Black Impact: The national awards championing Black graduates, created by Salford alumna
A social enterprise is championing Black graduates across the UK with a national awards ceremony – the first of its kind.
The Class of 2020 Awards, organised by Black Impact, will focus on ten categories from entrepreneurship to resilience and creatives to sports stars.
University graduates have been nominated from across the UK, their entries judged by a panel of experts, including the former Deputy Mayor of London, Lee Jasper and Lord Simon Woolley, Baron of Woodford and member of the House of Lords.
Black Impact was set up in 2017 by Ceewhy Ochoga – a University of Salford media psychology graduate.
‘Unfortunately, the world we live in is not as equal as we’d like it to be. This is one way of ensuring that everyone can feel like they belong in the space,’ Ceewhy explained.
Ceewhy first started advocating for students in 2010, during her undergraduate degree at Middlesex University, while an international student at the university’s Mauritius campus.
In 2015, Ceewhy went on to study her master’s at the University of Salford. Eventually, the opportunity came to represent Salford at the National Union of Students conference in 2016. Ceewhy applied and was successful.
This gave her the confidence to run in the University of Salford’s Student Union elections.
Ceewhy noticed that the University of Salford is very diverse, with people from all different backgrounds, but felt that this wasn’t reflected in what the Students’ Union was offering at the time.
‘If I was able to sit around a table and represent myself, people who look like me and the wider demographic of students, then change can happen. So, I ran for the Student’s Union officer election and I won; I became the first black student president.’
It was ‘one of the best things’ to happen to Ceewhy – but it also brought a lot of challenges.
‘I experienced a lot of racism first-hand in that time, I went through some difficult circumstances and felt I had no one to support me.'
Based on her experiences – and the shared experiences of other Black students - Ceewhy went on to create Black Impact.
Since 2017, Black Impact has worked to empower Black students across the country, by helping them get into leadership, leading social activism and political engagement.
Ceewhy said: ‘These are key areas in society where if you’re not there to represent yourself, or your community, then decisions will be made without taking you into account.’
Black Impact has supported students every year at their annual leadership conference, helping them to run in and win student elections. This has been achieved by providing practical election training and offering advice.
Consequently, there has been a rise in the number of Black students successfully getting elected into students’ union positions.
Black Impact is now working with 50 Black sabbatical officers, across 22 student unions in the UK and collaborates with several Afro Caribbean student societies in campuses across the country.
‘We are still trying to end racism every day, in everything we do, especially now,’ says Ceewhy.
Last year, Black Impact became a business with the help of Salford Business School’s Launch programme. This means it’s now a registered company in the UK, opening up a whole new dimension of opportunities.
Jess Lewis-Tatton, a representative from Launch, said: ‘Ceewhy’s journey at the University of Salford has been incredibly admirable. Not only has she successfully completed the Launch programme and secured grant funding for Black Impact, she was also the recipient of the Start Up Visa through the Enterprise Team.
‘Black Impact is more important than ever right now and working with Ceewhy has been a pleasure. We can’t wait to see how Black Impact grows and inspires others to achieve great things.’
Reflecting on her journey, Ceewhy is proud to have created a strong support network for Black students.
She said: ‘This is what the Class of 2020 is really about – to remind Black students that they are excellent and to celebrate their achievements. To acknowledge their struggles, but also celebrate their successes and share their stories from one generation of Black students to another, and to the rest of the world that’s watching.’
As the new academic year approaches, Black Impact is looking to continue its work with universities.
The enterprise is raising £150,000 to deliver race equality sessions and training to universities across the UK, while also providing services to Black students that universities might struggle to provide themselves.
Ceewhy said: ‘I’m hoping that universities will get on board with us and will have real conversations with us about race equality and making universities inclusive spaces for black students.’
The Class of 2020 Awards will be streamed live on Friday 28th August from 7.30pm on Instagram.
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