The actor Shaniqua Okwok has criticised the Royal Central Faculty of Speech and Drama, claiming she was advised to embrace her “inherited trauma” and act like a slave in chains throughout an appearing train.


Okwok, who appeared in Steve McQueen’s sequence Small Axe and the award-winning drama It’s a Sin, accused the celebrated drama college of paying lip service to its anti-discrimination pledges by failing to say whether or not it had disciplined the trainer concerned within the incident in 2015.

Okwok stated: “I don’t assume I used to be in a position to actually perceive what was occurring on the time as a result of I used to be being gaslit. Nobody was calling it racism.”

The actor reported the alleged incident after the rise of the Black Lives Matter motion in 2020, when she and different graduates met college leaders, Deadline reported.


The conferences culminated in an motion plan and pledges from the varsity, together with employees anti-racism coaching, a dedication to “decolonise” the curriculum and plans to diversify its workforce.

Royal Central additionally inspired graduates to make formal complaints to Intersol, an exterior company engaged to look at historic allegations of racism. It was to those investigators that Okwok made a proper criticism in regards to the “racist incident” that occurred weeks into her first 12 months on the drama college, which boasts alumni together with Dame Judi Dench and Package Harington.

Okwok described how throughout a motion train, she centered on strolling neutrally together with her arms by her facet. Classmates have been invited to touch upon the stroll within the type of a film title, and one scholar shouted “chain gang” at Okwok, which was interpreted as a reference to her race.

She stated her classmates have been shocked and she or he anticipated the trainer to intervene and encourage a dialog about unconscious prejudice. As a substitute, she alleged, the trainer advised her to embrace the interpretation of her being a “slave in chains” as a result of she was dragging her ft and her arms have been near her physique.

She stated she was horrified and the incident “diminished” her for the remainder of her coaching. She claimed she raised considerations with lecturers on the time, however the college was extra concerned about criticising her for sharing her expertise with mates on Snapchat.

Deadline reported that her classmates penned written statements supporting her story and Royal Central upheld her criticism in February final 12 months, practically 12 months after she formally lodged her considerations with the exterior investigators.

She acquired a letter from an HR officer which stated: “We are able to affirm that your criticism has been upheld and we want to apologise for any misery.”

For confidentiality causes, she was not advised if the trainer confronted any penalties. Based on Deadline, the person stays in publish and didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Okwok believes not sharing the conclusion of her criticism “leaves a world the place the varsity remains to be preserving an unsafe surroundings” for its college students. She claimed the Royal Central upheld her criticism to “shut her up” and stated her expertise confirmed the varsity’s efforts to rid itself of systemic racial prejudice have been “performative”.

She stated she would commonly return to the varsity to speak to college students, however since talking out about her expertise in 2020, she has not been invited again. In distinction, she has made common appearances at The Brit college, one other alma mater, over the previous three years.

“There isn’t a ulterior motive apart from making it a safer place for these after us,” she stated of her causes for talking out. “[In 2020] there was nothing to achieve in coming ahead. There was no cash, no actual celeb; there was nothing apart from shifting the varsity ahead.”

Deadline stated the varsity had upheld two racism complaints up to now three years. The Olivier award-nominated actor Josette Bushell-Mingo was appointed as the varsity’s principal in 2021, whereas its vice-president is Anne Mensah, Netflix’s UK content material chief.

In an announcement, Royal Central stated: “In June 2020 a few of Central’s college students and graduates shared their accounts of racism and discrimination skilled throughout their time on the college. Central issued an unreserved apology and dedicated to undertake an intensive programme of labor throughout all ranges of the organisation to make sure accountability and create significant, lasting change.

“Central, which has been beneath the management of a brand new senior staff since 2021, has labored to acknowledge and personal its historical past in an accountable method, and to foster a tradition of fairness and inclusion. There may be extra work to be carried out, however this work is ongoing and it’s a precedence. Central stays totally dedicated to making sure a protected, equitable, inclusive and supportive surroundings for its college students.”

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