The journey towards community begins with people. Staff and students. The young and old. The rich and poor. The vulnerable and the powerful. Strangers and friends.
It is a delicate and dynamic dance which requires both the patience and courage to build bridges of trust, understanding and friendship. Amidst profound differences and persistent inequalities.
It also takes a willingness to extend opportunities to those who often live amongst us as outsiders: caught between the opulence of the city and the margins of invincibility.
Together is Better is such a journey, which is intended to connect Leeds Trinity University with the pulse, hopes and dreams of residents, particularly migrants, refugees and Asylum seekers.
Over the course of one evening, we welcomed the community to share stories, listen to music and enjoy West African, Afro Caribbean and Eritrean cuisine together. It was a celebration of people, community, culture and the bridge of friendship between the University and the city. It also formed an important part of the University’s event series to mark Black History Month, and we saw students, staff and local community members join together, listen and learn with an open heart.
Together is Better is an affirmation of the centrality of human dignity and hospitality within the Black tradition both in Britain and across the diaspora particularly given the historical burden of prejudice and exclusion.
This is because the question of race, regardless of how it is framed, is intimately tied to both place and belonging: and one can only begin to develop a sense of belonging when one can feel safe, valued and celebrated in a place.
In this regard, I owe a debt of gratitude to the generosity, hospitality and goodwill of Leeds Trinity University: particularly the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the rest of the team working behind the scenes. For making space, time and also resources to host members of the local community.
I also owe a debt of special gratitude for the humility, friendship and support of Shames Maskeen, who organised the event with me, whose tireless labour of love serves as a gentle reminder that indeed, “together is better.”
Chijioke Ojukwu is a strategic leader in public policy, community development and advocacy, and Director of Foresight and Equity Solutions.
Photo credit: KBPhotographyHH
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