BHM: An interview with Samira Mensah

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This Black History Month we have tried to focus on local people and heroes within our society and have achieved this in many ways. From collaborations with other Unions to discussions between staff and students we hope to shed light on the experiences of people we are familiar with. Usually there is a focus on famous people such as singers and sports stars, but what about the people who have lived in our own community? What has their experience been like? Samira, who was our VP Welfare last year, kindly agreed to answer some questions our current Part Time Officer for Ethnic Minorities, Tamandani, had for her:

Who are you and what is your relationship with the Union of Students?

Hi everyone! My name is Samira and I am the former Vice President Welfare Officer at Derby Union of Students (2019/2020).

Was your student experience any different given you were a black student?

I was engaged during my studies and I had good friendships and a social life. However, I think because of the fact I was heavily involved with the black community throughout my time as a student, I never really gave myself the chance to be isolated in an environment where I was the minority. So to answer the question, no not to my knowledge.

Likewise, did your ethnicity play a part in your experience working with the union?

I believe my ethnicity did play a crucial part in my experience whilst working with the Union, given that the core staff base isn't as ethnically diverse, I was able to bridge that gap between staff and students with ethnic minority backgrounds. This also allowed me to act on my experiences as a black student and implement new ideas for liberation events and other student-centred planning. Some examples of these are Black History Month events, international student events, and black lives matter campaign activities. With that being said, working at the union was great because you were working with colleagues who were as dedicated to the welfare of students as you, regardless of background.

In your experience as a student and staff member, can you see any areas in which light needs to be shed on?

I definitely feel like black students who exhibit such skills and characteristics should be pushed and encouraged by peers and members of staff, to take advantage of roles and opportunities that would not only come naturally to them but will elevate their skills and essential life qualities.

Do you have any advice for current students?

My first piece of advice would be to speak up! The Union constantly have new things going on and if you don't see something you're interested in, let them know so they can look into making it happen.

Secondly for all but especially to students from an ethnic minority would be to get involved, constantly keep an eye out for opportunities that will enhance their personal and professional development. Get involved with the various projects, even if it's one time. It's super key to not leave University with just your degree, really grasp and grow as much as you can because once you leave life gets pretty hectic.

Find out more about our Black History Month plans at derbyunion.co.uk/bhm

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