Letters to the Editor No.1

TCS News 24 October 2019
Image Credit: Hassan Raja

TCS Editor in Chief, Molly Bolding, takes a look over the letters from our readers this week…

Tara Choudhury, on Black History Month…

“When I discovered that in Sidney Sussex’s four hundred and twenty-three year history, there had never been a formal commemoration of Black British History, I was disappointed but not surprised. Both in my role as BME Officer and as a history student, I jumped at the chance to organise an event when Yaz Dualeh approached me with the idea. Before Yaz created the position, the post of graduate BME Officer didn’t even exist – so it was clear from the start that we were undertaking something that had the potential to alter the very culture surrounding race and representation at Sidney.

Settling on the idea of hosting a panel discussion followed by a formal dinner, we quickly got to work contacting as many inspiring black academics and activists as we could think of. It was incredible to see the interest we received from so many potential panellists. Including Afua Hirsch and Diane Abbott (who both sadly couldn’t make the date) we received many replies expressing excitement that our event was to take place in such a historically white institution. The weight and responsibility of pulling off this event wasn’t lost on me; it almost felt like the success of the panel and dinner would determine how Sidney will commemorate Black history in years to come.

We were lucky enough to have hosted Chardine Taylor-Stone, Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper and Dr Kennetta Perry for what proved to be a fascinating discussion. It was extremely important for us to ensure that our panel was intersectional and represented the diversity of Black identity. This definitely made the conversation far more interesting, as the panellists effortlessly explored topics such as queer erasure within Black history; the classist institutionalism of how we often commemorate Black history; and the importance of affirming people of colour as “producers of knowledge” within academia.

The irony of our surroundings wasn’t lost on anyone. As a packed-out audience listened to an all-Black panel of activists and scholars delve into a passionate dissection of what we mean by ‘Black History’, portraits of long-deceased white men silently observed from the walls. As Dr Elliott-Cooper expressed, there was certainly something empowering about reclaiming the historical narrative at the University of Cambridge – an institution he described as an “intellectual bastion of imperialism” that benefitted greatly from slavery and empire.

Throughout a fantastically well-attended and successful dinner, there was one comment from an audience member that continued to play on my mind. They eloquently asked how it was possible to condense an entire people’s history into one month of the year. The panellists replied by stressing that it is vital we recognise that what is commonly labelled ‘Black’ history is in fact a shared, universal history that has shaped all of our lives in different ways – whether we’re discussing Windrush, resistance to colonial rule, or the Haitian Revolution. This powerful, yet simple, message brought home the responsibility we have here at Cambridge to ensure that a decolonised history told from the bottom up is commemorated all year round.”

Check out the Sidney Sussex BME Campaign here!

Rebecca Algie, on Dua Lipa

“From ‘Be the One’ to ‘Hotter Than Hell’ to ‘IDGAF’, Dua Lipa has released hit after hit, making waves within the music industry. According to Spotify’s facts and figures, she is now the most-streamed female musician in the world, amassing a total of more than five billion streams. The success of ‘New Rules’ marked a crucial milestone in her flourishing career, granting her the position of being the youngest female artist on record to attain one billion views of a music video. Such achievements speak for themselves and, in my opinion, they make Dua the most influential female in the industry today.

After becoming the first ever female to receive five BRIT Award nominations, obtaining the titles of British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist at the 2018 BRIT Award ceremony, her success has only grown. ‘New Rules’ has become an anthem of female empowerment which has resonated with people all across the world. I, personally, cannot remember the last time that I was at a party or a club and the song was not played. It has the power to bring the room to life, (even two years after its release date) and I’m sure that it will continue to do so for many years to come.

When questioned in an interview with British Vogue about how she feels about her success, Dua revealed that she is “grateful that people want to listen to [her] songs and play them at parties or when they’re getting ready” but that the prospect of being the most streamed female artist in the world is “terrifying”. She also opened up about the negative effects that our generation’s love of social media can have on our mental health, revealing that she, herself, has “received a lot of backlash” for voicing her opinions online and that “trolls” are a source of anxiety; however, platforms such as Twitter and Instagram are her “connection with [her] fans” which is why she continues to use them.

In today’s society with heavy pressures exerted from social media, it is even more important than ever for celebrities to use their platforms to encourage people to empower and support one another. I feel that Dua’s connection with her fans enables her to do this, be it via social media or through her lyrics and music videos. She is undoubtedly a relatable figure to many across the world which I believe is a key driving force behind her success.”

Read Rebecca’s coverage of the Dua Lipa event here!

Anonymous second year, on giving freshers a helping hand…

“While walking around my college I keep noticing first years struggling with the same things I did: remembering to use their card to open doors or gates, not knowing how to use the washing machines, regularly getting lost, forgetting how the library is organised or where to go for food. I have literally been where they are not even twelve months ago, so I feel like at the very least I should have a go at helping them find their feet. So, yesterday, I made some little cards with my name and email on, so at least now when I bump into them I can help them with their problem and give them someone to call on if they have a question they’re too embarrassed to ask! We all know what it’s like to be in a new place with lots of weirdly specific traditions and rules, and I know it would’ve helped to know there were people I could ask stupid questions to and not feel judged for not knowing how this crazy place works.”

Got something for our readers? Let us know at editor@tcs.cam.ac.uk with the subject ‘Letter to the Editor’!