KCLSU President: what Desmond Tutu’s bracelet can teach us about the King’s community

KCLSU lobby. Inset: Alumnus Desmond Tutu and KCLSU logo

LAST November one of King’s most inspiring alumni, Desmond Tutu, paid his alma mater a visit.

Like many other students, I dropped everything and made the long trek to the 4th floor of the Macadam building to hear him speak. It was worth every second Tutu advocated, quipped and above all inspired. He also has a unique, roaring laugh that is irresistible.

But what really drew my attention was the inconspicuous leather bracelet he wore on his left wrist and its hand-carved inscription: “Ubuntu”. Later on in the day, I had the privilege of spending a few moments in conversation with Archbishop Tutu and asked him about the bracelet.

Grassroots empowerment

He passionately explained that ubuntu was the South African concept of “human-ness”. Communities consist of individuals with shared bonds that transgress any differences in opinion, thought or philosophy.

What that means is that human beings in a community are inevitably connected with one another. Or as Tutu put it “I am, because you are.”

That’s something that’s stayed with me since, because it encapsulates and defines everything our students’ union is about.

At KCLSU we are currently working on ‘Big Plan’, a five-year strategy to carry on making the students’ union more relevant, effective and tailored to the needs of students.

A key theme students have told us about is that of grassroots empowerment. KCLSU should be at the very heart of the hive of activity that student life is at King’s. We want to be a collective, democratic organisation that helps our students to bring their bright ideas and initiatives to reality.

Community exists because of us all

That’s why we’ve started to bring in changes that unlock the potential of our community and amplify its impact.

Whether it’s new funding for student groups, simplifying the interaction between student groups and KCLSU, making more funding available to liberation months or deciding collectively on major issues at our first quorate AGM in almost a decade, the intention is the same: putting power back in the hands of students.

KCLSU is not about the individuals leading it. It’s not about Liam, Areeb, Anthony or me. It’s about you. Our community exists because of all us. Here at King’s we’re standing at the beginning of a sea change in student politics – that of students’ unions that truly empower their members.

Ubuntu!

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