BARC reflections: #Org4Lib 1 Weekender

Assembling at the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett, BARC were welcomed by Professor Shirley Anne Tate for a weekend of reflection, community-building, and imagination for the future of higher education.

The Organising for Liberation workshop was held 15-16th June 2019, conceived and facilitated by the BARC Collective. The workshop sought to provide a space for mutual learning among educators and students of colour and white allies to engage with contemporary anti-racist theory in order to develop critique, knowledge tools and resources supporting the enhancement of pedagogy.

Day 1 – Context and conditions

After establishing our collective agreement for the principles of the space, the opening of the workshop invited discussion that centered our thoughts on the student. On one hand, the student that we typically see being positioned as ‘good’ through the practices, structures, and assumptions of our institutions, and on the other, the student who we – as educators and student-peers – yearn to see being recognised for their excellence. We examined our struggles with the marginalising effects of presenteeism, consumerism, and assessment regulations; and exchanged strategies for taking control of classroom power dynamics, sharing knowledge about rights and resources, and affirming the expertise that students of colour bring to the classroom.

In our Day 1 Keynote Conversation, Dr Akile Ahmet presented her stunning co-led photographic research project Race in the Academy that interrogates how spaces within higher education can be racialised and excluding. In conversation with Professor Shirley Anne Tate, our speakers highlighted the numerous institutional pressures faced by people of colour to alter our appearance and voice; and reflected on contexts and people who had resisted these to offer a sense of belonging.

Connecting with this idea of transforming spaces, actor, playwright, producer and teacher Dr Mojisola Adebayo led the group in an exercise exploring what an anti-racist classroom might look like. Drawing from her expertise in theatrical techniques, we were invited to experiment with embodying the changes needed to build it, and how situations might unfold differently in future.

In a final session, we led the group in an emergent process to generate concrete ideas about what our goals and capacities are both individually and collectively. Ideas to which we returned on Day 2.

Day 2 – Transformation and liberation

Energised by the first day of discussion, Day 2 started with a centering of voices on the topic of student activism in higher education, by mobilising a long table technique that we have adapted for decolonising work. We learnt from the experiences of students and staff involved in facilitating transformational movements, considering the responsibilities and issues of safety involved for all, the need for care of the self and others, and frustrations arising from responses to this work. A strong message was conveyed about the great impact that key mentors can have in the experiences of students of colour.

Engaging with the conversations held over the course of the workshop so far, Dr Francesca Sobande‘s Keynote talk delivered an incisive critique of the challenges and opportunitites of digital spaces for activism. Drawing on her co-edited volume To Exist is to Resist and her work on digital spacesshe shed light on the precariousness of people of colour in the academy, the dangers of co-optation, and the importance of being resistant.

The workshop was drawn to a close by Professor Tate, who, following her own reflections on how we might each engage in challenging the system of oppressions that face us, invited participants to come forward and occupy her own speaker’s chair.


The Organising for Liberation weekender represented an exceptional event held in the academy, where students and staff of colour and anti-racist allies could assemble, talk freely, be our whole selves, and form community. Respecting the principles of the space, we are circumspect in what we judge may be shared here regarding the discussions held, but we were truly overwhelmed by the positive comments from participants on the value of the space that the workshop had created. It is also important that we continue to learn from feedback, from our mistakes and successes, and take our work forward to further conversations around important issues not yet held. We thank the participants of the weekender for raising these issues, for their generous participation, for trusting us, and for being with us as we move onwards together.


Inaugural Workshop – Oct 2018, QMUL

The first-of-its-kind Building the Anti-Racist Classroom, a 2-day intensive interdisciplinary workshop bringing together scholars and students of colour and anti-racist allies around intersectional issues of race in higher education, particularly in business, management and organisation studies, took place on 18-19 October 2018 at Queen Mary University of London.

Click here for highlights of the event on Twitter.

Click here for an introduction video by Dr Helena Liu

It was held in the Student Union in Room Blomeley 2,10AM-5PM on Day 1 and 9AM-4PM on Day 2, with an artistic programme from 5-9PM on Day 1 held in the St. Benet’s Chaplaincy yurt.

The aims of the event were as follows:

  • To provide a safe space for management educators and students of colour and white allies to engage with contemporary anti-racist theory in order to develop critique, knowledge tools and resources supporting the enhancement of pedagogy.
  • To facilitate mutual learning between established and new faculty who face different challenges in relation to anti-racist work
  • To enable participants to identify the key issues specific to their local and institutional contexts, share strategies for addressing them, and design activities to begin implementing and advocating for anti-racist practices in their universities.

It was conceptualised, organised and delivered by the BARC Collective (alphabetical order):

  • Dr Deborah Brewis, University of Bath, Centre for Business, Organisations and Society, UK
  • Dr Sadhvi Dar, Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management, UK
  • Dr Angela M. Dy, Loughborough University London, Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UK
  • Dr Helena Liu, University of Technology Sydney, Australia
  • Dr Udeni Salmon, University of Keele, Keele Management School, UK

Keynote speakers were UK-based leading scholars in anti-racist pedagogy and practice in HE:

  • (Day 1) Professor Shirley-Anne Tate, Professor of Race and Education and Director of the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality in the Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, UK and Honorary Professor at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. Drawing upon critical race philosophy by scholars of colour, she delivered a powerful critique of the popular discourse of unconscious bias, problematising it within the social psychological research tradition. She also noted that she is only the 25th woman of African descent to be awarded a professorship in the history of the UK, reflecting intersectional structural inequalities that impede women of colour and black women from reaching the highest strata of academia.
  • (Day 2) Dr Goldie Osuri, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Warwick.  She was Director of Undergraduate Programmes for Sociology between 2014 – 2018. She has worked with Race and Learning and Teaching issues through many different administrative roles previously in Australian academia. Her talk focused upon the challenges and opportunities in designing anti-racist learning environment and content, centering upon her experiences at various levels of analysis, including encounters with institutionally racist bureaucratic processes, strategies in programme and module design, and the changing landscape of interpersonal interactions in the classroom due to the contemporary global return towards overt racism and continued right-wing co-optation of the strategies of the left.

Day 1 began with a panel on the topic ‘Anti-Racism in the Business Management classroom’ composed of three participants including both Black and non-Black women of colour. Panel discussant, Dr Yasmin Ibrahim, a Reader in International Business and Communications at Queen Mary, University of London, researches new media technologies explores the cultural dimensions and social implication of the diffusion of ICTs in different contexts and its implications for humanity. She facilitated a panel discussion among Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi, Dr Suparna Chatterjee and Dr Jenny Rodriguez. Suparna is Assistant Professor of Sustainability and Global Cultures at Xavier University, Cincinnati, USA whose research focusses on the political economy of globalization, neoliberalism, gender and poverty.  Jenny is Senior Lecturer in Employment Studies at the Alliance Manchester Business School. Her research focuses on intersectional inequality in work and organisations, and the interplay between identity, work and regulation. Adaku Jennifer is a Doctoral Researcher at Loughborough University London with a background in digital entrepreneurship and research interests in Intersectionality, Health/Wellbeing, Entrepreneurship and the Digital Economy.

The panel was followed by critical group discussions facilitated by the BARC Collective organisers on contemporary issues related to anti-racist work in higher education, including the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion agenda, community, allyship, and empowerment. For these discussions participants were assigned one topic and could choose another. The day finished with the excellent keynote by Prof Shirley Ann Tate.

Day 1 closed with an evening cultural and artistic programme curated by Dr Mojisola Adebayo, a playwright, performer, producer, director, researcher, facilitator and teacher. She has worked in theatre for social change for 25 years, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, is an Associate Artist of Pan Arts and Rose Bruford College and lectures at Queen Mary, University of London. The event was compered by Dr Angela Martinez Dy, a poet, hip-hop artist, and co-founder of a youth arts education social enterprise.

Day 2 began with a report-back sessions of the discussions of the previous day, followed by the insightful keynote by Dr Goldie Osuri. The normal Q&A portion was replaced by a long-table discussion to provide the opportunity for in-depth reflection and conversation on the topics raised. It was led by student participants, undergraduate, graduate, student union reps and PhD, engaging Dr Osuri and other scholars with questions and reflections on the relevant issues. This was followed by active learning workshop sessions on anti-racist practice including preparing for conversations with students, peers and managers, auditing the curriculum, careers and promotions, the student attainment gap, and the importance of reflecting on the emotional components of such work. Participants had considerable choice amongst these topics and were free to discuss the aspects that were most relevant to them in relation to their positionality within the university. The day closed with a group reading of creative writing emerging from the final session and an open-floor plenary in which participants shared constructive and congratulatory feedback on the event.

The event was documented by Words of Colour and AMC Media. Promotional images for the event were illustrated by Maria D’Amico. A Twitter collection of workshop highlights is available here, with short films to follow to be shared on the BARC website.

Sponsors included Queen Mary University of London School of Business and Management Environment Fund, QMUL Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity, and the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies (SAMS).