The Anti-Racism society held their “Melanated Minds” event at Zephyr Lounge as a start to one of the largest student-run Black History Months in the country.
The event involved spoken word and personal narratives from Warwick students, as well as insight on racism embedded in history, institutions, and popular culture from Akala, the famed rapper, poet and journalist.
The event also saw Warwick’s hip-hop dance group Eqho deliver an edgy and geometric performance with their usual cohesion and attention to detail.
As the house was completely full, most of the audience gladly stood for the near four-hour event.
The lost pages of human history
Akala was welcomed with excitement and held the audience still in concentration during his exploration of black history.
He led the audience through centuries of history that is rarely included in curricula in western countries and shocked the audience by explaining the elaborate project of stripping black history of the glory it warrants.
A great emphasis was placed upon the collective unawareness that the great ancient Egyptian civilisation was a black society. He suggested how the western world was educated to believe that black people were less than, even subhuman.
Black Egyptians were pioneers in art, science, medicine and gender equality, something white propaganda had to disguise in order to justify the callous treatment of blacks in the colonial era.
Akala described the cultural narrative as the lost pages of human history.
Spoken word poetry
The safe and intimate atmosphere allowed young poets to share personal experiences of struggle through their spoken word poetry.
Each spoken word artist explored their emotions on race and how being black had shaped their lives. Issues concerning identity, inadequacy, and violence were presented to the audience.
The poems also paid homage to historic black strife. One student involved the audience in her poem and the room echoed with a hundred voices repeating “we are not victims but victors” throughout her performance.
Young black women from the audience shared memories from years of their childhood and adolescence. Stories included encounters of racism and violence, shedding light on how racism in the UK is far from conquered and how a culture of hate and ignorance affects everyone.
Heated dialogue took place as questions from the audience aroused debate. The issue of cultural exchange versus cultural appropriation led the discussion into one of popular music and the divide between “black” and “white music”.
The censorship of themes allowed to appear in black music provoked frustration within the audience. A rapper himself, Akala works against the status quo by dealing with issues of racism and discrimination openly in his music.
Akala pointed out: “old white men own hip-hop and regulate the message of the content that is popularised and sold”.
Other events in Warwick Black History Month will include panel discussions, debates, exhibitions, and film screenings, all to spread awareness and celebrate the richness of black history.
Attendees were left contemplating the whiteness of our curricula as an issue that should be discussed more prominently in the academic world.
Will Spurr, a second-year PPE student described the event as “mind-blowing”, especially to those new to Black History Month.