Words by Sameera Rafiq
I graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) History degree from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2012, and soon came to the conclusion that the ‘real world’ is tough! Like most recent graduates I had grown too fond of the student life. Hence, I decided to take the working life for a test to be able to reflect on where I wanted to see myself in the future.
I enrolled on to a Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) course to become qualified to teach over 14 year olds. I then completed a self-employment workshop and opened up a Social Enterprise named Infinite Talent Ltd. I began delivering workshops in deprived, socially excluded areas on history and creative writing. Alongside this I became chairperson of Hamer Youth Group, delivering intergeneration projects mainly aimed at Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities. I was involved in community projects since the age of 13 so it was no surprise when I gained employment as a community organiser. My quest to integrate BME communities and host communities began to grow and the projects I started designing and delivering in my roles reflected this from oral history projects to radio debates.
To further enhance my skills, I gained employment as a support worker for adults with mental health and learning difficulties as well as a library assistant. Not diverting from my quest, I set up and ran a girl guides and senior section unit in a deprived BME area to tackle stereotypes of the typical white middle class Christian guide.
After the documentaries, exhibitions and articles I had produced during the year, my passion for telling a story grew and I began to re-think of a career in journalism, one which I had given thought to during college. It came with much delight to hear of an Al-Habeeb scholarship for a Masters in Multimedia Journalism which promoted representatives to tackle issues facing BME communities. Having no expectations after applying, it came as a real shock and honour to then be awarded the Al-Habeeb scholarship – a cause which I will continuously work hard towards during and after my studies to become an advocate and champion for BME communities.
Due to this I had the privilege of attending the first Asian Media Awards showcasing the very best of Asian talent in the UK media industry. The blue carpet event honoured the talents of Jimmi Harkishin, who plays the role of Dev Alahan in Coronation Street. He was presented the Sophiya Haque Award for Services to British Television, a category named in tribute to the late Coronation Street actress who played Poppy Morales. It was a pleasure to meet Jamila Massey, one of the first Asian actresses to appear on British TV, starring in Eastenders. Jamila received a standing ovation as she was presented with the Outstanding Contribution Award. Throughout the spectacular night I was in complete awe of the talent and grateful to be part of the well-deserved recognition. Of particular inspiration was the Journalist of the Year Award, handed to Divya Talwar, BBC reporter and sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University. For me as a student journalist who is still developing, this award held immense value and I will strive towards this honour throughout my journalistic career.
The night did not finish there as I was also fortunate enough to meet Mr Mohammed Al-Habeeb Ullah who implemented the scholarship. I cannot praise Mr Al-Habeeb Ullah enough for his generosity and dedication to improve BME community relations. In addition, the admiration I have for all those who were involved in initiating the four year long scholarship.
The journey for the first Al-Habeeb scholar has now begun!
Sameera Rafiq, studying her Masters in Multimedia Journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University, has become the first Al-Habeeb Scholar after being awarded the Al-Habeeb Scholarship which aims to tackle BME issues.