Students celebrate diversity at LSE

The range of projects supported by the Annual Fund in 2016/17 help to highlight the enormous diversity that defines LSE, while promoting its values of equity and inclusion, in keeping with the Annual Fund’s support for the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Office. Here is a small selection of projects that your support helped to make possible.

Discover Islam Week

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LSESU Islamic Society’s Discover Islam Week increased awareness and demystified misconceptions of Islam, with interfaith discussion promoted through seminars, stalls, and events. Annual Fund support helped to deliver an exhibition, an Arabic calligraphy workshop, and the screening of a documentary, Blessed are the Strangers, which tells the story of how two very different British groups of people came together to form one of Britain’s oldest and most diverse Muslim convert communities.

“In the current political environment, with increasing Islamophobia in society, we believe Discover Islam Week is more relevant than ever before,” said Hamid Majeed, who led the project. “Discover Islam made for a really enjoyable and informative week, which saw Muslims and non-Muslims come together and get involved in various activities that help to spread the message of peace.”

Other elements of the week included a well attended interfaith tea party, in which Jewish, Christian and other student societies were invited to engage in interfaith dialogue, daily stalls set up outside the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, and public lectures, including ‘Who is Abraham?’, delivered by Imam, broadcaster and politician Ajmal Masroor. 

ABLAZE

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ABLAZE, the annual flagship event of the African-Caribbean Society, uses performance art to celebrate the vibrant culture of underrepresented regions in a dynamic and accessible way. It exhibits the plethora of talents that exist within LSE, provides a retreat from the academic intensity of university, and helps to increase awareness of African-Caribbean culture on campus.

This year’s event took place in Shoreditch Town Hall in March, thanks to Annual Fund support which enabled the Society to book a larger off-campus venue. The show incorporated theatre, music and dance, telling stories about the challenges and issues faced by the African-Caribbean community. More than 400 guests were in attendance.

Ire James Soleye, 2016/17 President of the African-Caribbean Society, said: “The new venue ensured we had greater capacity in an environment different to a traditional academic lecture theatre. The huge stage space meant script writers could push the boundaries, with music, acting and dancing rolled into one.”

He added: “The grouping together of a wildly diverse continent and region, as well as a vast range of cultures, languages and styles, is nebulous but profound; we feel it needs its own platform of expression. We believe ABLAZE helps to dismantle stereotypes of Africa and the Caribbean and shine a light on the beauty within the culture. Furthermore we ourselves are able to explore our own identity.” 

The Intersectional Experience

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The LSESU Intersectional Feminist Society’s flagship project provided a ‘crash course’ in intersectional feminism, which relates to how other forms of discrimination interact with gender – such as racism, transphobia and ableism. The Intersectional Experience immersed students in the world of feminist activism and exposed them to a variety of viewpoints through various events.

Over the course of several weeks in January and February, a wide range of activities took place on campus. This included an ‘Ask Me Anything’ event with renowned male feminist Michael Kimmel, in which attendees could ask any difficult or burning questions they had. The ‘Inspiring Women’ panel event saw valuable advice given to attendees by Sevasti Wong, Managing Director of professional services company Accenture, and Vanessa Daobry, a Team GB Paralympian shot put finalist. Meanwhile ‘Let’s Talk about Sex’ and ‘Let’s Talk about Racism’ events gave students the chance to informally debate issues they may not otherwise find the opportunity to candidly discuss elsewhere.

Martha van Bakel, 2016/17 Co-President of the LSESU Intersectional Feminist Society, said: “Many found the experience refreshing and inspiring. We were able to provide a space for students to learn from professional women who have maintained a positive attitude in the face of setbacks and disappointments, broaden exposure to other areas of feminism such as disability, and hold events which are more inclusive to those who don’t usually engage with feminism, such as a workshop specifically for men. All of this was enabled by Annual Fund support.” 

Political Spectrum: Being LGBT+ in Politics

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Organised by the LSESU’s LGBT+ Officer, Perdita Blinkhorn, a panel discussion bridged political divides within the LGBT+ community and explored how society can empower LGBT+ individuals to make change. Speakers included Nikki Sinclaire, the first openly transgender British parliamentarian, Lord Chris Smith, Britain’s first openly gay MP, Lord Brian Paddick, the UK’s most senior openly gay police officer, and Aimee Challenor, equalities spokesperson for the Green party and Chair of LGBTIQA+ Greens.

The event asked questions central to understanding what it means to be LGBT+ in politics today, such as whether openly gay individuals should feel the need to speak for all LGBT+ people, and whether one can be openly LGBT+ but still be involved with a party that neither prioritises nor endorses LGBT+ liberation. The Annual Fund helped support overall running costs of the event, such as the purchase of equipment and provision of marketing.

“This was a rare opportunity for students to gain insight into the wide range of political perspectives, without preconception or judgement,” commented Perdita. “It was a chance to listen rather than argue, and many attendees felt extremely privileged to have heard such high profile members of their community speak freely. I certainly took away far more than I had expected.”

She added: “For me this event solidified LSE as a centre for one-of a-kind, world class events and provided a phenomenal opening to LGBT History Month 2017.”