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Voices Project Launch: Volume One (Black History Month)

Voices: they are made to be heard. Yet, even in a world thick with the white-noise of social media, and its enabling of the immediacy and circulation of opinion, these voices are not being paid attention to. 

Harry Bishop’s opening speech at the Voices project launch on Tuesday 24th October highlighted that an increasingly statistical focus on social inequalities, although essential, makes it difficult to act upon liberation in a way that makes a truly intimate and personal impact. Along with Black history Month, what also proved influential to the theme of the first edition of Voices was the looming presence of the university degree attainment gap. More importantly, the most divisive factor of this gap: ethnic difference, which has proved persistent over the last decade. According to the Equality Challenge Unit, the attainment gap is ‘the difference in ‘top degrees’ – a First or 2:1 classification – awarded to different groups of students.’ Such statistics, although staggeringly important, are numbers, devoid of substance, removed from a physical body. The crucial element of the project is the sentiment that ‘experience is the only truth worth knowing’, a motto inherited by Bishop through his mother, which provides context for the project’s focus on the importance of individual experience. By providing an anthology of testimonies – a voice for the statistics – the message set forth by the Voices project has undeniable validity. It is actively creating a space for liberation within the university community, a mission which is the heart behind Voices, an ongoing collaborative project between the FXU, HerCampus and the Falmouth Anchor. Voices seeks to provide a platform – and celebratory space- for voices which could have previously been lost amongst the noise. 

Each issue will consist of an anthology of testimonies: accounts of individual, formative experiences and authentic words of personal importance. The five volumes will be released throughout the following year, presented in a magazine format which intends to enrich the understanding of our community. The themes of each volume will run as follows: Black History Month (which is already in circulation), Interfaith, Pride, Disability and Women. The endeavor is a bold and uncensored celebration of diversity, individuality and unity. It is a mode of proactively seeking liberation. 

The first issue of the printed anthology, launched on Tuesday 24th October, ‘coincides’ (Harry Bishop, Voices Launch) with, but is not limited to, Black History Month. This is an important distinction, for the powerful message behind the personal experiences of race covered within the pages extends beyond the parameters of any assigned time period. 

The release of the first printed anthology was celebrated by a launch event in the AMATA café, which featured a plethora of passionate talks and spoken word by people involved in the project, and those whose stories are featured in the first volume. Amongst these was Isaac Dapo Chukwumah‘s speech, which perfectly articulated the necessity for awareness of intersectionality in society, as he believes this awareness to be ‘key to achieving a better world socially’. Following this, Isaac strongly advocated the need for ‘shared responsibility’ in any push for a better world, for, in one way or another, we all fall under some discriminatory umbrella. Kirsten Perkins, in her speech, wonderfully encapsulated the unique capacity that this project has of revealing truths, and the extent to which it can facilitate change and enrich perspective. Kirsten explained how the distinct difference between each of the accounts held within the pages alone is indicative of the unlimited richness of experience of race and life in general. She also noted the potential for a total change of opinion from simply reading about the experience of others. She declared that, for her, one of the most important things to be taken from the first volume of Voices is that, despite misconceptions and inaccurate media portrayal, the black community is far from a ‘monolithic group’. She said that difference should be noticed, recognised and celebrated, as opposed to individuals being ‘colour-blind’, or, more broadly, blind to the heterogeneity of real experience. Joe Ward, in his speech, highlighted the project’s success in its’ operation within an area of genuine ‘proximity’- highlighting the sheer closeness to racial experiences which have been achieved through the authentic medium of testimony. He explained his personal opinion that results don’t come from unattached directives and statistical reductions, but that it is through a process of listening and talking that progress is achieved. According to Joe, ‘it is projects like this which are fundamentally important in changing the negative aspects of society’, for liberation achieved by speaking and listening reveals that the world is not as simple as we may want or believe it to be, and that the ‘views we disagree with… are to be embraced’. 

If there is anything to take from this launch, and the Voices project itself, it is that through actively seeking understanding, actively speaking, actively listening, and actively joining together to lift misconception, to reject unproductive stereotypes and to recognise the complexity within diversity of experience, liberation can take place. It is not necessary to be a passive bystander: responsibility for change is in no way singular, in the same way that personal experiences of race or of any other form of marginalisation cannot be reduced to a simple, unified perspective. Difference is present, and difference is not there to be ignored but to be accepted and celebrated. 

Volume One of Voices can be found in the numerous printed editions which are currently in circulation around campus – some of which will be on display in the Penryn and Woodlane libraries, and the FXU offices. The online version can be accessed via the FXU webpage. This project has been designed to be as accessible to everyone as possible, so that there is no limitation on who can learn from the voices that its pages have created a space for. Watch this space.  


Jasmin Jelley

Exeter Cornwall

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