Hope Oloye is one of those people you know in your gut will do something big. Her academic record has led her to a Leverhulme scholarship to study for a PhD in Computational Neuroscience at UCL, having studied at NYU and Oxford. Hope is also the founding director of Thinking Black - a social enterprise that runs writing, speaking and arts programmes for state school students to empower and engage a new generation of Black voices.
Hope must have also unlocked the secret to time travel; the only reasonable explanation for someone running an organisation AND writing a PhD simultaneously. Thinking Black and Talenthouse have collaborated on a project to explore Black futures through artwork and poetry, engaging the Talenthouse global community to make Black voices heard. The conversation centres on the looming climate crisis, and offers an intersectional take on the issue. If you want learn more about the project brief or submit click here.
Where does the motivation for the mission of Thinking Black come from, and how did it come about?
"When I was studying at Oxford I noticed the lack of Black students, which reflected the wider exclusion of Black people from academia. So, the motivation for Thinking Black comes from the collective need to nurture and amplify Black voices. We set out to tackle this through the creation of different programmes centred on Black academics, writers and activists, and the facilitation, platforming, and celebration of student responses to a range of prompts that deal with Black issues."
Thinking Black has a lot of connections, in terms of personnel and at an organisational level, to the most elite British Universities. Can you talk more about this?
"I was disappointed and surprised by how white Oxford was. The student body, institutionally and in terms of the syllabus. Our main funder is also Pembroke College, Oxford, and Thinking Black was started to address a sense of alienation me and my friends saw and experienced. In terms of wider social change, the most powerful members of society, in politics and the media for example almost always went to one of the ‘Elite’ Universities. One way to address inequality on a wider social level is to address inequalities in positions of power. At the moment so many voices are excluded from positions of power, and the lack of those voices really impacts the underrepresented communities."
Can you explain what Black Futures means to you?
"I think it’s really hard to imagine new structures and institutions that are shaped by historically marginalised communities because for so long we’ve been excluded from spaces of power. As a result, we live in a world that exploits many people for the benefit of a few. Black Futures invites people to both explore the ways out and the potential futures that may occur if we continue as we are."
Can you explain what the concepts of Black Environmentalism and Afrofuturism mean, and why they are important?
"Black Environmentalism is an invite to view the looming climate crisis intersectionally. It advocates for the inclusion of Black voices into mainstream environmental movements in order to better serve those communities who have often been spatially and politically vulnerable. It also asks us to examine the intersection of race, gender identity, class, disability and the environment and view this issue from both a Black diasporic angle and an African indigenous one.
Afrofuturism invites us to explore the Black experience and centre black liberation in both the reimagining of the past and in the imagining of the future. It’s a cultural aesthetic - drawing from history, sci-fi and fantasy."
What are your plans for Thinking Black in the future?
"Primarily, we want to be able to run more programmes for young people. We have managed to get funding for a public speaking programme, we’re building programmes on Art History and Computer Science. We already offer summer schools, placements, and meetings with agents as prizes for students, but we want to give them more opportunities to have their work celebrated through publication. Creating connections with institutions to give access to scholarships or different opportunities abroad is also high up on our list."