DEBATING IN PARLIAMENT: Students from all over the UK gathered at Parliament for The Great Debate finale
THE HOUSES of Parliament hosted The Great Debate Tour’s finale which took place on Thursday 17 November, featuring a panel and an audience consisting mainly of university students and young professionals of black and minority ethnic (BAME) heritage along with special guests including South Gloucestershire Conservative MP Chris Skidmore.
The tour has been gaining momentum for the past few years and takes place annually during the Black History Month period and incorporates over 50 universities up and down the UK who work closely with their Student Union’s African Caribbean Societies to nurture public speaking and critical thinking among its young attendees. The Great Debate Tour was put together by Samuel Kasumu, founder of enterprise and careers service Elevation Networks, and Richard Kuti, founder of entrepreneurial network, Young Black and Successful.
In a rousing introduction to 2016’s final debate, Barbara Kasumu, CEO for Elevation Networks shared with the audience that she and Samuel met at university during a modest insight into her professional background and explained the inspiration behind the tour before a room packed with students, political leaders and members of the press;
“...we didn’t see people that looked like us.”
Guest panellist Chris Skidmore MP spoke of the importance of civic engagement among all communities and age groups, citing his close work with Operation Black Vote (OBV) and his belief that;
‘...all should vote within a system that works for them.’
Awards were given out to volunteers who had helped to further The Great DebateThe debate itself touched on issues such as the impact of Brexit on young black voters, the audacity of some attitudes displayed by US President-Elect Donald Trump and an evaluation on the effectiveness of careers services available to pupils and students at critical points in their educational journey.
Panellists included former Green Party candidate and political researcher Azzes Minot; a young lady who shared her experience of having “more than one passion”; explaining to the audience that it was acceptable and natural to pursue a number of projects and be known for more than one thing.
Audience participants respectfully and fervently challenged one another after a plea from Philosopher Femi Adigun from the panel who asked people to;
“Please be as opinionated as possible!”
Adigun went on to evaluate the careers service offered to many young people;
‘There is pressure to achieve attainment grades so schools and universities forget that we need to integrate careers and education together so we can develop human beings.’
General Secretary of the London School of Economics (LSE) Student Union, Busayo Twins, also on the panel pointed out that it was vital to learn new and future-proof skills in order to sustain careers with longevity;
“...as times change, some careers become obsolete.”
Twins also observed that black people who identify with the political ‘left’ have historically focused their opinions on matters concerning race and equality whilst;
‘White people’s left also means recycling, global warming…’ before going on to pose the question; ‘what is our new left’?
Fellow panelist Teriy ‘Keys’ Kiiza who is one of the youngest and the only black senior executive operating within a major music brand; also weighed-in on politics, confessing;
‘I didn’t vote. If I voted, I would have voted to leave...as a business man.’
Kiiza also spoke about the social context that much of the black UK is defined by;
‘We don’t have social reparation. We aren’t even allowed to hang out with each other in groups. We need geographical reparation - I live in Stamford Hill which is a predominantly Jewish area and no one is alarmed when the Jews from hanging out together.’
Barbara Kasumu bought the evening to a close on a purposeful note, letting people know that Elevation Networks was invested in its users’ success and urged the students to prepare well so that they could participate economically;
“Let’s not say we don’t have the opportunities - talk to us. You can come and use our Internet if you need to.”
To see more on The Great Debate Tour, search for ‘’ #GDT2016 on social network Twitter.