West London rapper, AJ Tracey, has braced himself for criticism. He has always received negative comments, feeling like every action he has ever done is looked upon poorly. Despite this, he remains hopeful as he announces the launch of The AJ Tracey Fund aimed at boosting underrepresented Black students academic success at Oxford University. The fund covers financial assistance and mentorship opportunities in collaboration with St Peters College. It aims to address the historic underrepresentation of Black students at the top UK university.
Although it seems like a remarkable initiative that could transform lives, Tracey dreads the backlash that could come with it. Recently, fellow rapper Stormzy announced a scholarship program for Black students at Cambridge, which sparked controversy following accusations of racism and anti-white behavior by trolls. Tracey says its crazy and that many peoples misinformed, uneducated views will always prevail. Tracey explains that people from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds need a higher level of support to level the playing field, as the entire society caters to whites.
Growing up in Ladbroke Grove, one of Londons most unequal areas, Tracey viewed attending Oxford or Cambridge as an out-of-reach fantasy. He believes he had the potential to get in, but, unfortunately, poverty and ethnicity make it challenging to gain acceptance. Oxford and Cambridge turned down Black girls from his school who had some of the highest grades. As such, Tracey only attended London Met, where he studied criminology before dropping out to pursue his music career.
The AJ Tracey Fund is his way of helping young people to achieve their potential. While the programs criteria are quite vague, Tracey assures that it is aimed towards helping ethnic minority students through Oxford. He plans to donate £40,000 annually for the first three years, after which it will be reviewed. The hope is that his story and initiative will inspire people from similar backgrounds to chase their dreams, pursue higher education and realize their potential. He envisions also doing outreach work in underprivileged communities to ensure bright kids dont miss out on opportunities because of limited resources and financial constraints.
AJ Tracey chose to work with St Peter’s College due to its unique history of admitting Black undergraduates since its establishment in 1929. The college has a mission to increase diversity and create opportunities for students from mixed backgrounds. For Tracey, it was an obvious choice to support this cause. He did not want to randomly donate his money without knowing the impact of his contributions.
Judith Buchanan, the head of the college, expressed her excitement about having AJ Tracey involved in their efforts. She hopes that with his support, more Black students will thrive and succeed during their time at Oxford.
Tracey is optimistic about the funds potential impact. He believes that if even one student benefits from the fund, it would be considered a success. He imagines that one of these students may even become Prime Minister and look back on their time at Oxford and attribute their success to the aid of the AJ Tracey fund.
In addition to helping individuals, Tracey wants to positively impact the culture at Oxford by contributing to discussions on the curriculum and the removal of statues of British imperialists like Cecil Rhodes. He wants to gauge how Black students feel about these issues and make a difference from within the establishment rather than being an outside voice.