Liverpool Hope University’s resident BAME officer Louisa Patterson-Brown has told how the institution’s Afro-Caribbean society has more than doubled in size in 2020.
And as Hope celebrates Black History Month, Louisa has revealed some of the vital work she does to make sure the voices of students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are heard.
Louisa - a third year Law student - began acting as BAME officer earlier this year and is also Secretary of the Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS).
When she began her role, there were around 10 students involved in the ACS.
But now, as Louisa helps to spearhead events for Black History Month, those numbers have swelled to around 40 - and it continues to expand week on week.
Louisa, who as BAME officer provides a vital communication link between the ACS and the Students’ Union, explains: “University can be quite daunting for any student, no matter your cultural background.
“And we wanted to get the message out that, as society, we’re here to welcome you and to support you throughout your studies.
“If a student has an issue, or a change they’d like to see implemented, they can come to me, we can sit and have a talk about it, and then I can address the issue with the Students’ Union in order to perhaps put new policies in place.
“There’s an open door when it comes to emotional and wellbeing issues, too.
“I know when I arrived in Liverpool I sought advice from peers on things like where I could get my favourite foods from, or where I could buy hair products for black women.
“If there’s anything on your mind, come and find us and we can sit down and have a chat together.”
Since her time as BAME officer, Louisa, 21, has brought about change on a number of fronts.
One campaign was to improve facilities in the multi-faith prayer room at Hope’s Creative campus - as well as to raise awareness that the room existed at all.
She adds: “We were able to really improve the room, adding new furniture and treating it to a little interior design.
“We were also able to put a proper label on the front door, as well as promoting it through the Hope student bulletin.
“Another campaign I’ve been part of was to get proper labels for the University’s Halal food products, in line with Vegan and Vegetarian items.
“These are small things in the grand scheme of things, but they can really help to improve the experiences of students on campus.”
Louisa, from Telford, Shropshire, is preparing to relinquish her role as BAME officer later this year when the next round of student elections take place.
But before she does hand the baton on to someone else, she’s got an important job - to help create engaging webinars and events for Black History month at Hope - which you can read all about here.
In the coming days she’ll be hosting a careers evening to support Black and Asian businesses in Liverpool, while also chairing a debate night where, among other things, participants will be discussing ideas surrounding cultural appropriation, and where the limits of acceptance might be drawn.
She says: “It’s about opening up the night to hear other people’s thoughts. And as a Law student, I love a good debate!"
What’s more, Louisa will also be running a special food cook-along on October 17th, where she’ll pick dishes from lots of different cultural backgrounds and invite people to join her in creating them via Zoom.
And it’s fair to say that being Hope’s BAME officer has really left its mark on Louisa.
Later this year she’ll be writing a memoir about her experiences of making her way through the world of education as a black woman - describing the tome as a sort of ‘self-discovery, self-help book’ aimed at other young girls.
It’s due to be published by Authors Press.
And in it she’ll talk about her pride at being elected to represent the BAME community at Hope.
She reveals: “Being involved with the ACS and the Students’ Union is such a rewarding role, and I wanted to make it known that there is a voice for BAME society in the Students’ Union, and someone will raise concerns on its behalf.
“I just wanted to make a difference. And this year, more than any other, it’s vital BAME voices are heard.”
To find out about all of the events taking place for Hope’s Black History Month, head here.
To join Hope’s Afro-Caribbean Society, click here.