BEMA interviews NUS Black Students Officer, Aaron Kiely

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Aaron Kiely was elected as the new NUS Black Students Officer, succeeding Kanja Sesay, in May during the NUS Black Students’ Conference 2012.  Aaron represents the largest constituency of Black students in Europe and during his term, he will be campaigning on a local and a national level about all issues affecting Black students.  BEMA will be working very closely with the Black Students’ Campaign this year, and we have got Aaron to answer a few questions for us about himself and his aims for his term as Officer.

How does it feel to be elected as the new NUS Black Students Officer?

It’s an absolute privilege to lead such a progressive Campaign that has defended Black students over the years and lead the student movement on many occasions. I believe I have an extremely strong and diverse committee that will really enhance the work done this year and I know that despite tough times ahead, that we can achieve much.

What issues are you aiming to tackle during your term as Officer?

Increasing Black representation; Black students are grossly under-represented in students’ union decision-making bodies and our voices are often marginalised. I will work hard to campaign for a Black Students’ Officer in every Union and support and develop the next generation of Black sabbaticals, officers and student leaders.

Challenging Racism, Islamophobia and the far-right: Racism is rising across all aspects of our society which is evident on the pitch, in newspapers, from the police and on the streets where the English Defence League are terrorizing our multicultural communities. I want to make the NUS’ newly re-established Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism Conference a massive success and work innovatively to challenge all forms of bigotry and halt the racist tide.

Defending Black Students – No Fees, No Cuts! Higher fees, cuts to education, student support and the scrapping of EMA have a huge disproportionate impact on Black students. I will oppose every cut, campaign to re-instate EMA and build for the largest possible national demonstration against Tory austerity and their disastrous plans for education. We must also challenge the media and politicians attempt to use racist scapegoating to blame Black communities, migrants and asylum seekers for an economic crisis that the bankers caused. Blame the bankers – not the Burkha!

International Peace and Justice: I will be making sure that our Campaign continues its proud tradition of campaigning for peace and justice for the Black majority of humanity. The government should be spending money on funding public services, not dropping bombs on some of the world’s poorest nations. I’ll be campaigning in support of the Palestinians and calling for an end to Western intervention and exploitation in Africa, the Middle-East, Asia and Latin America

How do you intend to go about achieving these aims?

Through looking to unite all Black students on these important issues in the broadest sense. We will inform, educate and train on these issues at our Winter Training Conference. We will lead the NUS at National Conference through putting forward our motions and politics – as well as taking a lead throughout the year working with our allies in the Black community. From Unite Against Fascism, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts and the Stop the War Coalition – we can provide Black leadership and work with our allies to fight for our goals.

Which aim is the top priority for you to achieve and why?

I am not sure if I have a top priority as the priority areas are all pretty important. I hope to lead a Campaign that is stronger than ever and can provide the maximum defence of Black students at a time of a vicious right-wing Tory government.

What do you think Black Students can do on an individual basis to improve their representation amongst student bodies?

Black students have a duty to collectively organise in the face of adversity. You only need to look back at our history to see that this is most effective. Black students are massively underrepresented in students’ union democratic structures. All Black clubs and cultural societies should unite together to demand representation, whether that is as a Black Students’ Committee, demanding a Black Students’ Officer or uniting together to field candidates in elections. One example of where this has happened before is Hertfordshire SU where Black students united together to challenge for the leadership of the students’ union and did extremely well – developing future activists for years to come in the process. United, Black students can have a massive impact.

What are you looking forward to most about your forthcoming term?

I am really looking forward to meeting all of the inspirational grassroots Black activists on the ground that are fighting on the key issues in their unions. Whether that is for justice for Palestinians, against racism on campus and in their communities, against cuts, for anonymous marking or daring to run for election – those are the kind of things that help motivate me.

What path are you wishing to follow after your term as Black Students Officer finishes?

I honestly do not know, though I strongly see myself as still part of the movement in some form or another!

Finally, if you were placed on a desert island, which three famous people would you take with you to keep you company?

Diane Abbott, Ken Livingstone and Salma Yaqoob. I’d also try to sneak in Nicki Minaj too!

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