03/04/2014 11:19 BST | Updated 03/04/2014 11:59 BST

Students Launch WhoIAM Tumblr To Celebrate London Diversity


Two students from King's College London University have launched a photo blog directed at celebrating the diversity of culture in Britain.

The WhoIAm initiative, spearheaded by Surya Elango and Sophie Neal, two first year King's College London humanities students, began as a response to the negative experiences of ethnic minorities portrayed by the 'I, too, am' campaigns.

WhoIAm aims to foster the natural inquisitiveness of people confronted by the cultural melting pot of society today, in an attempt to create dialogue and educate about diversity in all forms.

Elango and Neal have not associated their campaign with any one institution; instead, they have compiled a selection of photos of students from King's College London, University College London, Imperial College London, Greenwich University, Essex University and Birkbeck University. A collection they label a "microcosm of the University of London".

Elango told HuffPost UK: "I feel it [the 'I, too, am' campaign] has unintentionally knocked cultural curiosity. As a first generation immigrant, I have faced racism throughout my life at different levels, and therefore understood the importance of campaigns like 'I, too, am' at raising the issue of micro-aggressions on university campuses.

"However I really only accepted my 'Indian side' when my friends at school began to ask me questions about my culture. Now I am totally comfortable with who I am thanks to cultural curiosity, all I needed was someone to be interested and ask. We came to the conclusion that, as two culturally inquisitive girls, hailing from vastly different heritages, we had more than enough grounding to forge ahead and create a project that seeks to do three things: celebrate cultural diversity of all kinds, encourage cultural curiosity and educate people in a fun yet simple way."

Their mission statement is simple, they are "striving for integration and celebrating diversity", building bridges through simple expressions of people's cultural self-identification, written on blackboards. Why blackboards? The two students describe blackboards as "educational, they optimise the idea of education we want to portray". They are seeking to educate their friends and peers, not just shock them by ignorance.

The student duo wanted to create "a campaign created by university students to give others a chance to share in those stories [about their culture] and to provide a platform upon which people can express an aspect of their personal identity". It is therefore only fitting that not only students from ethnic minorities are featured. A Scottish woman, an Italian man, both cultures are represented and celebrated.

Gaby Scott, a half-Sicilian, half-English student featured in the WhoIAm campaign said: "I think it's important that people stop considering ignorance to be insulting, cultural inquisitiveness should not be vilified. I am happy to enlighten and inform friends about my cultural background, I am proud of it, and not afraid of what people label ignorant or insensitive comments."

Elango and Neal emphasise the role the students featured played in creating the campaign and its image. "It was an organic process that has just grown and grown," they said. "As people asked questions and we took their photos the ideas just kept flowing." They want it to be a collaborative effort, the start of series of campaigns led by students. The WhoIAm name is key in expressing that.

Next on the cards are similar campaigns, celebrating both sexuality and disability in turn, influenced by Elango and Neal's fellow student Samuel Spencer, third year English student and LGBT filmmaker at King's College London.