DMU students learn why black history needs to be fought for


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DMU students have been issued with a rallying call not to “accept the existing history that silences black and ethnic minority peoples".

During a #DMUglobal Freedom to Achieve trip to New York they were told that "history needs to be fought for so go find the unsung heroes and sheroes".

The inspiring words came from Mary Yearwood, director of collections and information services at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture which students visited on day 2 of their Big Apple trip.

More than 40 DMU students representing all four faculties have been exploring black and ethnic minority history, identity and community in New York during a tour of the centre.

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As one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American experiences, students got the chance to see some of the 11 million-plus items that illuminate the richness of Harlem (and New York’s) black history, arts and culture.

Marlo Savin, second-year History and Politics student, was very moved by the collection and motivated to write the hidden stories of people that share his ethnic background: “This centre is so important because being black and Asian in Britain you don’t get to hear your history but here it is so on display and at the forefront.

“It makes you realise that you can find it and it’s there and that your heroes exist and that your history is important.”

A story of Arturo Schomburg being told that ‘black history and people did not matter’ as a child in school in Puerto Rico, which motivated him to document black history, resonated strongly with Marlo’s own passion for history. He said: “I’ve spent my whole life from when I was a little kid to find my own heroes and bring up my culture.”

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(pictured above, Marlo Savin at the Schomburg Center)

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Rosie Vacciana-Browne, a second-year Journalism student, also said the visit was a powerful reminder that there is more “history than what we see around black culture”.

“In the UK, we don’t cover it as much as we seem so focused on covering wars and the monarchy,” she said.

“It was good for me to get in touch with something that relates personally as a black female and to hear a rich history of Harlem rather than an area that is just seen as run down.”

This perspective connects strongly with the aims of DMU’s Freedom to Achieve project, which seeks to close the black and minority ethnic (BAME) attainment gap by making the curriculum students learn more diverse and inclusive.

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(pictured above, more than 40 students and four academic trip leads outside the Schomburg Center)

Gurvinder Aujla-Sidhu, a Freedom to Achieve Fair Outcomes Champion and senior lecturer in Journalism at DMU, said the trip was invaluable for understanding “that the US also doesn’t have enough of black history and culture in their curriculums”.

“At DMU we’re trying to change that situation and make our curriculum more diverse,” she said. “It’s really important for me as a lecturer. So, I think this is really important for me as a lecturer to understand what other ideas I can bring back and implement and how I can inspire other staff.”

Posted on Wednesday 5th June 2019

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