UCL News


Seven Questions with Tahmid Rahman

1 October 2015

This week we put seven questions to Tahmid Rahman, an English BA student and Student Event Manager for Black History Month.

Seven Questions with Tahmid Rahman

1. Why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

I got into literature through hip-hop. Music has always been a good way to make me relate to a piece, having grown up with it and being able to just feel the song without paying much attention to the lyrics. However, once I did start listening out for lyrics, I realised the intelligence behind it all.

Albums like Nas' Illmatic and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides then introduced me to the poets and authors referenced - Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Gil Scott-Heron and Chinua Achebe - and that made me realise that literature in general helps us understand the complexities of pretty much all areas of life. Basically, it's thorough and I like that.

I want to be an English teacher and maybe then a head teacher. I believe in social change and I think the way to bring it about is through practical means. Self-help can bring power to the community (although if politics were to do it, it'd be much faster and more widespread).

As a teacher, I'd work in the community, try to create and promote opportunities and increase social mobility at the local level. I also want to teach in a British-Bangladeshi area to help debunk the idea that literature is a "white" subject among people of my own background by demonstrating how we can engage with it.

2. You are also involved in Black History Month as an Event Manager. What does your role involve?

As event manager for Word Up, a spoken word night, a lot of the role has been reaching out to some pretty high-profile poets and negotiating with them.

On the other hand, there are loads of forms to complete, so that takes up quite a bit of time.

I've had to coordinate a few favours as well, like getting the poster made and having people promote the event. I also have to pull together a group of volunteers and a few more UCL poets and I'll be performing too, so I wrote something new for it.

3. Explain some of the challenges involved in working on Black History Month?

A lot of the challenges in working on Black History Month revolve around actually knowing what I have to do. I picture the event and try to identify what's going to be needed on the day and then odd jobs keep popping up.

The forms are the biggest part, though. This role is a collaboration between the BME Network and the new Hip-Hop & RnB Society and, as a result, I think I'm expected to know my way around the forms, but because we're a new society ,we haven't been schooled in all the forms beyond what was taught in the training days.

The Black History Month coordinators have been really supportive and understanding, though, so I've been able to figure out how to do everything.

Black History Month

4. What has been a personal highlight so far?

It's got to be either Word Up or ROOTS, which was a play performed by the Bangla Society and Pakistani Society.

So far my involvement in Word Up has just been administrative but when booking Anthony Anaxagorou, Zena Edwards and JJ Bola - all artists I'd seen and been amazed by - I felt like I was way out of my depth but also involved in something huge. I'm really looking forward to seeing all that pay off on October 5 and to see how the Bloomsbury Studio will look.

ROOTS, on the other hand, was a large scale production in the Bloomsbury Theatre,which was just really fun to perform because we got on really well with each other and had a laugh throughout.

Since that was in my first year as well, it felt good to actually commit to a long-term project - but now we're working on the next one too.

5. If you were Provost for the day what one thing would you do?

I'd focus on the curriculum. It's not welcoming or even appropriate to lack diversity in the curriculum, and to always have race, either ignored or a side-note.

I'd bring Nathaniel Coleman back for the philosophy department and introduce a postcolonial literature module in the English department. Then, I'd ask some other departments what would be needed to make that change. I'd also reduce the fees.

6. Who inspires you and why?

I try to take inspiration from a lot of people and, in particular, the prophet Muhammad (saws), as a Muslim. His gentle humility, unfaltering belief and yet his ability to make such changes are very inspiring. I've been taking inspiration from people in all sorts of areas from famous leaders, artists and activists to teachers, friends and, above all else, my parents.

My parents started from very little, with my dad travelling the country looking for odd jobs in restaurants all over the place. I believe not long after my mum came, he found his own business and he's kept that since.

It may not be the strongest business but my parents have also raised three children, all of whom have studied at Russell Group universities and are working with a great deal of ambition, plus my mum's now in work too.

They give me my drive but they also remind me that life is about living - knowing the value of spending time with loved ones.

7. What would it surprise people to know about you?

I feel like there's not much surprising about me; I can be read like a book, although I don't think that's a bad thing. It does depend on who's judging me though since saying that I'm studying English is usually my go-to surprising thing.

Before coming to university, I suppose it's surprising that I was torn between doing maths and English - I was always best at maths but could never take it as seriously as with English. I just thought maths was a pretty fun game. I actually still think maths is really interesting though and definitely if I had the time and the money, I'd do a degree in maths.

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