Renesha Hodgson is a third-year Jurisprudence student at St Edmund Hall who has shared what Black History Month means to her as part of the college's activity to commemorate the month.
The journey so far
I remember the first thing my mom said to me when I brought her to visit me in college, “Who would have thought a little girl in Hounslow Jamaica would grow up to have a daughter study in Oxford University,” and it was in that moment that everything I had worked for became worth it for me.
Overcoming barriers to success
From a very young age, my parents had instilled in me the warning that I would have to “work twice as hard to get half as far” and that no matter how successful I was, “they” would only ever see me as a Black woman.
For a long time, I tried to do everything I could to prove them wrong- getting the best grades, getting chosen for academic awards at school- and for a while, I thought it had worked. After all, here I was, a Black woman, being labelled one of the gifted and talented students.If I could achieve this, then nothing could ever stop me.
It wasn’t until I stopped to look around and question why I couldn’t see many faces that looked like mine in the other seats of the top set or why the speakers at “aspire to Oxbridge” seminars never seemed to represent my own struggles as a student trying to fit in that I realised my parents had been right all along.
It wasn’t until I made this realisation that I could finally decide to accept what my parents had told me as truth, but also choose not to see this part of myself as a barrier to success.
Embracing my identity
I was a Black woman when I was accepted into Teddy Hall, and I will be a Black woman for the rest of my life. My Black womanhood is something I have learnt is not a barrier I must fight against, to be able to achieve despite it, but rather something I can lovingly embrace.
There is a beauty in my experiences as the daughter of Jamaican immigrants that I carry with me in my heart no matter what I do to remind myself what I am working towards. My parents’ warnings will always ring in my ears as I make my journey through spaces that are not “traditionally” walked by students like me, but the joy of bringing pride to that little girl in Hounslow is what motivates me to carry on down the path I am walking.
What Black History Month means to me
For me, Black History Month serves as a reminder of the strength of Black children, just like my mom and I, who grew up to achieve things we could only have dreamed of and acts as a driving force to motivate me to achieve even more. I am proud to be a Black woman at Teddy Hall, if nothing else, my mom is proud of that fact too.
If you would like to share your own experience of student life at Oxford, email firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was adapted with permission from the St Edmund Hall website.