Monday, 5 March 2012

A political place for the UK's ACSs

I sometimes worry that I'm a complainer not a doer, I would hate for that to become my modus operandi. So I comfort myself with the knowledge that thousands of thoughts and solutions could pass through my head on any given day, its not at all possible to act on all of these thoughts. You may be able to articulate them - like in a blog or something - but be content with knowing that you can't do everything.

This post is uneasy ground for me. I was President of my university's African Caribbean Society in the first semester of the 2010/2011 year. This is at the University of Manchester, the largest university with the largest student union in the country. I had heard rumours before enrolling here, that Manchester is where the protests happen, it's where the student movements begin and in first year a few events happened that had me believing that. Yet, in my last semester at this establishment I've come to realise you need one or a combination of these three things in order to start a student movement here: (1) an Israel-Palestine contention; (2) an LGBTQ contention and (3) alcohol. If you want someone to protest on behalf of Palestinians being denied from an Israeli gay bar where drinks are 99p (the Israeli currency equivalent), then Manchester is DEFINITELY your uni and we will have a good ol' knees up with borderline anti-semetic/islamophobic general privileged middle class none-of-this-actually-has-an-effect-on-my-life banter (and banners).

But if you want someone to campaign against the university holding a stake in an oil company like Royal Dutch Shell who are responsible for the impoverishing and destabilising of the Niger Delta both directly and indirectly - you won't even find the tumbleweed interested in showing up. I read first about this in our university newspaper - in that sense you could say the union have taken notice but in a passive "we're watching you" type way that will not worry or alarm any of the decision makers in the uni. I wonder however, if all the African Caribbean Societies in the country started getting louder on the issues that so greatly affect their families and cultures they exist to promote, could they make a difference. It won't be easy it never is, but I hear stories of the Africa Centre in London and how it was the hub for Africans here in the UK in their crusade to support independence movements and then again raising awareness of the atrocities of the Biafran War and then again in giving geographical coherence to the British anti-apartheid movement against South Africa. I hear that it has lost it's significance as a place of assembly for diaspora to campaign on issues affecting the homeland - but what is the difference between Africa in the 1960s and Africa today?

It was always my aim as President of UoM ACS to add political significance to the society's existence. I didn't succeed in doing so, but I deem it so necessary right now, that in conjuction with organisations like Operation Black Vote, and See Africa Differently and all the other things going on that ACSs, being of African descent (partly) and being radical students (in that all students have the potential to be radical when needs be) begin to dictate to the UK's policy. We can start with our universities. It's a new generation, people.

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