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This Cambridge student is using freestyle rap to call out the media on portrayal of black students

Patrick Sylla has a message for the media.


(Patrick Sylla/PA)

(Patrick Sylla/PA)

(Patrick Sylla/PA)

A Cambridge student has challenged the way the media covers black students at the UK’s top universities in a freestyle rap video.

Patrick Sylla, 21, is in his third year studying natural sciences at Cambridge University. He makes videos about the physics behind levitating chicken wings and what happens in the brain when we hear music – always striving to teach viewers something while entertaining them.

Sylla’s latest video has the same theme, but is much more personal. Using freestyle rap as a medium to get his message across, Sylla bemoans reporting on black and minority ethnic students and their experiences at Oxford and Cambridge universities by the UK media.

The video, released on Saturday, pinpoints that each student’s experience is different. He argues that the media can portray BME students as a homogeneous block, rather than focusing on the plethora of stories these students have to tell – including positive experiences.

'What's it like to be a black Cambridge student?'. This question is put forward quite a lot in news paper articles. It bothers me because I feel that it reduces black Cambridge students to their ethnicity, without adressing the fact that everyone's time here will be different based on so many different factors. I wrote some bars and recorded a freestyle about the topic which I hope you enjoy and I hope might shift Cambridge preconceptions in at least one kid's eyes. Shout out to James Walden for the visuals, and Danny Baalbaki for this idea to do something like this.

Posted by Patrick Sylla on Saturday, January 20, 2018

“Some people have written compelling articles about their Cambridge experience and how they have felt that race has deeply tied into that,” Sylla told the Press Association. “I think that is so important and needs to be talked about. There are still problems here and people should be able to talk about them.

“However, I feel that in the media there is very little coverage on black students who have enjoyed their time here. And despite there being many great systems in place, like the BME campaign and the outreach work the ACS do, it is so hard to reach the masses.”

Following a Freedom of Information request by Labour MP David Lammy in 2017, it emerged that between 2010 and 2015 only three of Oxford’s 32 colleges made an offer to a black A-level applicant every year.

Meanwhile, figures for Cambridge University revealed that for each of the six years, on average, a quarter of colleges failed to make any offers to black British applicants.

Sylla said he wants young people to see the video so they can aspire to reach the top universities. “I want people to see it and think that they can come to Cambridge and we can change it,” said Sylla.

“Before coming here I thought there would be no one like me and I just want young black kids to see this and think that their ethnicity shouldn’t stop them from coming here.”

PA Media