Q: The theme of Black History Month is ‘Proud To Be’. Can you share what this means to you?
A: The theme ‘Proud to Be” means that I can share loudly and unapologetically how proud I am to not only be Black, but how proud I am to embody so many other identities, qualities, and passions that intersect with my Blackness. I am proud to be Black. I am proud to be Black and Woman. I am proud to be Black and Mississippian. I am proud to be the descendant of those who refused to die at the hands of white people. I am proud to be a fighter. I am proud to be an advocate. I am proud to be in the fight for liberation for my people. I am proud to be the granddaughter of Leola, Andrew, Betty and Roosevelt. I am proud to be the daughter of Tammie and Jerome. I am proud to be the sister of Hailey, Gidarell, Keeyairika, Labrandon, and Kyaira. I am proud to be Arielle.
Q: What is your experience of being a Black/Brown Rhodes Scholar studying at Oxford University?
A: Because of COVID-19, my entire first year at Oxford was virtual, so my in-person experiences and overall exposure to Oxford has been limited. However, my virtual experiences allowed me to experience some interesting encounters that I think would have been exacerbated had this been a normal and in-person year. Before matriculating, I definitely think that I set my expectations of Oxford too high. As one of the leading institutions in the world and with as many resources as it has, I expected Oxford to be a place with more advanced and holistic practices and policies in place to tackle racism, classism, exclusion, and mental health issues. Issues that disproportionately affect minority ethnic students at a higher rate. I have found that a lot of the minority ethnic students, especially Black students, are suffering at Oxford because of a denial of the existence of these issues and a downplaying of how these issues, specifically racism and classism affect our academic studies and social wellbeing by the institution. There are not a lot of supports in place to help Black students deal with these issues, and if there are, the process to get the necessary help or resources is so tedious that most students suffer in silence instead.
Q: How have you experienced community at Oxford?
A: Obviously, being a Rhodes Scholar provides me with an immediate community of other students at Oxford. While this is nice, I found it very depressing my first few months at Oxford not having any interactions with other Black students who weren’t Rhodes Scholars. This was largely in part because the Black student population at Oxford is quite small and the pandemic made everything virtual, so it was difficult to actually find other Black students at Oxford. Luckily, because I had started developing close relationships with other Black Rhodes Scholar, once they began to find other Black non-Rhodes Scholar, they connected me with them. I remember the Black Association of Rhodes Scholars hosted a cook-out and naturally, we took it upon ourselves to invite other Black non-Rhodes Scholar. It was the first time I had seen so many Black people since being in the UK, and my spirit was overjoyed. We all were so excited to just be in space with so many other Black people, that before we knew it, we were in Port Meadow until about 3:00 am dancing, laughing, and just enjoying each other’s company. Since then, we all have kept in touch, and we celebrate each other and with each other as much as possible.
Q: Are there any cultural celebrations or traditions that you miss while in Oxford/ due to COVID restrictions?
A: I often miss being at home with my family when they’re having Sunday dinners or cook-outs. I miss being able to go over to my grandmother’s house for her soul food and her gossip.
Arielle Hudson (Mississippi & Pembroke 2020) is a Rhodes Scholar and Racial Justice advocate, currently studying a BA in Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford. Many thanks to Arielle for sharing your experiences with us!
Throughout Black History Month, we will be celebrating and sharing the stories and experiences of Black and Brown Rhodes Scholars. Find out about how the Rhodes Trust is examining its own legacy and focusing on eliminating racism.