VISIONS FOR THE FUTURE — Reflections from Oxford ACS President and BHSN member Sean Sinanan
Throughout my life, I have always felt that I’ve had a strong commitment to help improve and empower the lives of others; especially those from my community. Being at university for a year has already made me realise that I want to continue this even more. I was raised by my mother and grandmother who came here to the UK in the 90s from Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad is a beautifully diverse country with a rich history and culture fused with African and Indian heritage — it is truly one of the most unique places in the world.
Though education is something strongly pushed in Trinidadian culture — as it is across the Caribbean more widely — many of us still do not make it to higher education. In Oxford, Caribbean representation is disproportionately low and, considering that our culture is literally driven on education, there are definitely confounding factors that need to be discussed.
This is why societies like ACS are so important. Not only did the society significantly motivate me to apply to Oxford back in 2018 through their flagship Annual Access Conference, but I am now even the President of the society (2020–1). To this day, I still have my name tag from the conference, hanging up on my wall as a symbol of motivation and determination. Moreover, it proves how the ACS has been integral to my journey pre-Oxford. It is quite fascinating how a group of students can help uplift and change the lives of the students that will come after them — ensuring that their Oxford experience is one where they feel welcomed and celebrated. It is all from the altruistic and selfless acts of the Committee members, and even just the ethos of the community more broadly. I want to continue this legacy, to help inspire those from our communities. I particularly believe that my experiences will allow me to encourage Caribbean students from all walks of life, because Caribbean representation, as aforementioned, could be significantly higher here.
It is quite fascinating how a group of students can help uplift and change the lives of the students that will come after them — ensuring that their experience is one where they feel welcomed and celebrated.
My vision for the ACS is one which celebrates the vast diversity of cultures our institution has, ensuring that the values and culture of each region of Africa to the Caribbean are included. As children of the diaspora, we relate to our similar upbringings and experiences. But, at the same time; we should also recognise that each culture is unique. This is what is critically important for the future of the ACS and its sustainability. And, as the ACS expands to include more and more individuals from across these regions, it is necessary that students feel they are genuinely represented by society.
Of course, I really went to Oxford for my degree — which is PPE or Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Studying it has made me realise that, regardless of individual interests, we should all be politically and historically educated — especially in relation to our cultural history. Hence, I aim to put on a series of events specifically focused on African and Caribbean history, Black British history and a more inquisitive look into the legacies of Western empires, such as slavery and colonialism on the modern-day. This is something specifically important to me. I believe educating those in the society not only rightfully embraces our Oxford flair but is also essential to individuals in our communities — hopefully mitigating the effects of our, in my opinion, biased education system and historical outlooks imposed on us. In reality, I believe all ACS’ around the country should aim to do something along this basis.
Considering the effects of the Coronavirus on life in general, the year ahead may prove to have many difficulties. But the aim remains the same; ensuring that for all students of African and Caribbean heritage looking towards higher education, their university experience is one where they can enjoy themselves, feel empowered, and inspire those who may come after them to follow in their footsteps. It is that same inspiration and empowerment that I felt from those who came before me which truly helped me be where I am today!