20 November is Transgender Day of Remembrance and with that in mind we have chosen Annie Wallace as our Diversity Champion of the Month.
Annie is an actor from Aberdeen. A former National Youth Theatre member, she graduated from the Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre in 2004 and has appeared in many theatre productions. As well as being a performer, Annie writes and records music and is a skilled sound recordist and designer.
Annie is a patron of Mermaids a charity supporting trans and gender diverse children, young people and their families. Mermaids started small but has now evolved into one of the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ charities.
On 29 October 2015, Annie made history by becoming the first transgender person to play a regular transgender character in a British soap opera when she debuted as school headteacher, Sally St. Claire in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks.
Since starting in Hollyoaks, she has been regularly listed in the prestigious Rainbow List, Pride Power List, Diva Power List, and the USA OUT100, as one of the country’s most influential LGBT people.
She is a staunch supporter of transgender children, young people and their families. Her advocacy has seen her appear on Celebrity Mastermind, with Mermaids as her charity of choice.
October is Black History Month and also on 16 October it is World Food Day. With that in mind we have chosen Marcus Rashford as our Inspirational Diversity Champion of the month.
Marcus is a professional footballer who plays for Manchester United. He was bought by his mum who often struggled to afford food to provide meals for Marcus and his siblings.
The issue of food poverty for families and children had always therefore been something that Marcus was very keen to help with and he has been working with the charity FareShareUK to raise money to supply meals for 3 million vulnerable people. During the coronavirus lockdown the government insisted that food vouchers for families on free school meals would not be extended outside of term time so he decided to act.
He wrote an open letter to all MPs calling for the decision to be reversed. The letter drew on his own experiences growing up relying of free school meals and food banks. He asked that the government make the U turn to protect the lives of the most vulnerable which was not about politics but about humanity. In June 2020 it was confirmed that he had been successful in his quest and the government changed their mind and extended the scheme through the school holidays.
He has now formed a taskforce with some of the UK’s biggest food brands to continue the work to reduced child food poverty and backed proposals from the National Food Strategy, for an independent review of UK food policy. Marcus is confident that the group could help change lives for the better and is hoping that with a bigger team of experts he will be able to help more children.
A Muslim woman who became an “unlikely spy” for Britain when she was dropped into occupied France during the Second World War has been honoured with a blue plaque at the site of her family home in London.
Noor Inayat Khan, dubbed “Britain’s first Muslim war heroine in Europe”, served in the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the conflict.
Khan was born in 1914 in Moscow, but her family quickly moved to Bloomsbury in London’s West End at the outset of the First World War.
They then moved to France, where she looked after her mother and siblings following the death of her father.
However, in 1940, the family fled occupied France to Falmouth in Cornwall, where she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and trained as a radio operator, despite her Sufi pacifist beliefs.
She was recruited to the SOE – which was set up by Winston Churchill – in 1943, and was then sent back to France as an undercover radio operator.
In October that year, she was arrested by the Gestapo – the secret police of Nazi Germany – after she was betrayed by a French double agent, who was reportedly paid to hand her over.
Khan was questioned by Gestapo agents, who managed to imitate her over the radio so as not to arouse suspicion, but she escaped along with other members of the SOE.
She was recaptured nearby and taken to a German prison, where she was shackled and interrogated. She refused to cooperate, and managed to scratch carvings of her address on to her bowl so other prisoners could identify her.
After 10 months she was taken to the Dachau concentration camp, where she was executed with three other women.
The English Heritage tribute will mark the London family home which Khan left for Nazi-occupied France.
Shrabani Basu, Khan’s biographer, is unveiling the plaque on Taviton Street in Bloomsbury.
“When Noor Inayat Khan left this house on her last mission, she would never have dreamed that one day she would become a symbol of bravery. She was an unlikely spy,” she said.
“As a Sufi she believed in non-violence and religious harmony. Yet when her adopted country needed her, she unhesitatingly gave her life in the fight against fascism.
“It is fitting that Noor Inayat Khan is the first woman of Indian origin to be remembered with a blue plaque. As people walk by, Noor’s story will continue to inspire future generations.
“In today’s world, her vision of unity and freedom is more important than ever.”
The plaque will be unveiled at the address that Khan etched on to her bowl while in prison, with a virtual ceremony broadcast on English Heritage’s Facebook page at 7pm on Friday.
Khan’s plaque comes after English Heritage admitted the number of women represented by the scheme is “still unacceptably low”, with only 14% of London’s 950 plaques representing women.
The charity said that “if we are to continue to see a significant increase in the number of blue plaques for women, we need more female suggestions”.
This information is the first of many steps to start deeper and more honest conversations about race to encourage our students and staff to listen to the BAME members of our community, hear their experiences, and recognise how we all can do better, as individuals and as an organisation. More
The EDI Strategy 2019-2022 is a declaration of the university’s commitment to place the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of the university. We believe that having a clear Equality and Diversity Policy Statement for students and staff reinforces our expectations of the values and behaviours that all members of the university community should exhibit:
Treat others with respect at all times, and promote an environment free of all kinds of bullying and harassment.
Actively discourage discriminatory behaviours or practices.
Participate in training and learning opportunities that would enable them to adopt best practice.
We stand together in solidarity with our black students and staff.
As a university community and as individuals we are appalled by the senseless racist killing of George Floyd in the USA. We are equally saddened that the UK is not innocent. We know Sheku Bayoh, Kingsley Burrell, Sarah Reed, and many others have died in police custody in this country. We also all know about the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence.
We need to see the situation for what it is and we need to be honest: these experiences exist and structural racism is present in our communities and in our universities. As employers, educators, researchers and community leaders we have a duty to act and an important part to play, and we should start with apologising for not doing enough and for not confronting racism with the urgency it deserves.
We also know saying this isn’t sufficient. We have a duty to do better. Equality, diversity and inclusion are founding principles of our institution and core beliefs of our students and staff. We know that world events and media coverage shouldn’t be the only driver for change but recent events and feedback from staff and students tells us that we need to do more.
With this in mind, we are committing to a review of all of our equality and diversity work and by the end of September 2020 we will be sharing our detailed plan of action setting out how we will do more to achieve systemic and long-lasting change for our students and staff. As part of this, we will be reflecting on the work done by the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the BAME attainment gap project and the BAME Staff Network.
The Vice-Chancellor will also be appointing a member of staff to work directly with her 1-2 days per week, on a secondment basis, to champion and deliver this important work.
We recognise that we also have a responsibility to educate ourselves and we will shortly be sharing resources for students and staff across the university.
In the meantime, we recognise how tough, hurtful, and traumatising the last few weeks have been to our black students and staff.
You can also join our BAME Staff Network (by emailing Natasha Abreo) or GSU’s BAME Student Society by emailing Mayo Femi-Obalemo, or email any suggestions you may have about how the university should take further action to Naseer Ahmad or Simone Murch from our EDI team.
Black lives matter.
Professor Jane Harrington
Vice-Chancellor and on behalf of the University of Greenwich
Dr Sandhi Patchay
Chair and on behalf of the University of Greenwich BAME Staff Network
On behalf of Greenwich Students’ Union
Gail Brindley, Director of HR & Professor Mark O’Thomas, PVC, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Science, Co-Chairs, and on behalf of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the University of Greenwich