Our class of 2021 really are something to shout about. They’ve overcome challenges, helped others, grasped opportunities and developed their skills, showing their Essex Spirit in so many ways. And they’ve done it all during a pandemic when student life has been changed beyond recognition. We couldn’t be prouder of them so we’re telling their stories.
Wed 14 Jul 21
Inspired by an Essex human rights course, Sophie Kabangu plans to change the world by helping others and she’s well on her way thanks to Amnesty International training which helped her found Colchester’s Black Lives Matter movement.
Sophie originally wanted a career in the media and came to Essex to study communications and digital culture but an optional human rights module in the first year changed that and today she’s graduating with a BA Sociology and Human Rights.
Spurred on by the injustices she was learning about, Sophie applied to join the Amnesty Rise Up programme for young people interested in achieving social change. It gave her the opportunity to learn from the best.
At Amnesty’s London headquarters Sophie heard from activists about how they started and grew their campaigns.
“I met so many amazing people who were all passionate about their topic,” she said.
She believes the experience has been transformational: “It taught me a lot about myself. The person I was in the very first session and the person I am now are two different people. I believe in myself more and I know that there is power in standing up and being vocal.”
It also gave her the tools and knowledge to start her own campaign and in the summer of 2020 she organised Colchester’s first Black Lives Matter protest.
“We are commonly made to believe that in the UK racism does not exist. I hope the Black Lives Matter movement educates people and allows people to acknowledge that not only does change need to happen but the whole system must be demolished. We need to start again,” she said.
"It taught me a lot about myself. The person I was in the very first session and the person I am now are two different people. I believe in myself more and know that there is power in standing up and being vocal."
Sophie believes white people have to play their part too: “It is not my job to educate white people. As allies they should listen to what black people and people of colour have to say and open spaces for us.”
Sophie’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. In January 2021 she was listed in the Big Issue Changemakers and in March was recognised by Marie Claire as one of its Gen Z activists transforming the world.
“It is very surreal but it shows that all the work that has been done by myself and other young activists is not going unnoticed,” she said.
Her experiences have also led her back to Amnesty, where she’ll be speaking to the next cohort of Rise Up participants. “It’s crazy because in the first Rise UP session I went to I felt so inspired by the activists that came in to speak to us and I hoped that one day I could be just like them.”
Sophie plans to stay at Essex and study a MA Migration Studies.