RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 8

 

Chanté Joseph

BSc Social Policy
University of Bristol
Student Politics, Charity and Academics

JESSICA OKORO
Chanté’s will and determination to make an impact in the spaces she inhabits is unparalleled. Her understanding of these environments underpins her strength as a young leader. As a “meaningful and well respected middleman,” Chanté’s talent lies in connecting people with problems to those who offer solutions. In her words, leadership ‘is not about always being at the front’.

A young Chanté might have looked at things differently. Chanté, the skilled problem solver, was once seen as a troublemaker in school. Although she realised she was talented, Chanté struggled to use her enthusiasm in productive ways. Her disruptive behaviour led to Chanté being internally excluded from school in Year 8.

Remarkably, this marked the beginning of Chanté’s social and political activism. A counsellor saw Chanté’s potential and decided to appoint her to the school council to redirect her energy. It soon became clear that Chanté was a gifted advocate and she enjoyed fighting for her community. This spirit led Chanté to win two consecutive youth parliament elections and she represented Brent from 2011-2013. Chanté was also heavily involved in the British Youth Council, and was vice chair of Trustees for the charity.

“Leadership is not about always being at the front.”

University has been the perfect environment for Chanté’s talents to thrive in. Now a second year at the University of Bristol, Chanté held a senior role on four different committees and worked three part-time jobs in this academic year alone. She was elected as Chair of the Student Council with the largest margin in the history of student council elections. Chanté represented Social Policy students as the Social Policy faculty representative and, as a Student Researcher, she is currently investigating the experiences of BME students at Bristol. She also set up a mentoring programme for black school students in Bristol as President of the African and Caribbean Association. Chanté also works with BBC Bristol’s Politics team and helps to conduct interviews, research, and “take selfies, obviously”.

The varied nature of her activism might lead one to question: is there a clear mission driving Chante’s work? She has no doubts: ‘I represent black people, and black women specifically’. From organising a Caribbean Carnival formal dinner following her university accommodation burning down to starting up a mentoring programme for black school students, Chanté creatively brings diversity into her leadership roles.

Chanté’s experiences culminated in her founding Bristol is the New Black (BITNB) in 2016. The project, which received sponsorship from O2, raises awareness of black people who are shaping the life and culture in Bristol. The online platform seeks to promote and connect these individuals and their narratives to the wider community of black people in Bristol. The success of BITNB laid the foundations for Chanté to run other initiatives. She secured £5,000 from the university to create the first magazine and event which will profile the most influential BME people in Bristol next academic year.

Chanté has managed to do all of this while maintaining excellent grades. She was awarded the Dean’s Commendation for being in the top 10% of her year. Chanté was also listed as one of the 24 Most Influential Bristonians Under 24 and was voted the 11th Most Influential Female Student in a recent nationwide competition.

“Sometimes it’s difficult – but there is so much to be done.”

As an advocate for mental health and wellbeing, Chanté is occasionally torn between resting and her activism which has sometimes led to online abuse. Yet, for Chanté, this tension must necessarily be resolved as “there is so much to be done”. As her track record shows, Chanté is well qualified to secure social change.

Next academic year holds much in store for Chanté. She has recently been elected Chair of Bristol Labour Students Club and the Black and Minority Ethnic Students Officer. We can’t wait to see what she has in store.

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