Large crowds attend decolonisation rally

Sophie Dickinson 31 October 2017
Image credit: Noella Chye

Hundreds attended the decolonisation rally today, in support of the Decolonise the Curriculum campaign, and in solidarity with CUSU Women’s Officer Lola Olufemi after sexist and racist abuse was aimed at her last week. 

Speeches, interspersed with chanting, were made by prominent figures from the decolonisation campaign, such as Priyamvada Gopal from Churchill College, the Chair of the Sociology Sarah Franklin, Jason Okundaye, the head of the BME campaign, and Olufemi herself.

Gopal began by insisting that “eliminating religious and racial hierarchies… something that we all have to do regardless of our background”, and was met by large cheers from the crowd.

Okundaye focused on the power of protesting, remarking that “today we are seeing the power of student organising… when institutions and media resist us, we organise.”

Olufemi also spoke at the event about her experience, saying that ““the press stirred up a moral panic”, and that ““solidarity had given [her] the energy to come back and do the work that needs to be done”.

The rally comes after a week of media attention on the campaign, and Olufemi in particular. After the English Faculty began discussing decolonising their curriculum, the Daily Telegraph featured an image of the CUSU Women’s Officer on their front page, along with a caption suggesting she wanted to ‘replace white authors’. The abuse that followed has been widely criticised, and Olufemi was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Woman’s Hour programme explaining her experience.

Sebastian Shuttleworth, a 2nd year student at Emmanuel who was at the rally, “It was an environment overflowing with positive and inclusive energy. I was reminded that representation isn’t just for the people it’s representing, it’s for everyone”

Rose Aitchison, a 2nd year Kings student commented, “Pretty much all white people have benefited either historically or in the here and now from structures of colonialism, and it’s imperative that white people come to collectively realise this and do something about it by supporting POC activists and the cause of decolonisation. It’s disgusting and shameful that you can have a BA in English from Cambridge without ever reading the work of a single woman or person of colour, and it’s disgusting and shameful that the right-wing press feel they can attack people like Lola Olufemi because she’s a woman of colour trying to change an antiquated and unjust system.”

Our Liveblog of the events can be found here.

More photographs of the event, and interviews with students attending the rally,  can be found in our third print edition of term, available from the 2nd November.