Celebrating Black history, culture, writers and experiences
Green Templeton is delighted to announce the addition of a new library collection Maarifa – Swahili for knowledge. The collection of more than 100 books is an initiative spearheaded by Black Students’ Representative Josephine Agyeman-Duah (DPhil in Women’s and Reproductive Health, 2018) with support from the Library’s Richard Turner and Kirsty Taylor.
Maarifa is the latest in a series of college initiatives aimed at promoting awareness and inclusion of Black members of the Green Templeton community, to address racism and to be proactive about self-education for a more diverse, inclusive and enriching environment.
Josephine welcomed the collection, saying ‘Maarifa is a self-education resource on black history, culture, writers and experiences. The collection has both a personal element as support resources and provides an enriching dimension for self-help for those who might be seeking answers or struggling with specific topics relating to race. It is curated as a resource for self-learning including on how to address racism.’ She also referenced Nelson Mandela saying ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. By its name Maarifa, the collection will serve as a knowledge base to equip readers with some good references on race and Black experiences.
Maarifa was formally launched on Thursday 17 June at a By the fireside event that celebrated Black members of the community and Green Templeton’s cultural diversity. The dynamic and informative event included a live performance from George the Poet and a short quiz as well as reflection on the journey of BLM Taskforce and related initiatives by Equality and Diversity Champion and Taskforce Chair Fellow Dr Neo Tapela, highlights of the past year’s events and initiatives including the Black Students’ Society, BLM Movie Night and the GTC Black Mentorship Programme. Governing Body Equality and Diversity Fellow Dr Susan James Relly and Principal Sir Michael Dixon gave strong messages of support. The event was the culmination of a three-part series following two themed dinners with menus specially selected from East and West Africa, and the Caribbean, supported by the Annual Fund.
Neo spoke with pride and gratitude of the developments since she took on the role of chairing a Black Lives Matter Taskforce in June 2020, noting that more work lies ahead in making long-lasting institutional change a reality. As another near-term outcome from the Action Agenda developed by the Taskforce, #DIFFERENTEQUAL lanyards and lapel pins signalling the college’s commitment to inclusivity and to promote awareness about racism will be available for the end of the academic year and to new starters this autumn.
The Maarifa collection was curated from crowdsourcing suggestions of personal favourites from members of the college and university community, alumni, Oxford Africa Alliance (AfOx), Black Professionals and the experienced GTC library team. The suggested resources were then collated and carefully scrutinised by the librarians, Black Students Representative and BLM Task Force Chair on their relevance and tone as resources for self-education on race, social and cultural justice for Blacks, navigating lived experiences of Blacks and people of colour in general. The resources are for mature, avid and young readers, including for children.
The collection is not an academic resource, but rather an accessible wide-ranging and international collection. Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from Birmingham Jail can be found alongside the essays of Angela Davis, the American political activist, together with broadcaster June Sarpong’s personal insights into how to deal with racism and bring about change in her practical guide The Power of Privilege. There are biographies including those of Malcolm X, Benjamin Zephaniah and Michelle Obama. For fictional depictions of racial themes, there’s a diverse list of literary prizewinners, including Alice Walker, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. The collection also offers local perspectives, including a history of racism and the experiences of black students at Oxford University, as well a discussion of the issue of the Cecil Rhodes statue in Rhodes Must Fall, which tells the story of the campaign to end racism in education.
In acknowledgement of the college’s family community there are also a number of books for children. All of the books in the Maarifa collection are listed on SOLO, the University’s resource discovery tool. The SOLO tag ‘gtc maarifa’ groups the books together and they can be borrowed using the Library’s Click and Collect service. The Maarifa collection will be promoted to other college libraries to encourage replication of this initiative.
Green Templeton would like to thank all the individuals who contributed title suggestions, members of the BLM Taskforce, the GTC Black Students Community and the library team. The collection was supported by a Library Grant and the GCR Black Students’ Representative Budget.