YTT Spotlight On: Chrissie Brown
This month YTT caught up with Chrissie Brown, a nutrition and dietetics student at Kings College, London
"I grew up in the '90s on sites in the Norfolk and Essex areas. My dad is a Traveller, my mum a Gadje, so I split my time between living in houses and living on sites and stopping places. As the years have gone by most of my family are now living in houses but Travelling and being a Traveller is still firmly in my blood, heart and head. I left school with pretty good grades but no interest in higher education, I didn’t feel it was ‘for me’. I had been working in pubs since I was 12 and just wanted to be out there earning money and doing something, being stuck behind a desk drove me crazy.
As I got older I realised I wanted to help people, especially those that were often forgotten or ignored, so I did an access course (a way for adults to get a qualification to go to University) and got a place at King’s College London to study Nutrition and Dietetics. When I began my course, I started doing some student ambassador work for the Widening Participation department to earn some money. They work to help even the playing field of education and increasing diversity at university, including people from minority ethnic groups, poorer backgrounds, and those most unlikely to go on to university. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are amongst those least likely to go on to University. I’ve since become the ambassador for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students at King’s. My job is varied and ranges from promoting events and opportunities that the Widening Participation (WP) department offers in Gypsy, Roma and Traveller circles to working in a mentoring capacity with young Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students. The WP department is prioritising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students on their schemes this year and we are also working on bespoke opportunities for students from these heritages (including Showpeople).
I’ve always been proud of who I am but over the years I started feeling worn down by explaining my heritage to people, and having to combat ignorance, racism and ingrained beliefs. I think the best way we can make sure that we receive fundamental respect and human rights is to be present and be part of conversation happening, the slogan ‘Nothing about us without us’ rings so true with Travellers. There is a long way to go before racism ends but we are on the right road, and my hope is that one day no child should feel they need to hide who they are or where they come from.
I was worried that going to university would mean shying away from my roots, but it’s made me prouder than ever, and given me the opportunity to educate people about Travellers. Not to mention all the amazing activists and friends I’ve met along the way. I’m also on the executive committee for ACERT (Advisory Council for the Education of Romany Travellers) and involvement with the GRT Women’s empowerment network.
If you are on social media follow me on Twitter @chrissie_rd2b and the WP team on @KCLWP to keep up to date with the latest news, and opportunities.