Dear Racial Justice Network and Community,

What an incredible two weeks the 2023 International Symposium was!

From October 4th-16th, the Symposium took us to spaces and communities in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester, where we embarked on a profound exploration of our special guest Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s legacy. 

The conversations we all shared together connected us to the past, present and futures of international decolonial activism. Through it all, we were honoured to learn from literary giant and advocate for racial justice, Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, and our delegates from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and here in the UK during this time.

I extend deep gratitude to the community organisers and leaders in these three cities, and scholars from the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield, respectively, for meeting us with trust and hope when we all started project planning together back in June of this year and latter 11th hour support received from equity, diversity and inclusion unit at University of Leeds. Designing and delivering this Symposium together exposed us all to the challenges of organising; magnified by the scale of our plans. The patience, flexibility, efforts, and dedication we applied to our shared vision leaves a lasting imprint of knowledge and inspiration in all our communities, showering us with the joys of organising. I hope that we have all been able to restore ourselves over these two weeks, and look forward to celebrating with everyone in the future.

Left to Right- Ndugi Githuku, Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiang'o and Wangari 'Penny'.


Ngũgĩ alongside community members, our international delegates and RJN team at the Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o Freedom Square, Leeds University, October 4th.

On October 4th, we welcomed him back to Leeds with a grand ceremony that inaugurated the Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Freedom Square on our campus, an enduring symbol of his influence. This event not only marked the beginning of our Symposium but also immortalised Professor Ngũgĩ’s impact with a dedicated space on our campus.

International delgates and Professor Ngũgĩ in Sheffield for the traditional Gukunguira reception, Utopia Theatre,Sheffield, October 5th.

In Sheffield,October 5th, we enjoyed a traditional Gukunguira reception at utopia theatre, a heartfelt Gikuyu ceremony and homage to Professor Ngũgĩ. It solidified the profound connection he has with our international communities, further emphasising the significance of his work globally.

Panel discussion unpacking decolnial principles featuring our international delegates and Professor Ngũgĩ, Sheffield University, 6th October.

This was followed by a panel discussion at the university of Sheffield on the 6th of October with our international delegation unpacking decolonial principles formulated in Nairobi in 2020 and the meaning of decoloniality today.

The Gikuyu community in Yorkshire held a reception for mwalimu Ngûgî wa Thiong’o and the rest of the delegation. 8th October, Yorkshire.

On the 8th of October, the Gikuyu community in Yorkshire held a reception for mwalimu Ngûgî wa Thiong’o and the rest of the delegation. The community space held discussions, readings and music in the Gikuyu language to acknowledge mwalimu’s life long message and campaign on the importance of mother tongues and retaining native languages as colonial resistance.

Members of the Manchester Rastafarian community and African Diaspora alongside The Racial Justice Network team, Professor Ngũgĩ and international delegates celebrating and commemorating the 1945 Pan-African Conference. Manchester, The Windrush Centre, October 11th.

In Manchester, from October 11th to 13th, we commemorated the historical bonds between Africa and the Diaspora. On the 11th, we engaged in enlightening discussions with members of the Rastafarian community and African Diaspora at the Windrush Centre, celebrating Manchester as a pivotal site of the 1945 Pan-African Conference, a testament to global solidarity and the journey towards independence.

Professor Ngũgĩ delivered the prestigious Arthur Lewis annual lecture discussing decolonisation, reparations and the future of education at Manchester University. October 12.

On October 12, at Manchester University, we had the privilege of witnessing Professor Ngũgĩ deliver the prestigious Arthur Lewis annual Lecture, hosted by the distinguished journalist Gary Younge and Pan-African Reparationist and Jurisprudent, Esther Stanford-Xosei. This event furthered our understanding of decolonization, reparations, and the future of education.

The final symposium event took place at Leeds University where Professor Ngũgĩ reflected on a life's long work. October 16th.

The Symposium reached its zenith on October 16th at Leeds University, as Professor Ngũgĩ delivered a captivating keynote lecture, reflecting on a life’s work that continues to inspire change. Profound impact that University of Leeds had on his consciousness him back in the 1960’s and the global impact that has had in turn. It was a fitting tribute to his incredible journey and enduring commitment to justice.

We set off on this international symposium journey with the objective of internationalising and bringing decoloniality back to base, building and strengthening international links and partnerships with the global south and memorialising prof Ngûgî wa Thiong’o physically at Leeds as we celebrate his legacy. We achieved all of this!

Key Themes and Takeaways

Throughout the Symposium, we delved into crucial themes:

Celebrating Legacy: We celebrated and remembered scholar-activists from the Black diaspora, cherishing their legacies as sources of inspiration for present and future generations.

Challenging Colonial Norms: Our discussions were a powerful platform for challenging the normalised abnormalities of the global colonial project. It was a clarion call to confront these norms and their lasting effects as we strive for justice.

Cognitive Justice: A powerful theme emerged, highlighting the significance of speaking one’s mother tongue as an essential component of cognitive justice. Embracing linguistic diversity was celebrated, while also acknowledging the importance of learning other languages and challenging the dominance of colonial languages.

Localising Knowledge: Throughout the Symposium, it was reiterated that knowledge begins with one’s own context and location.It was a reminder that meaningful change and understanding are rooted in acknowledging our unique narratives and the places from which we draw our strength.

Engage with Us:

Your feedback, reflections, and media from the Symposium are invaluable as we move forward in our commitment to justice.

Also scroll through our international symposium gallery

On behalf of us at RJN, our fellow organisers, our delegates, guests, and volunteers, I want to express our sincere thanks for joining us in this remarkable journey and share heartfelt celebrations and hope for the reverberating impacts of the 2023 International Decolonisation Symposium not to mention Praela, Heritage corner, African voices Sheffield, Centre for equity and inclusion at University of Sheffield, unit of equity, diversity and inclusion at University of Leeds, department of politics and sociology at University of Manchester.

With immense gratitude and elation,

Wangari ‘Penny’


The Racial Justice Team

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