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The London Classicists of Colour gladly welcome you all into January of 2023, where we celebrate almost 2 years of being a society, and more importantly, present our open letter to you.
What is the Open Letter and why have we written it?
LCOC emerged in January 2021 as a reaction to the lack of EDI work completed in Classics departments in the Universities of London. There has been a need for increased pastoral support for students of colour, a decolonised and accessible curriculum, and better financial and material support for staff in decolonising the classical curriculum in Universities.
Inspired by our colleagues in the Christian Cole Society and other powerful voices who have delivered open letters to institutions in the past, we as the London Classicists of Colour deliver this letter to these departments in order to bring forth concrete and transparent changes. Our committee and student representatives are passionate about this message, and have been working hard within the society to provide events and resources to students in need of pastoral support and a desire to learn about decolonisation in Classics. However, our work as a small student society is not enough to enact change across the Universities of London, which is why we implore you to sign our Open Letter and show your support for the need to decolonise. Anyone can sign our open letter – you don't have to be a POC or affiliated with UOL.
This letter is aimed at the institutions that are upholding values which do not support a decolonised Classical education. We support individual scholars and deeply admire the hard work professors and faculty members do to support students in Classics.
A Thank You.
As a committee we would like to thank you, our members, for attending our events, supporting us through donations and Redbubble, and engaging with the work that we have been doing. We would also like to thank the student societies and Classical community support groups who have provided us with a platform to share our work, and valuable advice about how to spread this message. We would like to thank our old committee members, the founders of LCOC and our 2021-2 student representatives, who helped us form the content of this letter. Finally, I would like to personally thank our academic co-officers, whose hard work have made this letter possible.
Reyna, President of LCOC
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After only six months of operation, we were so lucky to hit 1,000 followers on Twitter – this was previously unthinkable for a small group of undergraduate and postgraduate students that conglomerated in December. We are so lucky for the community that we found online and in-person, and for all the support we have received. Hitting 1K followers on Twitter was a huge milestone for us, and it has led to a lot of reflection on how the past six months have gone for us. Here’s what the team has to say!
As I’ve been telling everyone and anyone who will listen, LCoC is one of the proudest achievements of my life. I have watched it grow from strength to strength out of nothing, and I have watched it flourish into something bright, beautiful and vital. There are a multitude of reasons as to why the society has made me so proud, but one stands out above all: community. Before LCoC’s existence, I did not feel as though I had a strong sense of belonging or connection to the discipline – there was always something missing which I just couldn’t place my finger on. Then, I met the other women who I would work alongside in the committee; we started weekly meetings, and worked hard to bring our idea to life; we began to host our first events; we met new people from across London, who shared our love and belief that Classics can be a richer, more diverse place; and, we began to make real connections during a time in which such a thing was scarce. The people I have met through LCoC have shown me that Classics is a place where I can belong, and, more importantly, that it is a place where I want to belong. So thank you to everyone who has supported us this far – the future is looking limitless!
Finding a community at university is often a confronting task. For many, it’s the first time in our lives we’re introduced to such a broad and versatile group of people. Despite this, I always had my reservations about going to study Classics, a degree notoriously catered to the white male perspective. The conception of LCoC came under such a unique set of circumstances. Somehow, in the middle of a global pandemic, under the shadow of the Black Lives Matter movement, six of us found each other.
Since first year I’ve had my questions and frustrations with how the curriculum is taught in this field. A minefield of white voices, worrying world views and a degree that goes hand in hand with the notions of Western supremacy. However, speaking against a centuries-old degree that systematically and insidiously incorporates these archaic ideas feels impossible.
Over the past eight months, my hope for a brighter and better future for Classics has revitalised. The discussions, panels, speaker events and socials put on by LCoC have shown me that there is a community willing to fight to make a decolonised, inclusive curriculum. There are people willing to engage in fascinating discussions around the idea of the ‘other’ in the ancient world and how it can take centre stage. There is an academic space to learn and grow and fail and succeed as we grapple with the phenomenal task of reforming a discipline stuck in its way.
I’m grateful to all the people who have engaged and reached out to us since our inception and, for the first time in a long time, I look forward to the future of Classics with optimism.
TASH, ACADEMIC EVENTS OFFICER
It's been an amazing first few months for LCOC and I am so proud to have been part of it.
On the academic events side, we were very privileged to welcome speakers last term such as Dr Nandini Pandey and Dr Phiroze Vasunia, whose talks explored diverse topics such as multicultural feasting in Ancient Rome and the links between Classics and colonialism. We also had a great informal discussion with Nandini and Dr Bobby Xinyue about being a POC in Classical academia.
For me, a personal highlight was seeing over 100 attendees at one of our talks – I was incredibly moved that we had managed to connect with so many people across the world (especially at a time where social interactions were few and far between!)
It hasn't always been an easy ride the last few months – we have faced unexpected criticism and scrutiny for trying to 'uproot tradition' or even for excluding other marginalised groups in Classics – but we have come out of those moments as a stronger unit with the support of other incredible groups working in this space such as Sportula, the Christian Cole Society and AAACC. I am always grateful that there is such a strong support network around us, and that together, we can work to achieve change and make Classics an accessible discipline to people from all backgrounds.
Above all, I would like to extend my thanks and love to the rest of the LCOC committee, who have worked tirelessly to promote our society and its work, to run our events, and to generally keep one another sane during this crazy year! I hope that in the next academic year we are able to continue building on our work and continue providing a platform for Classicists of Colour to come together, share experiences, and generally work towards a more inclusive Classics!
REYNA, WELFARE OFFICER
I am so proud of how far LCOC has come in the past couple of months: it has been so nice to see all the progress we have made so far and all the ideas that have come to fruition!
As the Welfare Officer, I have been lucky enough to meet members on a weekly basis and connect with students across London Universities to discuss wellbeing. The sense of community that we have built in these sessions has been irreplaceable, and it is always heartwarming meeting another student who wants to share their stories. Hearing members expressing gratitude for our POC-safe space has been the highlight of my year, and I am ever thankful to anyone who joins these sessions.
I was pleasantly surprised by the success of ‘Presentation Night’, our first and most hilarious social event with topics as controversial as ‘Who would win in a fight? Remy (Ratatouille) vs Achilles’ and ‘Take Me Out: The Classics Edition’. The ingenuity of our members continues to impress me, and I look forward to getting to know everyone even better in the future!
As a committee, we have felt so lucky for the opportunity to meet Classicists across the globe who support the decolonisation of the field. Despite the challenges Classicists of Colour have faced and continue to face, I am so thankful for the support of our members and vocal attendees of our events. Creating a network between classicists of colour has always been important to me, which is why I would like to express gratitude to the organisations which have supported us in this endeavour.
I would also like to personally thank each of our committee members for their unique contributions to the team. From the President whose never-faltering commitment to the society surpasses all connection issues to the seemingly endless wisdom of our Academic Events Officer, the diligence and reliability of our Treasurer and our Media and Communications Officer who seems to work even as we sleep (!), it has been a pleasure to work with all of you. I hope our oncoming year sparks as much joy as this one has, and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon!
MAI, MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
There’s little I can add to what the rest of the wonderful committee has already said, but I just want to reiterate how lucky I am to have found a community within LCOC and all the students and academics that support and encourage us. Classics can be an isolating field when you don’t have a group to rely on, and I hope that we are to you what you are to us. I’m grateful to everyone that has attended events, interacted with us, or even just stayed up-to-date with what we’re up to. As I have the unique vantage point of being behind our Twitter and Instagram, I get to see the overwhelming love and support that everyone shares with us daily. Watching professors tag students that may be interested in our events or renowned academics reshare our posts reminds me that we’re not alone in this journey to decolonise Classics and that underneath the field’s whitewashed surface, there is a huge network of POC looking out for each other and taking care of each other.
LCOC has evolved so much in the past six months; I don’t know what we were expecting when we set up this website, or when we started posting on our socials, or when we held our first meet-the-committee event, but what this society is now surpasses all my wildest dreams. What’s the best part is that we’re continuing to change as we slowly learn how to support and further the decolonisation cause. None of this would be possible without your feedback and support. LCOC has many new changes coming in the next few months, and we are so excited to share them with you! Once again, I want to thank the rest of the committee for the energy and creativity they pour into the society; every meeting is bubbling with ideas and working together is more effortless than breathing. I can’t wait for the next six months with you guys.
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As we head into the new month (and more exciting events; see below!) I thought I would do a quick recap of February and everything the society has achieved so far. We hosted a huge variety of events last month: we kicked off our calendar with a ‘Meet the Committee’ icebreaker, where we got to meet and chat with students from all over UoL; we have hosted several pastoral well-being symposiums and one POC safe-space event, spaces which have provided a safe and healthy environment for all types of discussions between members; we held our first monthly discussion group, in which we spent over an hour debating the relevance of Latin and Ancient Greek to a Classical education; and our inaugural academic talk with Dr Nandini Pandey attracted nearly one hundred attendees from all over the world! Just a few nights ago, we held LCoC’s first ever social which took the form of a hilarious presentation night, with “Who would win in a fight: Remy (Ratatouille) VS Achilles?” being my personal favourite (creds to Uma!). All of these events have been overwhelmingly positive and fun, and I am so excited for us to bring this energy with us into March. Thank you to all the other members of the committee for being so hard-working, inspirational and supportive: Asyia, Reyna, Tash, Marley and Mai — you are amazing! I can’t wait to see everyone soon :-)
— Asia Choudhry, President
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We are going to be hosting a wide range of events up until the end of term, falling into three broad categories: academic, social, and pastoral! Scroll through the rest of the newsletter for our events calendar and more information about things you can get involved in!
Thank you once again for joining our mailing list, and I can’t WAIT to meet you all and collaborate on making our discipline one which is inclusive and welcoming to students of all ethnic backgrounds.