To commemorate October’s Black History Month, two members of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre (SLRC) at De Montfort University visited to talk to students from Leicester College.
Inspired by the loan of archival materials by Baroness Doreen Lawrence, which document the history of the Lawrence family’s fight for justice in the wake of their son’s tragic murder, the SLRC has a mission of becoming a hub of innovative and world-leading research.
The SLRC drives forward conversations that shape and influence how we think about race and social justice, honouring the enduring legacy of Stephen’s life and his family’s ongoing pursuit of justice by asking new questions, debating critical issues, raising awareness, and advocating to bring about positive change.
Relating personal journeys
To tie in with the College’s programme of events and activities during Black History Month, the SLRC’s Dr Yusuf Bakkali and Sherilyn Pereira were invited by the Student Enrichment Team to talk to students about their personal and career development journeys.
Having had an already successful career in communications, marketing and public relations, Sherilyn joined SLRC in January 2019 with a focus on developing the public face and professional profile of the centre, her work enhanced by her passion for race, identity and social justice issues. She is also co-chair of DMU’s Race Equality Network.
During the discussion, Sherilyn said: “Growing up, I was the only black girl in my class – Leicester wasn’t the multicultural city that it is today. I had to fight against the system to overcome external perceptions and barriers.
“Today, I see my ‘superpower’ as being a successful black female in a white, male-dominated environment. I’ve worked hard to engineer an opportunity to be able to express what I want to say.”
Dr Yusef Bakkali got his degree in Politics and Society after being aware of social injustice and inequality from a young age, before going on to get his PhD in Sociology. His areas of expertise are youth, social exclusion, race, crime, youth cultures and more. His key research at SLRC focuses around the lives of young people involved in ‘Road Life’.
Yusef told students that: “I grew up in Brixton and went to a multicultural school. Education remained an option for me, unlike a lot of kids around me. However, when I went to university, I began to feel isolated as I didn’t have so many people from minority backgrounds around. Despite these challenges, I stayed in education and completed my studies at university, followed by a Masters.
“If I was going to pass on a few lessons that I’ve learned, I’d say make sure that you develop rounded interests so you can demonstrate to employers that you are the sort of person that they want to hire. Also, it’s never too early to learn how to manage money as that will allow you to stay in control when you do start earning!”