Welcome to a brand new chapter of the FAB blog, FAB ACS (African Caribbean Society). This is a section were we sit down with different ACS groups from a range of different schools around the world to see what their ACS is all about. We talk ethics, aspirations and get down to the real nitty-gritty……
We sat down with Cory Bernard from Manchester ACS to find out what makes them stand out from the crowd:
1. What is the driving force behind your organization?
The ACS is all about exposing the culture of the variety of African and Caribbean Cultures to our university colleagues. Equally it is about providing a space for African and Caribbean students to meet, socialise and enhance their university experience.
2. Why do you think it is important for your organization to be African ambassadors on your campus?
I think it is important for a host of reasons. While we live in a very progressive society, the age-old stereotypes still abound and I feel a strong and professional student body can go a long way to brining a more harmonious and educated society. I believe we owe our forbears a great deal who sacrificed much in emigrating from their respective countries to give us such opportunities as we have and furthermore we owe it to our younger ones to aspire to greatness. This past year one of the ACS’s former members became President of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Student Union, and I myself was the chair of the University of Manchester Student Union Council.
3. What kind of events do you organize? What is the biggest event of the year and why?
The ACS in Manchester puts on a variety of events. Topical debates, recruitment events, cultural shows, raves, trips and an end of year Ball usually form the skeleton of our calendar.
4. When was your organization started, and what was the motivation for the creation?
I’m afraid after much research this has been difficult to tell. I am aware of the organisation being around at the University of Manchester in 1997, how much further back that goes I could not say with confidence. The merger with the ACS at Manchester Metropolitan took place around 2006 and so I am aware of their being a society there before hand also.
5. Do you think your organization is FAB? What is unique about your organization?
Our organisation is unique in so far as cultural societies go. We are perhaps the one with the widest variety of backgrounds. Our members either hail from or are descendants of people from all over Africa and the Caribbean. Furthermore many of us ourselves would define as British. Further from that many of our members and friends are not from those countries as we welcome all!
6. What does your ACS/ASA hope to achieve?
Our ACS hopes to achieve a positive outcome of our driving force. We want to promote the African and Caribbean student experience, encourage younger members of the community to strive for university and to share with our university friends of all backgrounds and cultures, the distinctives of our own cultures while also sharing in theirs.
7. What are some of the positive and negative (if any) outcomes/perceptions of being actively involved in your ACS?
The positive outcomes are that I (hopefully) get to shape people lives in a good way. One gets to encounter an amount and variety of people seldom found at university. Furthermore I would say that when a group of students who represent the cultures we do is doing something positive and effective, this can only ever be seen as noble! Being on the committee one often loses a sense of vigour when one is working very hard in the background, the fruit perhaps is low and so perhaps you are not so appreciated in the foreground. Perhaps one more negative perception (false stereotype) is posed in the following question!
8. What would you say to those who believe ACS is just about partying?
I would say get involved! You will find out this is not the case. I believe that many students suffer from what I call ‘incorrect stereotypical perception’. Not only does wider society often think we are all the same (students) – drinking, lazy yobs; often times we place incorrect assumptions on each other as students. I came to university under the advice of friends already here, having my eagerness to get involved with the ACS abated, since according to them, it was just about raving! Of the dozen or so events the ACS put on last year – 2 were raves. Suffice it to say our ACS is not just about partying.
I do sympathise with those students who are under this assumption and stay away. I am not exactly a party animal and admit to enjoying the other facets of the ACS more and so I would encourage them to get stuck in, find something they enjoy, whether that be a debate, putting on a show or perhaps develop a new niche within the ACS!
9. Do you think being a part of your ACS/ASA will contribute to your career aspirations? Are there any examples of former members/officers that prove this?
Certainly! We know that in a climate where many are graduating and the jobs are getting scarcer; showing that you can interact in an environment outside of your day-to-day studies is a vital skill to have. Extra-curricular activities, whatever they may be (on the most part) show that you are versatile and down to earth. I would say even more so, that being part of a committee shows leadership skills and the ability to work in teams. If you can supply tangible evidence of successful ventures you have been involved in within that said committee – then all the better!
Many of our members and friends have definitely benefited from the links that we share with various recruitment agencies like RARE Recruitment and SEO.
10. Do you feel the African/black population in your University is well represented? How has this affected the organization?
Indeed! I feel there is much more that can be done, in a university environment of approximately 70,000 students (40,000 at University of Manchester and around 30,000 at Manchester Met.) this is always going to be a bit of a challenge! My answer would be a qualified yes, in that there is definitely room for improvement. To show our talk is not cheap, this year we are setting up a venture that has been in the pipeline for a while and are looking at beginning mentoring/helping in local schools.
The effect on the organisation has meant that we have been able to grow year on year and develop a growing stronger presence within our student unions. This is especially noted with some of our members at both Universities going on to the higher echelons of student union life!