INFLUENTIAL: Isabella Cox wants equality
OVERTURNING THE negative attitudes within academia, which have served to exclude black people is something that Isabella Cox has dedicated herself to.
As an admin assistant at the University of Manchester’s School of Law Isabella’s interest was heightened when the director of social responsibility wanted to focus on the lack of black men studying law there.
In fact, for several years there were no eligible candidates for a scheme that encouraged black men to study law.
“I invited myself along to an initial meeting because I felt that I had something to add as a member of the black community who has also studied at the university and is an ex-teacher,” she said.
Isabella then joined the social responsibility team and helped to devise a strategy to recruit more black men. Following on from that, ‘Black Lawyers Matter’ evolved and Isabella has served to champion its cause.
“We didn’t want to buy into the idea that there was a black ‘deficit’ – that the students were not clever enough because that is obviously not true,” said the former teacher.
Isabella then approached university chancellor Lemn Sissay to help with outreach and promote the university and in September 2017 launched a new bursary scheme.
She said: “We’ve now had several applicants and there are enquiries from all over the country. There are now three people set to take up the bursary in September.”
Isabella is 35 and is of both Jamaican and white British descent. She firmly believes that the only way for the African-Caribbean population to advance is to ‘get a seat at the table and gain the skills and the knowledge’.
Isabella added: “It’s quite amazing when you see what some law academics have managed to achieve. They have been empowered and can then go on to empower others.
“What I’m most proud of is getting the university to back the Lemn Sissay Law Bursary. As far as we are aware it is the first university scheme that has targeted students based on gender, race and socio-economic status within a Russell Group university.
“It has opened the floodgates and started a tide that is not going to stop. Being able to support these men and showing them that they have every right to be here, if not more of a right than other students is amazing.”
The former grade three admin assistant recalled her university beginnings, and how she fought her way into a position of influence.
“It has not been easy and I’ve faced discrimination, which has been really hard, but this will have a long-term impact on the culture of the university and institutional change,” said Isabella. “This is the beginning of getting the university to have the capacity to discuss racial inequality.”
Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.