Somervillian Nasim Asl (2013, English) was involved in the I, too, am Oxford campaign from its inception, running the website and uploading its content to ensure significant coverage. Now the campaign has given rise to a new magazine, which will look to explore some of the issues raised.
The initial campaign, which was inspired by an analagous “I, too, am Harvard” campaign, posted photographs of Oxford students holding placards which quoted comments made to them during their time at Oxford or else challenged what the group perceived as widely-held assumptions.
Placard captions included “My voice is not the voice of all black people”, “All the post-colonial and critical theories you study does not entitle you to speak for me or over me”, and “No, I’m not on a scholarship from Africa”.
The campaign received significant coverage in the UK media, both local and national (The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent). It also acquired followers from all over the world – by the time of its peak a few weeks ago, says Asl, the only countries in which it had still received no web clicks were Greenland, Cuba and North Korea. The initiative was then mimicked at other UK universities, including SOAS, Cambridge, Sheffield and Loughborough, among others.
“We wanted to offer people to express their own stories of how they have been ‘othered’ during their time here,” says Nasim. “We thought it would be a good way to raise awareness while allowing all sorts of different perspectives to be expressed. The response we had was unbelievable – people contacted us from all over the world with messages of encouragement.”
The campaign was so popular that another campaign was launched in its wake. We are all Oxford sought to provide evidence for good minority experiences within the university, lest the university’s image was unduly tarnished and minority students were thereby encouraged not to apply.
But it was the initial campaign which brought the issue into the wider consciousness most dramatically. It also led to a conference, held on 24 May at Lady Margaret Hall, which looked at the whole issue of student diversity in Oxford.
Now a magazine called Skin Deep is being planned so as to keep the issue at the forefront of people’s minds. Its appearance follows the success of an online forum begun this academic year. The magazine has already received submissions of poetry, articles and essays, as well as artwork and photography. The team is currently in the process of editing and designing, and hopes to print the first edition before the end of term.
“The magazine will contain a mixture of creative and academic submissions – artwork, poetry, essays and articles all exploring race and racism,” says Asl. “We hope to create a platform for individuals to express their own emotions and thoughts on these topics, similar to ventures such as NoHeterOx.”
“We’re hoping that over the coming terms we will be able to gain funding to print more copies, with more content from Oxford students,” said Asl.