What is your educational background?
I am currently completing a Master’s degree in Applied Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol in the UK. Prior to this, I read for an undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at the same university.
What is your current occupation?
I am currently a full-time MSc Applied Neuropsychology student. On a part-time basis, I work as a mental healthcare assistant in an adult acute mental health hospital, specifically on a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Rehabilitation unit. I am also the Founding Director of Black People Talk (BPT); an initiative I co-developed with the sole purpose of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s Black community, through psychoeducational and therapeutic peer support groups.
What or who got you into STEM?
To start, my parents and extended family played a massive role in my interest in STEM. In terms of my interest in Psychology, that stems from a more personal context. Growing up, I found it difficult to navigate social protocols, which resulted in an early awareness of the individual differences in people’s thought processes. I would often wonder why certain things were challenging to me but not to others and vice versa. As I got older, I began to truly appreciate the explanations psychological theories provided me when I would become overwhelmed with existential questions. More importantly, the answers I was not able to get, coupled with the intersectional blind spots riddled throughout the field, are what keep me determined to continue seeking answers, solutions and pursue a career as a Clinical Neuropsychologist.
What is the biggest challenge/barrier you have faced as an African in STEM?
As a Black African man, the biggest challenge I have faced is racism; be it institutional or individual, overt or covert, and of course, the lasting personal aftereffects of it. The more introspection I do, the more I realise that the biggest challenge I have faced and will continue to on a daily basis, is winning the battle over the negative, socially-induced internal narrative that acts as a hinderance to my progress. Striving within the industry that I have chosen, unfortunately, means that I have and will be underestimated, overlooked, dismissed and sometimes outright blocked. My industry is a microcosm of society and therefore many ugly truths are mirrored. I don’t mean to make things seem this macabre, I do love what I do, I promise!
How do you think your background/upbringing has been beneficial in your journey/career?
My father’s favorite phrase was “Nous, les Yalipendes, on est des lutteurs” which essentially means: “We Yalipendes are fighters”. Having that narrative in my early formative years, I feel has kept me going even at times when I did not have much left and my pool of resilience was drier than a mouthful of cinnamon! Watching my father set up an NGO in his country, has instilled in me an unwavering sense of duty and responsibility towards my community, which gives me a sense of purpose that I am grateful for.
How do you think we can start to change the narrative surrounding African contributions
to global STEM research & careers?
Exposure, visibility, and networking are invaluable to this much needed shift in narrative. This platform is knocking all three out of the park! African contributions to STEM have been great, but unfortunately, they are not being showcased enough and are often erased by the negative framing that society creates around Black lives. The best way to combat this it to create our own platforms, mentor and support ourselves and those to come through the journey.
What advice would you like to give to young, aspiring Africans in STEM?
You are more than enough; begin taking steps towards your rightful place, you will be sprinting sooner than you think. When you get to your destination, make sure to bring someone with you! Finally, do not be afraid to create you own lane or opportunity, especially when they are not always made available to you.
Do you have any projects you’re working on that you would like us to highlight?
As I mentioned earlier, I am part of Black People Talk (BPT), an initiative that aims to support the mental health and wellbeing of the UK’s Black community, through psychoeducational and therapeutic peer support groups. BPT operates as a chapter-based initiative, providing its services across three main sectors: academic, corporate and the community. Beyond its supporting and signposting agenda, BPT serves to normalise the exposure, conversation around and access to mental health support in the Black community. Since its conception, BPT has been established in three universities, has been sponsored and endorsed by multiple organisations, and has featured in The British Association For Counselling And Psychotherapy (BACP) flagship magazine ‘Therapy Today’ for its efficacy and novel approach to peer wellbeing support.
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