‘Being Black, you Feel as Though you Have to Work Twice as Hard’

To honour Black History Month we celebrate KBS’s diverse learning environment with a series of interviews with staff, students, and alumni.

Dionne Thomas is studying BSc Business and Management with a Year in Industry and is in her second year of study.  Here she reflects on how recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement have shaped the person she is today.

“My parents have instilled a sense of leadership and strength in me. They both come from Jamaica and moved to the UK as they believed there are more opportunities here. Dad ended up gaining experience in engineering and furthered this to a senior level for many years and was also a mechanic for some time previously while mum studied to become a social worker, but also had experience in accounting. I have always felt you can do anything if you put your mind to it, due to my parents wanting better for me and my siblings.

A photo of Dionne Thomas dancing
Dionne at one of her dance recitals

The Black Lives Matter Movement brought back many memories for my parents but for me, they highlighted some of the coping methods I developed in a world where I have not always been absolutely equal. I’m someone who likes to take part in everything– from semi-professional dancing, black-belt taekwondo to excelling in art as well as academic subjects. When you’re black, you feel as though you have to work twice as hard to get noticed. You are prejudged before you even show up so for me, it meant proving people wrong.

As one of the few black girls at my school, I now realise some of my experiences were cloaked in racism, from ill-informed comments or sniggers surrounding my afro hair at dance recitals, to being called derogatory names by elder students in secondary school. I am relieved to say my school took action and those involved were punished.

the Central Park Five sketched by Dionne
Dionne’s artwork for her A-Level project featuring the Central Park Five

For my A-Level final art project I decided to implement the Black Lives Matter movement and focus on racism and the struggles black people constantly face. Some of the art reflected on George Floyd, other areas on the Central Park Five who were wrongly accused and faced a grave misjustice. Delving into black history had a lasting impact on me and I believe really helped to open conversations with my white friends about the things they can do to help push change.

After my A-levels, I applied for Business and Management with a Year in Industry as I’ve always seen myself as a natural leader and feel business is a great topic to study in the current climate. I found the Medway campus close-knit and friendly and since I started here, I’ve felt more comfortable and can relate to others due to the range diversity.

The best thing since I started studying at Kent is how diverse it feels. I have friends from Eritrea, Vietnam, and central Europe.  It’s a melting pot of backgrounds and experiences and I feel incredibly valued and part of it all.

The Medway Building
Dionne studies at the Medway Campus

My favourite module so far has been economics as it gave me a good understanding and overview of business in society. Looking forward, I can’t wait to study enterprise this year and learn how to launch a start-up and apply for a work placement to help me gain experience.  I will never forget where I came from and hope whatever I end up doing, it makes a difference to underrepresented groups.”

Black History Month 2022 is themed A Time for Change: Action Not Words.

At Kent, we are committed to providing an inclusive and equal experience for all our incredible students. Find out more about how Kent Union is celebrating Black History month here.

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