No end and no beginning; race equity in higher education

Some years ago, through a pedagogy of the oppressed approach and by teaching with love, I embarked on using co-creation to explore racialised experiences raised by our students within our Race Equality Charter (REC) survey. I was compelled to act and so much so that my doctorate study explores using co-created decolonised pedagogy and curriculum rooted in anti-racist practice to support student success. My professional career and journey to academia began as a qualified social worker with children and families, so my lifelong work to date has and continues to be championing and empowering the marginalised and global majority communities of which I am also a member. One of the creative ways I adopt for liberating self-expression is poetry, so I invite you to hear my story…

No end and no beginning; race equity in higher education

No end and no beginning; race equity in higher education
Inside the ivory tower and the fortress of white walls
The institutions’ oppression, discrimination and all
Microaggressions, unfair treatment, poor retention and more
No promotion or progression, poor degree outcomes, for sure
Hearing people’s stories and sharing their pain
Often, I feel helpless, they’ve told me all in vain
Such a heavy burden, the turmoil, and the tears
The same stories continue for oh so many years
What do I say and how shall I respond?
An overflowing vessel, how long can this go on
I want to help them all, I genuinely do
Be there to support, a hug and listen too
We have to share your stories, we have to change the system
We have to listen hard and learn from people’s wisdom
We can’t remain as faces at the bottom of the well
We have to help each other as said by Derrick Bell
Community of hope we have to teach with love
As bell hooks already told us she looks down from up above
So don’t be silent, sit back or think it’s not your job
That dismissal and denial upholds the right-wing mob
Let’s come together our community, building and belonging
Listen and take action, stop that trauma from prolonging
To become a better person, means we have to help each other
Looking out for one another as a sister or a brother
I can’t give up the fight nor the struggle of my family
I must be brave; I must be bold and battle on valiantly
Seeing siblings happy, builds up my strength and passion
Worthwhile is all my pain, my time I’ll never ration
My heart is full of love, compassion, and true care
My students are my children with them my heart I share
With colleagues and my peers, I stand in solidarity
Long lasting bonds we build, and comfort in familiarity
Old stories and new tales, no end, and no beginning
I will soldier on despite the ever stinging
Race equity and EDI work, I do it all wholehearted
And even though I often feel my voice is not regarded
Despite all this, I work so hard, and I will never stop
I see how people take the credit and my name is dropped
My ideas and creativity are growing and keep flowing
I want to share it all and good outcomes keep me going
To nurture hearts with generosity, compassion and give my time
It’s not an easy journey but you must maintain the climb
Where is humanity, accomplices stand up please
Racism is an illness and spreads like a disease
I’m not referring to the overt forms of harm
But it’s all those subtleties that might not raise alarm
In a university, by default, you think you are fair
Just because you’re ‘liberal’ so now you’re not aware?
Surrounded by the legacy of our colonial past
The tortured impact on us, but have you ever asked?
And how about our people who do not have a voice
Whilst you sit back in privilege, they have no other choice
It’s not another saviour that’s needed to put it right
But together in solidarity, we can put up a fight
Fragility, defensiveness, or denial there’s no place
Accountability and action, you now must show your face
Kindness and positivity, a smile for us each day
I’m forever optimistic and it’s the only way.

Syra Shakir is Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching, and Strategic lead for Race Equality at Leeds Trinity University. She is currently working on her doctorate in Education at Sheffield Hallam University. Syra has worked on embedding race equity in the curriculum, decolonisation, anti-racist pedagogy and co-creation with students to build belonging. She has collaborated with film maker Ricardo Barker to develop an anti-racist toolkit for tackling racism in higher education using film and the aftermath debate.




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