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Middlesex uni celebrate pioneering Windrush Gen photographer

MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY hosted a special Black History Month event last week, with a display of work by photographer and former British Black Panther Neil Kenlock and an address by Bishop Esme Beswick, to mark Middlesex becoming the first UK university to receive a Corporate Gold/Embedded diversity Charter Mark from diversity specialists UKIED.

Kenlock discussed some of his images of 1970s black community life and black leaders, including of Olive Morris, Elizabeth Obi, Darcus Howe, Jamaican High Commissioner Arthur Windt and Lord Kitts, whose images were recently displayed in his show Expectations at Black Cultural Archives.

He was assisted by his daughter Emelia Kenlock, a Middlesex University graduate, who curated the BCA exhibition.

In a Q&A session led by Middlesex’s Diversity lead Dr Doirean Wilson, Kenlock talked about his original ambition to be a painter like Picasso, until he was inspired to take up photography by David Bailey, recalled taking pictures of Muhammad Ali, and Bob Marley (who gave him a signed album), and described the educational mission and peaceful nature of the British Black Panthers.

“Photography is the lifeblood, I love it” he said. “It tells the truth. And it opens doors. I don’t see it as a job, I see it as documenting things for history”. Asked what he would do differently if he had his chance again, he joked that maybe he would write down the date on his photographs. Expectations transfers to Islington Central Library on Tuesday 30th October and a book of Kenlock’s work with the same title is due out in 2019.

Speaking as part of a themed line-up to evoke the past, present and future of Black History Month, founder and president of the Joint Council of Churches for All Nations Bishop Dr Beswick, senior pastor at Nebaioth Ministries, Stockwell, talked about her route to her vocation via nurse training, her range of spiritual leadership roles including as past President of the Christian Muslim Forum, and her strong desire to address the inequalities that exist in the UK. “I think the future looks bright, regardless of what is happening in our society,” she said – she believes that we can achieve great things as humans when we recognise our common bonds and all pull together.

Representing the present, Middlesex students Sade Ogubuike, from Paddington, and Elizabeth Farinto, from Kent jointly read a poem they had written about black identity, and messages posted on a board by students and event attendees set out hopes for the future of Black History Month. There was a fashion showcase, with Farinto modelling a striking ballgown and young designer Buckarie Dumbuya and a friend modelling some of Dumbaya’s contemporary African mens’ outfits.

At the end of the event, singer, artist and actor Patti Boulaye, a visiting teaching fellow at Middlesex, praised the University’s work that had led to the UKIED Charter Mark. “I’ve watched Dr Wilson for a few years work so hard to get this charter” she said. The award was presented at UKIED’s annual conference on 12th October, at which Boulaye and Shadow Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler gave keynote addresses.

In their rigorous assessment process UKIED noted “overwhelming and compelling evidence, particularly in relation to students, that Middlesex University is genuinely committed to embedding equality, diversity and inclusion within all elements of the learner experience”.

As part of a final year undergraduate equality, diversity and inclusion module, Middlesex students have worked on internal research or on developing diversity toolkits for blue-chip clients including the Big Four accounting firms. The Ministry of Justice is using Middlesex as a case study in how to recruit highly qualified candidates from under-represented groups, and the Middlesex is working with local employers and organisations to engage with the community and people from different backgrounds.

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