Pioneering Black women the focus of Black History Month celebrations at Oxford Brookes University

Mrs Williams stood in front of a car
Mrs Gertrude Williams (then Gertrude Morita Harris) when she left Jamaica at the age of 18 years, taken at the Norman Manley airport in Kingston on 2 November 1962. The photograph is part of the exhibition.

'Celebrating our Sisters' is the theme of Black History Month at Oxford Brookes University this October with talks, courses, events, art exhibitions and a poetry competition all taking place.

Professor Alistair Fitt, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said: “At Oxford Brookes, we are proud to celebrate Black History Month in October 2023, recognising the experiences, talent and leadership of pioneering Black women.”

Why Race Equity is a Higher Education Emergency is the title of a keynote lecture on Wednesday 18 October at Oxford Brookes’ Headington Campus. 

The lecture will examine how race and racism interact with the challenges and opportunities of the higher education experience. The speaker is Natalia-Nana Lester-Bush, a specialist in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Liberation (EDIL), who blends her expertise with her lived experience as a bi-cultural woman of colour with invisible disabilities. Natalia-Nana is also the Co-Chair of Goldsmiths, University of London’s Race Justice Strategy Board and a member of the Strategic Advisory Board of Samaritans.

On the same day, the Oxford Brookes BAME Staff Network will host a panel discussion on the theme of Celebrating our Brookes Sisters, with contributors reflecting on their individual career journeys and sharing their learning.

An exhibition showcasing the African Caribbean community in Oxfordshire will be on display in the foyer of the Richard Hamilton Building at the university’s Headington Campus. It is part of an ongoing community-led initiative to raise awareness of Black History in Oxfordshire and will include photographs, videos and stories. The exhibition will run from 5 October to 28 October, 7.00am to 9.00pm each day. 

Dolcie Obhiozele of the Oxfordshire Community Education Group has helped put the exhibition together. Dolcie said: "This exhibition celebrates the first arrival of the Windrush generation in Oxford. It is vitally important that their contributions are recognised. We intend to continue to build on this in the future." 

On 24 October there will be a talk and networking opportunities led by Dr Nigel Carter from Oxford Community Action, a charity that supports Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in tackling barriers to equality. The event takes place 5.00pm to 7.00pm, at the Richard Hamilton Building on the Headington Campus, with refreshments. 

There is still time to enter Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre’s Celebrating our Black Sisters poetry competition before the closing date, Sunday 15 October. The judge is the award-winning poet Isabelle Baafi whose debut Ripe was a winner of the 2021 Somerset Maugham Award, and was the Poetry Book Society’s Pamphlet Choice for Spring 2021. More information including how to enter can be found here.

The full programme of events is available on the Black History Month webpage.