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Supporting the next generation of Black geographers

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Black woman holding plants in forest setting
Conservation - Francisca Rockey

As we focus on education this year for Black History Month 2021 - Proud to Be, we are delighted to place a spotlight on geosciences and the importance of diversity in a subject that informs decisions that affect all our lives. 

In this blog, we interview award-winning geographer, campaigner, influencer, advocate and activist - Francisca Rockey.  Francisca reveals her passion for geography, its power to create a greener planet and why she founded Black Geographers. 

Why did you choose geography?

Originally, I chose geography as a second option. My favourite history teacher left in Year 9 and I wanted to choose history but I knew it would not be the same without him so I chose geography instead. What started as a second option to meet the requirements of the English Baccalaureate grew into a passion, far greater than I had for history, a strong emotion to know more about places and the relationships between people and our environment. 

I remember writing my personal statement and being asked about my interest in geography and it came so naturally, I was intrigued by the natural features of the earth and the dynamics of our changing world. Not only is geography relevant to current affairs but we are surrounded by characteristics of physical geography in our everyday lives, from the type of soil found in your local park to the drainage of your nearest river. Understanding where things happen and the differences between places is important in many contexts, from agriculture to infrastructure, and housing to the environment.

What led you to Black Geographers?

Think about the discipline of geography and how geography is defined. Geography seeks to study our planet and tell the stories of the people who inhabit it. But what stories are told? And who is chosen to tell them?

Black Geographers was formed out of frustration. I was frustrated by the lack of visibility of black people in different areas of geography, particularly physical geography as this is my area of interest and the area I am looking to pursue a career in. 

How did you accomplish growing a global network?

I launched my campaign during a time where we could not go outside, and people were spending a lot of time on social media. So, I took advantage of the increased activity on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms to get my message across and to ensure that there would be people listening. Within a matter of weeks, our campaign had reached mainland Europe, countries in Asia, South America, North America and Canada.  

Lockdown gave us the time to discuss issues, which prevent inclusivity, accessibility and diversity in geography, and we were able to facilitate transnational discussions. I am no expert but social media is a very powerful tool and a great way to share your message far and wide. As I discovered with the Black Geographers campaign, you never know where your campaign will end up. 

What would you say to young people wanting to go further in geography?

As I am sure you are aware, climate change and the future of our planet is a hot topic and if you would like to be at the forefront of climate discussion and working towards climate solutions, such as creating greener energy, rewilding to absorb more carbon or protecting our oceans and forests, then continuing your education in geography or geosciences, physical geography, earth and environmental science or geology is the way to go. Everything I have been taught thus far in my degree is relevant to current affairs and by the time I finish my degree, I will be equipped with the tools to assist other scientists and researchers working to create a greener planet.

What are your career and dream job goals?

Currently, I am in the penultimate year of my BSc in Geography and next year, I want to apply for a Masters in Biodiversity and Conservation to continue my studies in Biogeography and work towards a career in conservation.

Francisca Rockey is an award-winning geographer, campaigner, influencer, advocate and activist who is regularly involved in social campaigns and charity fundraising. She is also a blogger, writer and public speaker featured in mainstream and online media. She founded Black Geographers, a community interest company working to tackle the erasure of black people in geography by creating a platform for black geographers to network and connect. The platform has a global audience of over 10,000 members.

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