Tell us a little bit about A Product of My Environment – how did it get started and who is involved?
As a response to raising the aspirations of young black people in my community in Birmingham, I founded A product of my environment in year 11 (POME). We deliver a programme called Breaking The Cycle which is a youth-led programme for 13-18 year olds that we run with the help of youth centres. We have a team of 20 young black people who volunteer their time to encourage other black young people to set goals, dream, and envision a life for themselves – to be more than just a product of their environment.
I grew up in a low-socio-economic area but went to school in an affluent area. This experience exposed me to people from all walks of life, mindsets, and beliefs. One thing I noticed when it came to the time for me and my peers to choose the next step in our paths, was the difference in how many people in my community did not see continuing their academic journeys as a natural next step for them. Our peers had big ambitions to attend university, but many of my friends and peers did not share those same aspirations.
As I noticed this trend in my conversations as a 15-year-old; a question that stuck with me was “Why was it that people from low-income areas, often Black or people of colour, struggled to set the same high standards for themselves?” I came to the conclusion that unless we send strong messages to schools and young people from historically underrepresented groups that higher education is a viable option for them, the proportion of black British school leavers attending university will continue to decline significantly.
POME was founded to dispel the myths and misconceptions about higher education and dreaming big!
As part of the Breaking the Cycle programme, we use Instagram to introduce young people to black history figures they may not have heard of before. We are broadening the scope of what young black people believe is possible for them.
Where are you in your life now, what future ambitions do you have?
I am currently studying at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. I was worried about the financial implications of attending university in the capital city, especially since I knew my parents would struggle to support me. Fortunately, I successfully received a fully funded scholarship from The Cowrie Foundation to attend university and study law and politics. The Cowrie Foundation intends to send 100 black students to university over the next decade. In addition to financial assistance, the Cowrie Foundation connects scholars with mentors who help with career guidance and university support; as the first person in my family to attend university, this is extremely beneficial to me.
When asked about my career goals, I feel like I’m supposed to have a plan and be certain of the path I want to take after university, when in reality, all I want to do is make a difference in the world. My motivation for studying law is to pursue a career in criminal law, possibly by taking the bar and becoming a criminal barrister. However, when it comes to politics, I aspire to be a part of the conversation about how society is governed and whose voice is heard, which leads me more toward a career in government or possibly advocacy. As you can see from the theme of my ambitions, I am desperate to make the world a better place, whether through criminal justice or other means.
Where do you find, seek and create moments of Black joy what would you recommend for others?
In addition to studying and running A Product Of My Environment, I have a small business called Remi’s Mindfulness. I create journals to encourage more people to prioritise their mental health through journaling. Journaling for me is a way to reflect and provides a healthy space for my thoughts to leave my mind and prevents me from becoming overwhelmed.
My favourite places to find black joy vary depending on the vibe I’m going for. If I’m in a reflective mood and prefer to listen rather than watch, I recommend the weekly podcast Therapy for Black Girls, hosted by psychologist Dr. Joy Harden, it fills me with joy that she is using her position to assist younger versions of herself in breaking down psychological barriers and deepening our connections to ourselves. Some of my favourite youtubers for a more light-hearted and entertaining source of black joy are: Courtney Daniella Boateng and Derin Adetosye she also has a podcast – To my sisters). I’d also recommend a book called Loud Black girls which is a collection of essays from black women each sharing their experiences and how they have shaped their reality.
There is no time like the present to share stories of black joy; the more we do so, the more we will inspire black young people to dream big and break down barriers.
Remaya Amelia (she/her) Founder of A Product Environment and SOAS student.