In 2015, just 15 black men were admitted to Cambridge University, one of the U.K.’s — and the world’s — most prestigious colleges. That figure made up 0.3% of the total students admitted (in comparison, 73% of the admitted students were white men). To raise awareness of this fact, and to raise visibility of black male students at Cambridge, the university’s African-Caribbean Society shared a series of photos of 14 black men who study at the university this week. They were partly inspired by the viral #BlackMenOfYaleUniversity, which similarly showed a group of black students at Yale in the U.S. in April. The joyful photos have gained over 3000 likes on the society’s Facebook page, and thousands of supportive tweets, including one from Stormzy.
One of the students in the photo, Folajimi Babasola, told the BBC: "The aim of the picture was really to encourage more black students to apply here, because many people get discouraged by a particular image or stereotype of a Cambridge student that they have in their mind, thinking that they won't fit in or be accepted."
Another student, 19-year-old Donte Nembhard, told BuzzFeed: “The main message I want to send to young black boys who want to go to Cambridge is to not be discouraged by the low admission rate. The rate will not increase if the number of applications remains the same. I feel that many young black boys don't believe they can make it to Cambridge whether that be for social reasons or due to statistics and end up not applying. These are the young black boys we wanted to reach out to."
The photo, and its resulting controversy, has shone a light on the lack of representation at the heart of the esteemed institution. The university has yet to comment.