Phaser’s Live Reviews Team member, Devon Armstrong, caught up with two members of The Oxford African and Caribbean Society’s committee in order to hear more about their sell-out screening of ‘Moonlight’ at The Phoenix Picturehouse, Jericho…
With its core values being to engage, enhance and empower, The Oxford African and Caribbean Society aims to provide a platform to enrich the experiences of students of colour and make Oxford a space that is receptive to racial and cultural diversity. Chatting to Vice President Mobeen Salih and Treasurer Desola Kazeem, their inspiring passion about the importance of diversity, the arts and culture became evident.
The Oxford ACS provides opportunities for dialogue about race and culture diversity through discussion groups, music and food nights, welfare checks and a myriad of other wonderful events, particularly the upcoming Advance Screening of Barry Jenkins’ Oscar Nominated and BAFTA Award Winning Drama, Moonlight.
With Oxford being such a busy, opportunity-rich and influential place which is now high profile enough to be an established stopping point for the publicity campaigns of figures across all media, it’s essential to celebrate the achievements and diversity of all the cultures represented by its students, and Moonlight deals with the issues of marginalised groups on many levels.
After the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, in which the film industry was heavily criticised for its lack of diversity in Oscar nominees, the ACS committee thought that a film screening would be a great way to engage students from different cultures in the discussion about diversity within entertainment and culture.
Moonlight, nominated for 8 Academy Awards this year, in particular deals with not just issues of race and sexuality, but with self-harm, identity, bullying and many other important issues facing not just students, but Oxford students in particular. It is for this reason that the ACS hopes that the event will be an awareness-raising celebration of the power and resilience of marginalised communities and how this is expressed through art. As Kazeem tells me the story of how this event came about, I’m amazed by the hard work and passion the ACS have committed to organising what promises to be a monumental event not only for those in the ACS and others attending, but a real highlight for the University. Building the bridge between the LGBTQ+ communities and people of colour in Oxford is such an important step for the Oxford community, which can be daunting as a cultural space for both marginalised groups. Such collaborations, according to the ACS committee, are what allows the mutual value and necessity of solidarity to be realised, in order to embrace intersectionality as a reality. For Kazeem, the richness and diversity of the cultures of people of colour are so important, and it is essential that minorities are not just defined by suffering and oppression. Self-expression and the arts is a key part of showing the different facets of black culture, and this aims to be reflected in the speakers of the Moonlight event.
Musician Raleigh Ritchie, also known as Game of Thrones star Jacob Anderson, is a beacon of forward-thinking creativity across media at the moment and MNEK is an enthusiastic artist and activist who seems to care a great deal about raising awareness and discussing the issues in the film. Ritchie’s most recent EP, ‘Mind the Gap’ has been well-received and MNEK’s record ‘Never Forget You’ went double platinum in the US – if an exclusive screening of an Oscar nominated film wasn’t enough, the vibrant panel will surely be a treat for any event attendees and we are thrilled to announce that the event will be hosting a third special guest, Nigerian-British film maker Joseph Adesunloye, whose critically acclaimed film White Colour Black overlaps with issues of identity and the self discussed in Moonlight.
At first, Kazeem tells me, ACS originally targeted smaller venues for the event, not expecting such an overwhelming response from the student community. The film’s UK release is 17th February and ACS were unsure of the level of interest in such an event, so when they originally contacted the film’s UK distributor, it was with a view to a smaller scale screening in a college theatre. But once word spread and the response to news of the event was so positive, ACS reached out to panellists MNEK and Raleigh Ritchie, both of whom were very enthusiastic to support the event. After having dialogue with the Phoenix Picturehouse Cinema about the possibility of a screening there, the rumours surrounding the event increased and when general release tickets went on sale they sold out in 40 seconds. In the end, it was not just people of colour and members of the LGBTQ+ community who were interested in the event, but the wider student body.
While Oxford still has a long way to go before it becomes a space that’s equally receptive to everyone, with underrepresentation and under-application statistics demonstrating whitewashed values at both a cultural and pedagogic level, ACS’s access work tries to break down barriers for applicants of colour through extensive work with secondary school students in order to equate potential with opportunity. As a community which so influences power structures and culture in this country and all over the world, the Oxford university student body has the power to rapidly change how our generation shapes its world. Indeed, there has never been more of a need to diversify the intellectual community in order to serve not just Oxford as an institution and community, but influence the leaders, creators and inventors of the future.
The event takes place on 12th February at the Phoenix Picturehouse Cinema in Jericho.
Check out some of Raleigh Ritchie and MNEK’s material here: