Black Students’ Society

A new community forum for discussing and addressing issues affecting Black students and other members of college was officially launched this autumn. The Black Students’ Society is an initiative spearheaded by Josephine Agyeman-Duah, the first Black Students’ Representative on the Graduate Common Room Committee.

Students standing in group on tiled floor with internal window behind in informal dress

Black Students’ Society members after a Welfare Meeting in November

Josephine Agyeman-Duah reflects on some of the society’s activities to date:

The Black Students’ Society (BSS) was officially launched at the culmination of Black History Month celebrations at Green Templeton at the end of of October! Principal Sir Michael Dixon made the announcement at the Sankofa event where he recounted the college’s commitment to diversity and equity. He welcomed the group on behalf of college and gave his assurance to support them in taking forward the college’s agenda of equality, diversity and inclusion.

The BSS is one of the initiatives that was started in the 2020/2021 academic year. Inspired by the experiences of Black students at GTC, the Black Students’ Society is intended to be both a recognised community and a forum with membership is open to GTC students who identify as Black. It also welcomes Black students from other graduate colleges who wish to support diversity efforts at GTC, and the promotion and wellbeing of Black students at Oxford.

In the past year, BSS contributed by organising events that celebrated cultural diversity at GTC such as ‘By the Fireside’ that featured George the Poet; contributing titles to the Maarifa collection, which is a platform to celebrate Black writers and cultures, and a resource for self-education on racism; BLM Movie nights and welfare events that provided a safe space for Black students to support each other.

In the future, the BSS will continue to take up initiatives and voluntary service that will contribute meaningfully to GTC, Oxford University and its immediate communities and Black communities outside Oxford. The society will also work with College to ensure that the action items from the GTC BLM taskforce receives maximum attention from the Governing Body, and that, medium- to long-term action items like recruiting GTC Black fellows and staff are prioritised.

Black Students' Society Zoom meeting screenshot

The society met virtually when it was unable to meet in person

The support from GTC in promoting the welfare of Black members and upholding diversity at college is commendable. I believe that this continuous effort from the college will put GTC ahead as a leader in matters of diversity, inclusion and equity at Oxford. Prospective students have strongly been drawn to GTC due to some of these initiatives that strive to provide a welcoming environment to all at the College.

The BSS is grateful for support from the Annual Fund for various activities, and also acknowledges the invaluable contributions from Dr Neo Tapela (BLM Taskforce Chair), Professor Susan James Relly (BLM Governing Body Representative), BLM Taskforce members, Professor Denise Lievesley (former GTC Principal), Sir Michael Dixon (GTC Principal), college staff, the Graduate Common Room Committee, and past GTC Black students who have contributed to the success we celebrate today.


Painting of sunflowers in window

Painting by Kelly-Ann Fonderson done during one of the lockdown Welfare Events

For more information on how to support the Black Students’ Society or to continue the dialogue, please get in touch with Josephine Agyeman-Duah.

Created: 23 December 2021