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Why we need more Naima Fowlis’ and her petition to remove “racial ignorance” from Students’ Unions

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Earlier this year, Naima Fowlis started a petition to have Jay (Jamie) Appleyard removed from Experience Officer post at the University of Leicester Students’ Union.

The reason? Donning a “blackface”, for “theatrical” purpose Jay Appleyard reasoned. Naima Fowlis urged in her petition; “By keeping Jay Appleyard in this post we are telling, not only the students at the University of Leicester, but also everyone else, that racial ignorance is okay.”

I remember seeing the picture of Jay Appleyard, a Caucasian man, with his face and arms painted black, sporting an oversized gold chain and gesturing in a caricatured attempt to resemble a stereotypical “gangsta.”

I was appalled. As a black woman this wasn’t only an insult to me, but a grime reality that “racism” comes in different disguises, and sadly, it lurks within the walls of our universities.

For many of us, University is the beginning of our adult lives. The things we learn, experiences we gain, and thoughts we explore; are all likely to shape our futures. So what does it say for a University and it’s union if someone who “represents the students” can get away with being racially ignorant?… We that we have a long way to go stomp out racism in a bid for equality.

Bringing light to this incident as Naima has done through her petition is far better than brushing it under the carpet for yet another generation to deal with or, more frighteningly – think its “OK”.

And it’s for this reason that we need more Naima Fowlis’! People who aren’t afraid to speak up even when others justify “racism” with “ignorance” by saying; “what’s the big deal? It’s just a bit of fun!” But that’s just it. It’s not a very funny when it involves being insulting towards anyone’s race, sexuality, disability or religion. We need to instil more empathy and sensitivity within our students’ unions if we want a racially tolerant future.

Naima’s petition has gained over 350 signatures, and today signers were informed that her proposal “No confidence in Jay (Jamie) Appleyard” will finally be heard at the Union Council meeting tomorrow.

Naima Fowlis wrote in the email:

“Dear Signers,

Tomorrow is the Union Council meeting where I and the new Black and Minority Ethnic Officer, Jeanette Nam, will be making speeches in favour for my proposal “No confidence in Jay (Jamie) Appleyard”. I currently have a cold but I will be making sure that everyone of your signatures are voiced during the meeting. Even if we do not get the result we expect the fact that people are standing up and speaking out against instances like this makes me realise this petition was not in vain.

If you have signed this petition and go to the University of Leicester and will like to show your support for the petition please feel free to attend the Union Council meeting at 6:30pm Fielding Johnson, First Floor.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for signing this petition. If you want to share it with anyone else before 6:30pm tomorrow please please do! Every little helps!

Naima Fowlis”

You can find out more about the petition:Petitioning University of Leicester Student’s Union Remove Jay (Jamie) Appleyard from Experience Officer post

P.s get well soon Naima! x

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2 thoughts on “Why we need more Naima Fowlis’ and her petition to remove “racial ignorance” from Students’ Unions

  1. Hi @Makingkai I would just like to thank you so so much for this blog post. I haveonly stumbled upon it today and would like to say a massive thank you for bringing even more attention to Jamie’s actions. Even though we didn’t get the result we had hoped for I think it shows we have more work to do in terms of racism and coverups. hopefully by keeping him in his position of power the University of Leicester’s Students Union will have more voices speaking out against them!

    Best wishes,
    Naima Fowlis

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