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Race equality chair talks about motivation, the key to progress, and her hopes for the future

In an ideal world, issues of racial inequality and injustice would be a thing of the past and Jenny Agha would be part of a network of people who “grow tomatoes and put pictures of them on Instagram”.

But the world is far from ideal and, instead of spending time tending her picture-perfect toms, Jenny is part of a very different type of network – one that is working hard to combat the inequalities that are still prevalent in society.

Most members of the King’s Race Equality Network have first-hand experience of discrimination and the memories of those injustices are what spurred many to join, reminding them that, despite much progress, there is lots still to do in order to address the myriad issues that affect people from all walks of life.

Faced with such an enormous task, it’s difficult to know quite where to begin but, according to Jenny, involving as many people as possible in the process is the best place to start.

“The network is really diverse. It’s not just for ‘people of colour’,” she said. “What drives all of our members is a little different and that means we can bring attention to different issues that affect different communities.

“We have held events with the Jewish community, for example, we have held events for the south Asian community. We have held events for lots of different people and everyone has a different reason for joining and taking part.”

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For her own part, Jenny, a member of the professional services team in the School of Politics and Economics, joined the network in 2019. Initially asked to help with the website, Jenny quickly became a member and, some 18 months on, she is now co-chair.

In that relatively short time, the network has been at the forefront of several high-profile events, including welcoming activist and musician Akala to King’s, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in London, and hosting a packed programme of events for Black History Month.

And, with the emergence of COVID-19, the network has again found itself at the front of battles for equality – bringing attention to disparities in health outcomes, educational attainment and income, as well as highlighting the experience of Asian students targeted for abuse over the emergence of the pandemic itself.

Jenny is aware, however, that despite all that has been achieved during her time with the network, there are limits to how much can be done by a relatively small group.

“Most of us do this because we have experienced racism and it’s very personal to us. We want to make sure what we do counts but, when you think about something like racism, we can only do so much with a network of six volunteers,” said Jenny.

“It would be great if the university had something like an official institute [for equality], like the Institute for Women’s Leadership, that could be paid and work alongside the university’s diversity and inclusion team and form a ‘family’ with other people and networks at other universities.”

For the moment, though, Jenny says she is “proud” of the work the network has done and the way in which it has grown and started to engage with university leaders since she joined last year, something that gives her hope for the future.

“The way in which the network has grown and how diverse it is is something I’m incredibly proud of. The diversity of it is key and ensuring people don’t just stay in their own groups.

“I have also seen how we have been able to influence things at the university, which is great. It hasn’t just been all about negativity either. King’s is so massive and full of incredible people who, through doing all this work, I have been able to meet.”

In this story

Jennifer Agha

Postgraduate Programme Officer

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