Students at St Mary's University in Twickenham are taking a lead in seeing the university and wider community mark Black History Month this October.

Members of the university's UK:ME Society will stage two events in the coming days that will see Black History not only recognised but celebrated with students at the centre.

"We've always felt there's a divide when it comes to Black history in the community in general. The sense that Black history is for Black people only, which is just not true," President Ricquelle Williams told the Richmond and Twickenham Times. "We felt that was because Black history is a difficult subject to talk about because nobody wants to talk about their pain, and nobody wants to be made to feel guilty about causing that pain even if they are not directly responsible for that. We wanted to give students and the wider community a safe space to celebrate Black history in creative ways and look at the positives aspects," she added.

From October 16, artworks will be displayed at the Riverside Gallery with a silent auction giving visitors the chance to purchase the pieces on show.

The exhibition is billed as being "about giving us legitimacy, about seeing our history and our culture in fine art on an equal footing" with everyone else.

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And the Our Stories event this Friday (October 15) meanwhile sees the group invite people to share and read poems by Black artists that have been important and inspiring for them.

"In Black culture there's a tradition of sharing stories orally that your parents or aunts and uncles may tell you, but society doesn't hear those stories, and it seems like the media doesn't want to talk about the positive stories concerning young people today sharing their culture," the UK:ME president said. "We wanted to give students a voice and a platform to do that. They can talk about their pain as well, of course, we can't ignore that. But it's a space to celebrate and engage rather than just feel separated from it."

Black History Month 2021 comes after the Black Lives Matter movement forced progress in the discourse surrounding inequalities and the oppression still faced by ethnic minorities worldwide.

But how far has society shifted since last year's protests?

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"Personally I believe we have always been moving in the right direction. Every now and then something comes along to act as a catalyst and reignite the passion for it. I think right now, as much as some people may want to gloss over the Black Lives Matter movement, that triggered a global conversation. As long as we keep pushing it and give people the room to keep pushing it we are moving in the right direction.

"I'm very aware that we probably wouldn't have received the support we've received had Black Lives Matter not happened," Ricquelle said.

Ahea and her fellow students do not seem interested in letting up that pressure no matter what time of year it is.

"Academia's relationship with this subject is evolving and they are awakening because they are being forced to. As a student of (St Mary's University) I would say they are willing. I would like to see more being done, quicker, and with greater effect. I think that my history should not just be submitted to one month, and that Black history should be taught alongside every other bit of history..."

Our Stories starts this Friday (October 15) at 6.30pm at The Exchange in Twickenham.

The Exhibition runs from October 16 through October at the Riverside Gallery in Richmond.

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