How Lola Olufemi Is Working To Decolonize Academia

How Lola Olufemi Is Working To Decolonize Academia

Students looking to be represented in what they are taught.

Lola Olufemi’s effort to decolonize the literature syllabus at the University of Cambridge addresses the age-old issue of lacking diversity in academia. Why the controversy?

The specific request to the University, as outlined by Olufemi, sought to “decolonize its reading lists and incorporate postcolonial thought alongside its existing curriculum.” She acknowledges the relatively new effort to address the absence of white authors in the curriculum, but posits that without further integration, the curriculum “risks perpetuating institutional racism.” Per her argument, defining British literature as the literature of the global south is a manifestation of the legacy of colonialism. Olufemi offers a detailed means of fixing the problem at hand, wherein students work with a combination of colonial, postcolonial, and ethnic minority authors. The goal, on a grander scale, is to dismantle the norm of white and male in academia.

Though the petition has existed since July 14th, 2017, the issue gained widespread attention when The Daily Telegraph covered the story on Wednesday, October 25th. With a picture of Olufemi on the front page, the headline they constructed read “Student forces Cambridge to drop white authors.” While the photograph and headline appeared on the front page, the article appeared three pages in, leaving readers a chance to develop a preconception of the story without having read the article or having contextualized the information.

The information that they did provide was reportedly faulty, as contrary to the headline’s claims. No official decision had been taken by the administration at the University in response to the letter. The implications of the article were far-reaching, in that within the time of its publication, Olufemi claims to have had her “email...flooded with racist and sexist abuse.”

University lecturer of English Priyamvada Gopal tweeted in response to the article, stating “NOT ONE SINGLE WHITE MALE WRITER will be harmed in the adding of a few BME writers to any syllabus,” and further argued that the issue had been picked up by the media as an effort to incite a race war. She later wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian, praising the student effort to change the curriculum, and stating that “Decolonising the curriculum is, first of all, the acceptance that education, literary or otherwise, needs to enable self-understanding.” The University released its own statement providing that “Changes will not lead to any one author being dropped in favour of others.” This was followed by, “We condemn the related harassment directed towards our students on social media as a result of the recent coverage.”

The Telegraph pulled their article by the 26th, and attempted to reconstruct it, but it leaves a number of truths in its wake. The backlash that the students received affirms that often when people are accustomed to privilege, attempts at equality feel like oppression. The fact that the students are still steadfast is cause for optimism; seeking representation on all grounds is, and should be, an unabandoned effort.

Cover Image Credit: Lola Olufemi / Facebook

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

SEE ALSO: To My Closeted Self, I Have Something To Tell You

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. (Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.)

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town. Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community. I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK. What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives. What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all. Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back; same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others. As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being. My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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I Am Proud To Stand #NewnanStrong

This past weekend's events brought our community together, and this surge of support should make our citizens proud.

In my 19 years of living in the Newnan community, our small town has always been quiet and fairly innocuous. Aside from the rush hour traffic on Bullsboro and the depressingly early time that the downtown square shuts down on Sundays, there has never been much conflict or turmoil in our little corner of Georgia. Therefore, when news broke of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist group, obtaining a permit to rally in Greenville Street Park, citizens in Newnan and neighboring cities were shocked.

As the April 21 rally drew near, I was overwhelmed by the response from the community, as those opposed to the group’s message banded together in support of love and equality - directly targeting the Neo-Nazi movement and their ideals. As downtown businesses braced for the possible violence that the day would bring, most business owners opted to close their shops for the afternoon, to stay at home or to protest the rally.

The citizens of Newnan refused to let the rally to dismantle their way of life, and declared that the Friday before the rally should be a community day - hundreds gathered to support their local economy, and help local businesses earn some of the revenue that would be lost due to Saturday’s circumstances.

As authorities laid down barricades and braced for the rally and its attendees, locals took to the sidewalks with chalk drawings, sharing messages of love, hope, and compassion. Quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr., notable Bible verses, and trending social media statements were carefully scripted across bricks and benches, tagged with #NewnanStrong.

Thankfully, the day of the rally came and went, with little conflict. The turnout for the National Socialist Movement is reported to have been only a couple dozen - meanwhile, hundreds of Newnan community members showed up, vastly outnumbering the controversial group, and making it clear that their message was unwelcome in our town.

I am astounded by the overwhelming outpour of love and support from all of my Newnan neighbors, and am thrilled to see their message continue to thrive; on social media outlets, many are coordinating to send thank you notes to the authorities and community members that helped coordinate such an effective afternoon of activism, keeping those involved safe, and our beautiful downtown square standing strong.

I hope this atmosphere of unwavering love and support will continue to uphold our community - and based on what I have witnessed not only this weekend but in all my life here in Newnan - I am sure that our city and all of its citizens will continue to stand Newnan Strong.

(photo credits to various Facebook users)

Cover Image Credit: Facebook User

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