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Sunderland displays its proud black history

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Published on 11 October 2017

Black History Month 2017
Black History Month 2017

October is Black History month, and this year is the 30th anniversary of the annual event. To celebrate, the University of Sunderland and its Students Union are celebrating some of its influential black staff and students with a series of posters on display on campus throughout the month.

Recent graduates Emmanuel Emegha and Ola Tony-Obot, the University’s first black female professor, Donna Chambers, and Sunderland’s first black Student Union president, Kumbuka Collins, all feature.

Emmanuel Emegha graduated from the University with MSc in Telecommunications Engineering in 2016, and now works as a Network Engineer at Arvato Bertelsmann in Slough.

He says: “I moved to the UK with my family from Nigeria as a teenager. We lived in London, but I decided to study in Sunderland because the engineering department had great technologies and laboratory facilities.

“I am British, although Nigerian born. I visit Nigeria as much as I possibly can and try to embrace African culture.

“The figures from Black History who really inspire me are my own friends and family. My family always inspire me - and have always believed in my potential.”

Ola Tony-Obot is originally from Nigeria, and graduated with a first class degree in BSc Health and Social Care in 2016. During her studies Ola was the Students Union’s Equality and Diversity Officer. She is now studying for MA Social Work at Sunderland.

Ola said: “This month is when we should put aside our challenges and really celebrate what it means to be black and achieving greatness in this western society. It is also a time to influence the negative perception or any labelling we might somehow have suffered in the name of discrimination.”

As part of Black History Month Ola is hosting an exhibition of Nigerian clothing at the University’s riverside campus on 24 October.

She said: “We should display our heritage and the colourful side of us and that is why I will be organising an exhibition on some of the beautiful attires and ornaments we as black people are blessed with.”

Kumbuka Collins was the University of Sunderland’s first black Student Union president from 1999-2000. Originally from Zambia, Kumbuka settled in the region after graduating with a BA Business Administration degree, and now lives and works in Durham

He says: “l'm not quite sure how to answer the question of what Black History Month means. It is a positive start, but I hope that one day all histories will be celebrated equally throughout the year.”

Donna Chambers, the University of Sunderland’s first female black professor, will host a talk on 26 October reflecting on 30 years of black British culture.

“Many will be reflecting on the meaning of Black History Month particularly the extent to which it has led to greater recognition of the significant contribution that both black men and women have made to British history,” Professor Chambers says.  

“Many will be reflecting on whether through this recognition of black achievement, there has been any significant material improvement in the lives of black people in Britain.  

“Personally, I believe that it is important to celebrate black achievement in Britain, because black people in Britain have suffered discrimination and exclusion and their significant contributions to British history and society have often been devalued or silenced. 

“Having a month set aside to focus on these achievements is great but I feel that it is vital that we remember the value of the black contribution to Britain throughout the year. 

“Given Britain’s extensive history of colonialism, I believe that Black History is British History.”  

Black History Month runs throughout October. To find out more about some of the events taking place at the University of Sunderland go to: www.sunderlandsu.co.uk.

During October the University will hold a season of free films screenings, including Hidden Figures, To Kill a Mockingbird and Moonlight. There will be a Diversity Football Match on 19 October, supported by former Sunderland player Gary Bennett, and a Gospel Choir, Voices of Virtue, on campus on 16 October.