Conference Notes #4: BARC, Organising for Liberation Workshop

📝Conference Notes #4: BARC, Organising for Liberation Workshop

The POC2 team attend different conferences regarding diversity and try to take as best notes as they can. The “Conference notes” series is a summary of these events and are comprised of: any topics that they found interesting, talking points and/or links to resources that were mentioned.

The Building an Anti Racist Classroom: Organising for Liberation workshop was held over the weekend of June 15th and 16th at the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality, Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University. The aim of the workshop was to bring together all kinds of BME activists in higher education to re-imagine what a truly equal space looks like in order to work on improving EDI efforts and avoiding it becoming a box-ticking exercise.

More information and the summary report can be found below:  [BARC Workshop Event Summary]

BARC workshop poster. Artist:  

#org4lib #barcworkshop


The first day began with the participants being brought to attention via a Tibetan singing bowl.

  • The organisers laid out the four main intentions for the event.
  • Additionally each of the organisers read out a quote that inspires them to keep working.
  • (My personal favourite/the only one I was able to write in time was “Your silence will not protect you” – Audre Lorde).

The “good” student

The first activity was entitled “the good student” where we talked about what currently makes a “good student” and then we discussed what would be a good student in an ideal world. [Red is current][Green is ideal world]

  • We are constricted on how we imagine a good student
  • Good students are key as they get jobs
  • Teaching Excellence Framework – how universities are assessed
    • Structured to keep out POC
    • Employability
    • Graduate outcomes
      • Higher paid jobs consistently proven to be systematically racist
    • Attendance
    • Discriminates against low income, disabled, those with care responsibilities etc…
  • Perfect attendance – “Presenteeism”
    • Penalises students for being sick
    • Penalises students for having to deal with general life things happening
    • Creates a class barrier as moving out and/or daily travel is extremely expensive
    • International students sent back to their home country if their attendance is bad
  • Sounding “right” (right being a western accent)
    • Racist/Discriminatory towards people immigrating from outside the west for education
  • Competitiveness
    • Fosters the idea that you shouldn’t help your peers which is horrific
    • University literally isn’t a competition/race. Multiple people can get high grades and it does not affect others – there is more than one “first place” available
  • Consumers vs being marked down – students being a consumer is a neoliberal idea
  • Plays by the rules – conformity is very important
    • Students so not challenge their teachers out of fear of being kicked out – something many cannot afford
  • Change the system not the students – students shouldn’t have to work at an institution they pay for
  • Progression should be rewarded equally if not more than the people who are consistently good
  • Actually empathy not just repeating the same un-effective rhetorical strategies
  • Mechanisms we have for rewarding students are actually terrible
    • A significant transformation should not be treated less than achieving a first
  • Education is a process of learning and unlearning
  • Need much more support for international black students
    • Have to get good support and mentors for black students

[Gloria Anzaldúa was mentioned]

What does an anti-racist classroom feel like?

Here we discussed the issues that affect BME in universities and why.

  • “Even when we are inside we are outside”.
  • “The doors have been opened but the architecture remains the same”
  • Nooks+Crannies of academic departments need to be decolonised
  • Universities are sites of power
    • Reproduce white power (e.g. hall of principles)
  • Ethical + political values in which people assess who belongs
  • Safe spaces vs principled places
  • Asking black women academics if they are cleaners
    • Shaming people into a place of non-belonging
  • Working within shaming contexts
  • Impossible to look like white scholars so we have to look like us!
  • Negation + dismissiveness
  • Decolonising is being co-opted by white people!!
    • “Auditing the curriculum”
  • Take relaxing habits into the classroom
    • Snacks/Lighting a candle
  • In America institutions were made for black people due to segregation
    • This means today there are “black” universities with more diverse curriculums
    • This did not happen in the UK
  • POC are able to do EDI work without being tokenised and white members of the EDI team will follow their instructions
  • Students are treated as academics – learning is not hierarchical

Student activist long table

We were invited to take part in the long table event as we are student activists. We were given the starting question of “What are your experiences of anti-racist activism in education?”

  • Burnout
  • Places students in a vulnerable position
  • Neglect of black international students who pay 2x the tuition of UK students
    • So busy trying to pay for school leads to no time for personal wellbeing
  • Graduate with a mentor > graduate with an institution
  • No conversation of being a migrant in universities
  • Staff give skills, not just emotional labour
  • Acknowledge student work as student labour

General talk

  • Explicitly state your politics
  • Informal networking is the norm 😦
    • Usually happens in a pub
  • Mentoring as a charity case instead of treating each other as peers
  • Explicitly state that your name will come first in papers you do significant amounts of work in
  • We’re kept too busy to do anything
  • There needs to be a formalised process with regards to facilitate diversity debates
  • Need to remember white students can recreate epistemological violence and the hurt extends to lecturers of colour

Talk by Dr Francesca Sobande

Dr. Sobane is a lecturer in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University.

  • Online + media experience of black women
  • Online consciousness reading
  • Access to free decolonial resources!!!
  • Able to connect with others that are not available on the ground
  • Strategic use of anonymity online
  • POC lead places
    • Problems with anti blackness
    • Problems with anti LGBT+
  • Analyse your own politics
  • You should always be willing to learn
  • Burnout
    • Work that is at the cost of ‘you’ isn’t worth doing
    • Overworking to not deal with personal problems
  • Mental healthcare professionals
    • Difficult to find actual useful ones, especially for BME and even more so for specifically WOC
  • Decolonising without tokenism
  • Your silence will not protect you Vs your refusal to comment is powerful
  • Take small wins ❤
    • What does everyday anti-racist work look like?
  • Financial stability and sustainability
    • How to make the terms of taking funds clear
    • Fundraising
  • Students ARE academics
  • Students ARE scholars
  • Put everything in writing
    • If it happened in a phone call follow it up with an email
  • Work out if somebody wants to work with you or for you
  • Black women are either lazy or warriors
    • No middle ground
    • Don’t need to involve yourself in EDI work which is harmful to your mental health
  • Black women are not workhorses
  • Black women are not cattle

Talk by Prof. Shirley Anne Tate

Professor Tate is a Cultural Sociologist with a research focus in intersectional thinking.

  • When I became an academic what did I want to do?
    • Help other black academics
  • Facing challenges + challenging back
  • Need to CHALLENGE racism
  • Coping with fear in the context of what we’re operating in
    • Thinking “so what” and doing it anyway
    • Community
  • EDI work is a marathon not a sprint
  • Age + hope for the future
    • How to engage in the politics of hope
    • How to deal with anti-black hate
  • Joy
    • How to use it for political action
  • Alliances
  • What do white people actively give up when they say they are anti racist?
  • Love + self love
  • Liberation
    • What stops our liberation
  • Trust that people have good motivations + intentions
  • How to deal with white people co-opting POC culture
  • You’re not going to get anything from being the good student
  • Engaging politically through loneliness
  • Dealing with negation
  • Trustworthiness
  • POC under constant surveillance via students, colleagues + management
  • Negation of African, Carribean + Indian decolonial thoughts
  • Ethics of engagement + care
  • White people need to prove themselves worthy of us

For more information on conferences we’ve attended please visit our resources page or read through the rest of our blog. We are constantly updating both.

Written by Karel Green + Pruthvi Mehta. Edited by Karel Green. For more information see the about page or follow them on Twitter @thisismeonline + @q_the_ordinary respectively.


    1. Hi there’s a group of 3 of us and we use this to promote our work on decolonising STEM. It’s less of a personal blog and more our “official” website


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