Student Spotlight: FLY (Freedom. Love. You.)

Audrey Sebatindira 16 January 2015

An autonomous branch of the CUSU Women’s Campaign, FLY is a network and forum for self-defining women of colour across the university where we can examine our concerns, but also generally discuss issues ranging from intersectional feminism to pop culture.

One of our aims is to encourage more BME women to apply by showing them that not only are there people like them at Cambridge, but that some of the issues that may make them hesitant in applying are being addressed. FLY is a supportive and friendly environment intended to relieve some of the pressures of living in spaces that historically have not belonged to us.

FLY co-founders Justina Kehinde Ogunseitan and Priscilla Mensah said "F.L.Y" (Freedom. Love. You.) emerged in the wake of ‘For Colored Girls’, the first all black, all female production in Cambridge, when the visibility of women of colour within the University became a point of discussion. From our personal experiences of, at times, feeling unable to relate to our peers, we wanted to create a space for BME women to explore their personhood. We didn’t start FLY to be a political movement, but we are excited to know that women of colour who attend Cambridge will be eager to participate in its evolution.”

Robin Hyacinth, Cambridge alumnus and co-founder of FLY, states that the group was founded “with the intention that there would be a ready-made support network of BME women” within the university. Siana Bangura, another alumnus, notes that FLY offered her “support and encouragement” during her final year, and feels that members of the group are “carving out a space for their voices to be heard”.

FLY is primarily a safe space for WoC, and even as it expands on to other platforms, its weekly meetings and closed Facebook group remain a core part of FLY. As Lolia Etomi, another alumnus, puts it, it’s not about “separating ourselves from the white females and all the males in Cambridge… [it’s] just creating a safe space where you can share your experiences… and have other women saying 'yeah, I understand!'”

Despite FLY being a space exclusively for BME women, the release of our new blog run is supposed to encourage debate and discussion amongst the student body. We have also started up The “Ain’t I A Woman?” campaign; a unique project that will examine the intersection of race and gender in the context of a place like Cambridge.

The aim of the blog and the campaign is to continue to build solidarity among WOC at Cambridge. Lola Olufemi’s article “Why I’m done defending my personhood” really embodies this aim. So many women, some of whom graduated years ago, commented that they identified strongly with what she wrote and thanked her for doing so. Walinase Chinula, a fresher, also stated that she felt a “confidence boost” when she submitted a post to FLY’s blog. We hope women will continue to be empowered to write and speak, knowing that they have the support of FLY behind them.

If you’re a self-defining WoC and are interested in getting involved in FLY or writing for us, join us.