Throughout October, the University of Aberdeen has celebrated Black History Month, a commemoration of the remarkable contribution of Black people in the UK and elsewhere. It is also a reminder of important Black people and events that have shaped British History. The programme was vast: from music to literature, to law and politics, a wide range of subjects was addressed, and everyone could find a conference or article that stirred up their curiosity.
I attended some of the events organised, mostly those related to the sectors of law and politics. What I must say is that I am very proud of my University for organising those events. The conferences were profoundly interesting and thought-provoking.
The first event I attended was Mr Gathii’s lecture titled “Centering Race in International Law”. This conference demonstrated that race is still at the centre of present-day international law and that it is not only a matter of colonial and imperial relations. Mr Gathii showed his audience, using several examples, that the past is still with us, and that it is embedded in our institutions and our textbooks.
This conference not only dealt with law but also sociology, economics and history. It was rich and thought-provoking, and even more interesting from a foreign point of view. As an international student, I had never heard the stories of Scottish merchant explorers of the 18th and 19th century. Awareness of what happened in the past is essential.
After that, I discovered the University’s historical links to slavery thanks to the work of Mr Lee (blog post available here). I will not summarise his presentation, as it is still available on the University’s website. I do believe that everyone should take a few minutes to read his work. As he mentions: “Staff and students at the University of Aberdeen should engage with these discussions given our institution’s links to the Atlantic slave trade.”. Despite the seriousness of the subject, I am proud that the University reflects on its past and acknowledges its historical responsibility.
Finally, I have attended Ms Ahmed-Sheikh and Ms Jojiy’s talk on the under-representation of Black and Ethnic Minority Women in Scottish Politics. Once again, this event was inspirational. The two women shared their experiences, fears, hopes and convictions with open-mindedness and benevolence. Important subjects such as positive discrimination, democracy, representation, and Scottish independence were addressed. Ms Jojiy’s presentation of her 50:50 Parliament campaign for an inclusive and gender-balanced parliament was very interesting. It was nice to see a concrete project to enhance representativity in politics.
I genuinely think that the organisation of this Black History Month is an excellent idea. It celebrates part of our history that lays the foundations of our modern culture but is yet so often forgotten. Moreover, as a law student, I do believe that it is even more important to be aware of those issues. It enables us to have a more critical eye on the material we use every day for our studies and to be more relevant and fairer in our current and future work.
Once again, I am proud that my University decided to put together this celebration. I am thankful for the very instructive conferences that occurred during this year’s Black History Month.