Coventry’s ‘Great Debate’ was an exciting, educational and empowering event. It took place at the heart of the Coventry University Campus, ‘The Hub.’ The venue itself had a warm and inviting atmosphere, resulting in a great turnout, even causing some students to sit on the stairs. The debate was held by the ACS society, on Monday 17 th October, allowing students to discuss topical issues concerning today’s youth, particularly those from the African and Caribbean community. Samuel Kwasuma was one of the panellists, a former Brunel student and the current CEO and founder of elevation networks. Other Panellists were Reya El- Salahi, a 25 year old presenter, writer and journalist for the BBC, Graham Robb, a board member of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, George Shawlin also known as George “The Poet,” a Cambridge student well known for his poetry and Coventry University’s very own, Olalekan Oshunkoya, a current student, who has acted as a student rep and has written for the university’s paper, ‘The Source.’
During the debate some ACS members were taking photographs and filming with professional equipment the debate had a ‘Newsnight’ type feel, but with the dimmed lights and many students it was still welcoming. The panel were seated at the front and the massive audience sat behind watching, though there were so many people it was still very interactive and many voices were heard. Topics that were addressed by the panel included key issues such as Black identity, The London Riots and rising tuition fees.
Written by Wilma Sagoe – First year student
The debate sparked the imaginations of students many came up with thought-provoking responses. It was interesting to hear the opinions of students and panellists, some responses gained applauses whilst others were responded to with shouts and screams of disagreement. The debate demonstrated the potential of our students and also how diverse the university is. It was not only students from Africa and The Caribbean that attended but a range of students from other backgrounds also joined. The issue of Black Identity was one that grabbed attention straight away, as Kwasuma introduced the topic with David Starkey’s controversial comment “The Whites have become black.” The audience responded to this in different ways, some with laughter others with rage.
Oshunkoya stated that the image of Hip Hop artists is one that many have adopted because “The image has been successful in the media and we tend to accept that this as the way to be.” He went to argue that “Hip Hop was a way for blacks to fight against racial discrimination.” One audience member shared a different view stating that it is “Fashionable”. “People think that this is a pre-determined situation.” Said another, his comment received loud cheers and claps from the audience and even panel members. Kwasuma went on to ask the question “Who constructed this identity?” Audience members screamed answers, “The Whites,” “We did,” were some of the comments that were yelled. George Shawlin ended the screams by asking the question “What came first the chicken or the egg?” The debate then moved on to the topic of tuition fees, Kwasuma began this debate by showing images of Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, asking the audience to vote for the one who they would want to be elected; the majority of the audience did not raise their hands at all. Kwasuma’s activity was shocking and presented the reality of our society today.
Reya El-Salahi disagreed with the rise in tuition fees, expressing that some people who deserve to be at university, may miss this opportunity simply because they cannot afford it. A student in the audience argued that “The rise in tuition fees may be a way to keep university elite.” George Shawlin expressed that hard work is key, and that it’s not simply a case of where you go, or even if you go to university but about making yourself stand out and doing more. The debate was very inspirational, giving students valuable advice and also allowing them to express their own thoughts and feelings of issues that concern them.