, but the trouble is there are so many emails flying around it’s difficult to separate.”

Another student highlighted the importance of using social media, saying: “I received the email they sent but maybe be more vocal on the university social media and post informative videos or Instagram posts to share more black stories and experiences, so students are kept aware.”

‘Getting it more embedded in our studies’

These students also raised an important point. We should not restrict engaging with other cultures and, as one history student says: “I think maybe getting it more embedded in our studies as a general thing” would be beneficial.

A second year medical biochemistry student said: “I am studying how medicines affect other ethnicities. One disease can look completely different on another skin type yet because it’s never been shown, it’s hard to diagnose.”

It does go without being said, however, this is not just the responsibility of the university and Students Union to remind us of important events such as Black History Month. A second year computer science students told The Tab Royal Holloway: “They don’t have an immediate responsibility to make everyone aware of every calendar event (whether it be seasonal holidays or celebrations of minorities/cultures etc.) Their responsibility just sits at making you aware of events and nights out etc.”

‘We’d advise both students and staff to keep an eye on the intranet’

A spokesperson for Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “As with all Royal Holloway events, the Black History Month events are all advertised on the intranet and on the events calendar via the Royal Holloway app. We are very conscious there are a lot of communications being sent out at this current time due to the coronavirus pandemic but we’d advise both students and staff to keep an eye on the intranet and app for any upcoming events.”

President of the Students’ Union Kate Roberts said: “Black History Month is a fantastic opportunity to come together to celebrate the culture and reflect on the history of the Black community in the UK. Our series of webinars engaged 19 Black student leaders and over 110 student attendees in a range of panel discussions, with informative and inspiring insights on a number of different topics. However, our anti-racism work at the Students’ Union does not end with the end of October, we have numerous future campaigns, cultural stories within our communications, and focused anti-racism work planned for the upcoming academic year. Keep an eye out on the website to hear more or reach out over email at [email protected] to discuss anti-racism work in more detail.”