Updated: Apr 21, 2022
“Producing creative work is how people contribute to the world around them,” Chioma Ikpa says as she explains her love for spoken word, one that she has carried from her time studying. “It allows you to speak your mind and have your voice heard in a way that is authentic to you.”
Having studied a BsC in Marketing Management at Lancaster University, and now working in marketing agencies, Chioma has found a vocation for herself that allows creativity. Chioma explains that marketing was perfect for her because it allowed her to work in the corporate sector but also gave her space to write and be creative. “Growing up, I could see Central London from my window, and I always wanted to be a part of the buzz of it. And I associated that with business.” Chioma has found herself a part of that world.
But as she notes, an important part of being creative is just being seen and heard - just as an important part of inclusivity is having a space where people can speak up, be themselves and be heard and understood. Growing up in the South of the UK and attending State schools, Chioma was used to an environment where diversity was the norm. So when she was planning on moving up north to study at Lancaster University, she knew that the landscape would be different and tried to prepare herself. “It’s one thing to prepare yourself, but actually being there is completely different. It can feel isolating, at times.” Every individual deals with this differently. Chioma said in her experience, those in the minority tended to seek each other out and form their own communities. “I think people gravitate towards people that remind them of something familiar and comfortable.”
One of the communities Chioma found at university was the African Caribbean Society. As she got more involved, she decided to run for the role of Secretary of the society. As part of her campaign, she filmed a creative video, infused with poetry where she gave reasons for why she should be elected. “I loved Dr Seuss as a child, I loved being creative and I think I kind of ignored it. But, making that video reignited that love.” Through this, Chioma found a love of spoken word poetry, which she has continued. She talks about how having to be honest and creative with a large audience helped her move past insecurities and gain confidence. “My performances are infused with gospel or whatever I am feeling at the time. I change it’s shape depending on the audience to help it resonate.” Chioma has also built a virtual community where younger poets can come together for guidance and help.
Chioma is currently working at the Eagle London Agency as an account handler. They are a black-owned organisation and do considerable work with diversity and inclusion. Chioma noticed a difference working in an organisation that is black-owned. “Obviously whenever you start working somewhere, you’re testing the waters, asking basically, ‘how myself can I be?’ But when the culture is created by black managers and the workplace is diverse, I felt I could just be myself from the beginning.” She explains the importance of this in terms of being able to speak up in meetings, because she feels that confidence is so important to exceling any business.
Although Chioma’s company is diverse, this doesn’t seem to be the norm in her industry as a whole. “At our current agency, whenever we go to industry events, we say it’s like going into a ‘sea of white faces.’ And we’re joking, but it is a serious problem.” Chioma notes that although people tend to encourage adopting a ‘fake it until you make it’ approach in spaces that feel exclusive and isolating, subconsciously you cannot always shake feeling like an anomaly. “Whether it is a conscious decision or not, you cannot not see that there are no other people like you, or not be aware that other people aren’t receiving you like you would want them to.” She also speaks about the imposter syndrome that comes with going into these spaces. “I went into Uni with the perspective that I would always have to work harder than my white counterparts to keep up and be seen.” Chioma explains that this not only led to a feeling of imposter syndrome, but also meant that she was constantly stretching herself in university to make sure she was getting more than enough experience. “It’s ridiculous, because at the end of the day you have the same qualification.”
The root of inclusivity is being seen and being understood. It is hard to assert yourself in any space when you do not feel confident or comfortable enough to do so. “There are a lot of institutional problems and unconscious bias.” With these root problems always present, it makes sense that individuals like Chioma are gravitating more towards diverse environments, workplaces where they can feel confident and just able to be themselves.
Want to keep up to date with Chioma and her work? You can find her here:
LinkedIn : linkedin.com/in/chioma-ikpa