Shevane Poyser - Young, Black and Empowered
For some people, the mere mention of politics, sets of a chorus of “blah, blah, blah” in their head. Not so, for 21 year old Business and Sociology student Shevane Poyser from Aston University. Poyser is the President of the Empowerment Society at the university and writes exclusively for Operation Black Vote about the aims of the society and why he believes activism is important and necessary.
The Empowerment Society is an initiative founded in February 2011 by a collective of students at Aston University which is devised to provide Aston’s African–Caribbean community with opportunities for intellectual stimulation whilst also reflecting the diverse cultural background of this student demographic.
The society’s mission is to positively influence students’ vision for the future beyond student life and to transform minds where people are allowed to express ideas, intellectually challenge themselves and make a difference.
Empowerment’s activities focus on four primary areas; education, social maturity, personal development and celebrating African-Caribbean culture. Weekly societal meetings are structured to engage students in a dialogue on an array of issues in which to provide a platform for ideas to be aired from which we may support, teach and learn from each other.
As a collective of black students, our starting point when addressing issues particularly pertinent to the black community is to ask ourselves as the future generation; how can we contribute to the future lives of our community? In addition to debates and discussions, guest speakers from a cross-section of backgrounds are invited to provide guidance from their own experiences to inspire students.
As one of the initial members to join the society what appealed to me, was that a group of BME students in their final year at University were committed in giving up their own time to establish the society and be instruments of change. From its inception it was evident that the Empowerment society sought to stake a claim within the University for black students. Something that resonated with me from the Empowerment ethos was the notion of overcoming barriers to allow black students to feel empowered; providing them with a voice and positive representation.
Throughout my own University experience I have noticed that there is a lack of engagement by black students within the wider University processes, particularly within the student democratic system. I remember being somewhat of an anomaly when I ran for a position on the Students’ Guild Executive, yet I was motivated by the belief that diversity is better for greater representation.
Elected as Equalities Officer 2010/11, I was the only black student to sit on the Student Executive that year, and it is this need to break the lack of engagement which further cemented my own personal desire to be involved with Empowerment.
Within the Empowerment Society I saw parallels with myself, in the recognition that there is room for progression for black students. We as a society endeavour to provide an environment for students in which to enhance their prospects and help find a solution to learning, progression and the success they deserve.
I am motivated to give up my time and be involved with Empowerment during what will be my final year at University, as I believe that we must all be the change that we seek in the world. Our society aspires to make a tangible difference in students’ lives through impacting their outlook for the future.
An empowered individual is one that can take control of their own destiny by putting themselves in a position whereby they can make informed decisions. As a society we aim to facilitate this process by providing an environment that stimulates students to think laterally about themselves and their position in wider society.
Operation Black Vote graduate Sharon Thompson, a magistrate in Birmingham and also political party activist will be addressing members of the Empowerment Society on 3rd October to demonstrate that change is possible and that we can all be the authors of our own destiny.