Updated: Oct 3, 2020
Hello to everyone in the Black Lives Matter-LSHTM community! Thanks to the 600+ staff, students and alumni at LSHTM who signed our original letter to the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), we’ve got off to a strong start in our collective efforts to achieve justice for all BIPOC at LSHTM. So before anything, we’d like to thank you for lending your voice to this important cause. Thanks to all of you, Black Lives Matter-LSHTM now has the attention of the school leadership, and we are committed to taking full advantage of that opening to push for meaningful, lasting change. Just a few things that have happened this week:
All-staff meeting - 16 June
Last Tuesday, LSHTM Director Peter Piot hosted a virtual all-staff meeting and Q&A session to discuss institutionalised racism at LSHTM and how we as a school can begin to address it. The meeting itself did not lead to specific advances, and the process itself lacked some transparency. On the bright side, Prof Piot explicitly mentioned the need to recognise white privilege and promised to commit financial resources to deconstructing it. He also appointed Prof Kara Hanson to act as a ‘champion’ and ‘facilitator’ for racial justice. Her first goal is to create an action plan for taking this work forward.
Alliance with UNISON to bring all security and cleaning staff in-house
The LSHTM trade union UNISON reached out and asked for our support in bringing all staff in-house. Right now, the majority BIPOC cleaning and security staff at LSHTM are working for a private contractor, and they do not access the same benefits available to other LSHTM workers, such as our Keppel St refectory staff. Our outsourced essential worker colleagues had to request personal protective equipment from lab staff, as they did not receive it from their employers. This amounts to unacceptable working conditions, especially at an international school of public health during a global pandemic. We have been coordinating with UNISON reps on how to best support a solution.
Introductory meeting with LSHTM leadership - 19 June
Black Lives Matter-LSHTM met with Kara Hanson, the school’s champion for tackling racism at LSHTM, and Clare Matysova, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, to discuss how to move forward on an antiracism agenda at LSHTM. The discussion touched on several points:
1. The need to establish an equitable power relationship between Black Lives Matter representatives and the SLT, wherein we can advocate for equality and call out racism without fear of retaliation.
2. The institutionalisation of the Deglobalising Global Health (DGH) group, complete with funding and structural support, in order to establish a sustainable and permanent place for antiracist and anticolonialist work at LSHTM.
3. A call for a third-party, independent review as an indispensable step for identifying entrenched problems with racism, including at the highest levels of the school leadership.
4. Kara Hanson asked the group to nominate a co-chair to take this work forward with her. Overall, the meeting served to establish Black Lives Matter-LSHTM’s position as a force for accountability. We stated our commitment to ensuring that the school’s actions go beyond paying public lip service to racial equality. On the SLT side, it was not clear that the school’s leadership is fully aware of the depth of the problems or fully committed to solving them, so it is up to us to keep the pressure up!
Strategic directions for Black Lives Matter-LSHTM
Members of the Strategic Planning subgroup at Black Lives Matter-LSHTM are currently developing a strategy and organigram. We believe this is the best way to lay a foundation for our future work and to show the Black Lives Matter-LSHTM community how to engage with our ambitious agenda. More details forthcoming!
In the meantime, here’s what you can do for Black Lives this week:
● Come to our next meeting with Kara Hanson (date TBC), regarding the creation of a stable structure for the DGH group.
● Contribute to developing the Black Lives Matter-LSHTM strategy and organigram.
● Come to our meeting with UCU next week - mark your availability here: https://doodle.com/poll/zf9yxhkf9iurfyua.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how you’d like to help!