What Black History Month Means To Me

October is Black History Month in the UK and what better year to celebrate this than 2020. The past events of 2020 has shone a light on racism in the US, UK and other parts of the western world including China re its reactions to black people living in China during Covid19.

From the police murder of Gorge Floyd and his last haunting words, “I can’t breathe”, to the white supremacists lynching of Ahmaud Arbery while peacefully jogging on the streets, the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor while sleeping in her own bed, the disproportionate police stop and search of black people during covid19 lockdown in UK to the many Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, 2020 has indeed been that strange year of strange happenings and reckonings too.

It is not unusual for people to ask why we need black history month. My answer is, 11 months of the year is white history month, it is the default history. It is what is taught in our schools every day. White history is the creed and the tenets we are urged to learn and live by every single day of the year. Surely, it is not too much to set aside I month of the year to shine light on the history of black members of our society. It is white history month all year round, just as it is heterosexual history month all year round. I’m definitely happy to officially be able to grab the headlines with my struggles, achievements and celebrations of my whole self at least one month a year. Black History matters too.

Some have argued that celebrating Black History month further divides rather than includes. I’d say the spirit of inclusion would be fostered by the knowledge we stand to gain through engaging in Black History Month. It’s a month we make that extra conscious effort to learn, share experiences and ask questions such as – What are these hidden contributions of black people to world history? Why are Black people so ill-treated? Is Windrush scandal a reflection of disregard of Caribbean people’s contributions to British History? Who are these unsung black inventors, heroes and heroines? What does equality really look like? Why are there so many complaints because Tesco featured a black woman in its advert? Why should Black Lives Matter?

For me, Black History month is a great time to reconnect with my root as a black person, to feel the pain and the triumphs of my people amidst all the racial struggles in this white privileged society I live in.

It is so sad that Black history is not taught in British schools; history, they say, are written by victors and of course, they write it in their own favour. Colonialism and the appalling, inhuman act of 400 years of Trans-Atlantic slave trade set black people back 400 years. Cultures were lost, so many native languages wiped out and people forced to assimilate into a new culture that was deemed ‘superior and civilised’, yet, artefacts looted from my so called ‘uncivilised’ black ancestors adorn the British museum galleries. I hope and wait with bated breath that one day, these artworks that are testaments to the great empires of my black ancestors will be returned to their ancestral lands and be reunited with the descendants of their makers. Black history needs to be taught in all schools at all level. Black children need to know they have black heroes and heroines they can be proud of.

Black history is not just about Slavery. They tell us slaves were taken from Africa. This is not true. PEOPLE were taken from Africa. These people were made into slaves in foreign lands to build the wealth of empires and white slave owners. A stupendous wealth of which descendants of these slave owners still reap from today. The consequences for the descendants of African people that were taken and made into slaves include Racism, low income due to redlining and segregation, economic disparity, police brutality, disproportionate arrests and a loss of identity for many African Americans whose ancestors were displaced. Imagine never being able to trace your root and not knowing the language your ancestors spoke.

So many atrocities have been committed just because one race believed (some still believe) that they are superior to other races. White people need to acknowledge the wrong done when they engaged in trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonisation. Honest discussion about racism, its impact and acknowledging how deep-rooted it is, will pave the way for change.

My heart breaks for every Black/Brown child who has been told that their skin colour is ugly and inferior. We are taught that Black is evil. It is an appalling society that created these divisions and discrimination, and are in one way or the other, still upholding these racist beliefs and systemic /institutionalised racist structures.

The famous Educator and strong white ally, Jane Elliot, conducted an interesting experiment with school children based on eye colour. Pls, google it, everyone should watch it and read about it.

As black children we are told we are not good enough, as adults we face same discrimination at workplaces. They tell us our accent is not good enough, our faces do not fit in leadership positions, we are systematically denied promotions etc. Black History Month affords the opportunity to change the narrative. To remind our black children that they are beautiful just the way they are. To celebrate all that is black in them and about them.

It makes no sense to determine that one person is superior to the other based on their skin colour, yet that is what racism did, what slavery did, what colonialism did. Unfortunately, this is what some still seek to uphold.

Everyone is entitled to human rights and dignity of person regardless of race, skin colour, sex, gender identity, geographical location etc. Human right is an inalienable right; it is not something you give to someone out of the benevolence of your heart. It is sad that we still need to demand, scream, protest for our human rights, in this day and age. White-supremacy or racism of any sort does not belong in any civilised society. A society that thrives on racism does not deserves to be called modern or civilised. We can do better; we must do better.

As a white person, please educate yourself about how deep rooted racism really is and how the system is built to uphold racism. Stop being so defensive when we mention racism. Listen, Learn and Act. Only then can we truly begin to dismantle racism. Listening is great for understanding, Action is important for accountability. I look forward to a better understanding and accountability on racial issues.

Silence is compliance. It is not enough to just not be racist, you need to be anti-racist for progress to be made. It is not enough for white people to say they are not racist; they need to be vocally anti-racist. Every ally, every support, every voice counts.

As Black people, we need to decolonise our history and tell our stories.

To me, Black history month is

My history. My reality.

My Pain. My celebration.

My story to tell.

Your sins, awaiting atonement.

Your conscience, a lifetime to cleanse.

As we celebrate Black History Month in UK –

Think Equality,

Think Freedom.

Think Justice For All.

Stand up to Racism.

Stand up for Black Lives Matter.

It is the logical thing to do. Do not allow racists and xenophobes divide us. There is strength in diversity, together we are stronger. A better world is possible; be part of the solution, not the problem.

 

Black Lives Matter Protest Chelmsford

It was a surprise when I was contacted  on LinkedIn to speak at a Black Lives Mattter protest in my local area, Chelmsford, Essex.

It was a very pleasant surprise because Chelmsford is not exactly known for its Liberal views. It is a conservative city with a white majority and very low black population density. I moved there from London almost 3 years ago and the contrast was shocking even though it is just a 35 minures train ride from Chelmsford to London.

I happily accepted to speak and offered to help the young organisers with the protest. I was sceptical that people might not turn up. I’ve never been so happy to be proved wrong!

The rally was held on Saturday 13 June, 2020 at Central park for speeches followed by a march through the Central areas to Oaklands Park where protesters took a knee for George Floyd.

RMC Event Photography

Chelmsford, thank you for turning out in large numbers to support Black Lives Mattter protest. Special shout out to the young organisers Black Lives Matter – Chelmsford and the young people who attended and marched with passion. It shows there is hope for humanity, the younger generation will do better.

Here is the video of my speech at the protest. #BlackLivesMatter.

Pictures from the event. Some from my camera, some from RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

RMC Event Photography

  1. RMC Event Photographym

    RMC Event Photography

    RMC Event Photography

    RMC Event Photography

    RMC Event Photography

    RMC Event Photography

Your black colleagues are most probably not okay right now

As a migrant black woman living in UK, the events of the past few weeks have left me emotionally drained and mentally exhausted and I can say this is true for my family, my black friends and black colleagues. Many of us are traumatised. Black people all over are distraught by these events, and this includes your black colleagues.

These past few days and weeks, we have seen a black man, George Floyd, being choked to death on camera by a white cop, the very people who are supposed to serve and protect the community. The words “I can’t breathe” send shivers down our spines. It sounds eerily familiar. It is a haunting cry for help and now a rallying cry for justice.

I remember spending the weekend watching videos of white people just being cruel, abusive and derogatory towards black people for no other reason than the colour of their skin.

We were still reeling from the shock of the daylight murder of Ahmaud Arbery who was peacefully jogging on the street when a white man and his son hunted him down and fired shots at him like a wild animal, they killed him and waited by his dead body until the police came. And guess what, the police did not think they had done anything wrong, they went home to celebrate getting rid of another black person in their neighbourhood. It was not until the video of the murder emerged on social media several weeks after that the killers were finally arrested following public outcry.

Just a few weeks ago, Breonna Taylor, a black woman, was shot dead in her own bed by police as she slept. Turned out the police were in the wrong house, the suspect they were looking for was already in police custody. Let that sink in. As a black person, even sleeping peacefully in your own home could still get you murdered by cops.

I have seen video of a white woman calling the cops on a black man in a park while making false allegations against the man. She made sure to emphasise on the phone that the person threatening her life was a black African American. We know what happens when they call cops on black people.

I have watched a white man call the cops on young black men at a residential gym just because they don’t look like they belong there, their skin colours did not fit in the neighbourhood, never mind that they were also renters in the property.

I have watched the video of a white woman call cops on a black woman in the park while making false accusations about her. The sense of entitlement to police black bodies was very evident there.

And let’s not forget the teenager, Trayvon Martin who was murdered on the street by a white vigilante, the boy only had skittles in his pocket. The white man who murdered him said he looked like a demon. His black skin to this racist screamed “Demon”, his black skin screamed “Thug”.

I shed tears when I read the account of Steve Locke, a black professor, who was stopped and searched by cops on the street and treated like a criminal. He was not believed when he said he works at the university few blocks away and just came out to get lunch. They said he looked like a suspect, during the ordeal, he feared for his life, as he should.

All these victims were killed, attacked, dehumanised for one major reason, the colour of their skin. As a black woman, I know any of the victims could have been me. It could have been my son. It could have been my family members, black friends, black colleagues.

I remember walking into the office after a heavy weekend of sadness and anger, thinking, I have to leave that part behind and let it be business as usual in the office. Put on a smile and tell people you had a good weekend because that is what we have learned to do.

However, how do you compartmentalise such pain? It is not as if you can leave your skin colour behind and put on a brand-new identity at work. These issues follow us everywhere; we as black people have just learned over time not to bring that to our workplace especially when it is a white majority workplace. We stand the risk of being labelled the “sensitive aggressive black person” and be told to “get over it”.

Racism kills. It kills us physically. It kills us mentally. It dehumanises our existence. It thrashes our dignity and humanity.

Imagine you were going to work and came across a fatal accident, as a human being, you feel sad. Also, you feel thankful that it wasn’t you or a family member. Now, imagine that the fatal accident was simply due to the colour of the skin of the victim, as a white person, you think, that is sad, you might even think that is bad but you go about your normal duties. However, imagine your black colleagues came across same fatal accident scenario. They feel sad but that is not all, they feel traumatised, devastated and angry. They know the victim could have been them, their black son, black partner, their children, their father, mother, sister, black friends, all because it is targeted at people that look like them. See, we do not feel these racially motivated killings the same way. We know it could definitely be us next. It hits too close to home for black people.

Some might say “but these horrible things only happen in the USA, we are better here in UK”. No, we are not. Most importantly, it is not enough to simply be less racist; the goal is not to be racist at all. We see the way black people are disproportionately stopped and searched on the streets by cops, how black people are disproportionately arrested, how black people die in police custody. We see how black people are portrayed in the media.

In London, Sean Rigg died in police custody in exact same condition as George Floyd. Racism, Racial profiling and police brutality are contributing factors in the deaths of Joy Gardiner, Leon Briggs, Christopher Adler, Rashan Charles, Olaseni Lewis, Stephen Lawrence, Mark Duggan, Dalian Atkinson, Sheku bayoh etc.

As a black person in UK, I have been shouted at in my local shops and on the street to go back home especially following Brexit. I know what it feels like to walk into a store or venue and immediately be made to feel you do not belong there. We have lived this experience; we are living this racist nightmare.

It does not matter whether it is in USA, UK, Germany or China, the ordeal is real and painful. To be judged everyday solely on your skin colour is traumatising. To be deprived of your humanity, dignity, rights and respect because of your race is devastating, infuriating and sad. Being black should not be a death sentence.

To our white colleagues, please know that your black colleagues are not okay right now, acknowledge their pain. Reach out to them, speak out. We have all being watching the news and reading the newspapers, there is no need to pretend we do not know these things are happening. Silence is not the best policy in this case. If we truly want people to be themselves at work, it is important to acknowledge who they are, their total package.

We say Inclusion is not just being invited to a party but also being asked to dance. However, it is not always about the dancing, it is also about sharing the pain. Right now, it does not feel like we live in the same world. I step out from my world and walk into another world every morning I go to work. Yet, I carry with me the trauma, unrecognised, unacknowledged by people who tell me I can be me in my workplace. They tell me that they are serious about Diversity and Inclusion, yet I sit in my corner of the office feeling very isolated in these unfolding global events. How do we feel included when our struggles are not acknowledged or when we are cautious about raising the issues because it could make our white colleagues uncomfortable? Some of us are even afraid to bring up the topic at work for fear of being accused of stirring the pot.

The question is, how can you as a white person be a good ally to your black colleagues?

First you need to sincerely Ask them how they are feeling.

Listen to them, don’t talk over them.

No, it is not the time to tell them you are not racist because you have a black friend or you married a black person. You can do all these and still be very racist.

Educate yourself about race issues. Read about white privilege, structural racism and understand that you as a white person benefits from institutional racism. Pls, do not expect your black colleagues to educate you on racism. We talk enough about this already, it is emotionally draining. We have the talk with our black children, we have the uncomfortable but necessary talk with our black sons to keep them safe. We talk about this on social media, it is exhausting.

Donate to Black Lives Matters groups. Donate to organisations that are committed to combating racism.

Talk about racism with your family and friends. Develop your understanding of the struggles of black people and aim to do better.

Please, do not say you are Colour blind. We live in a world that sees colour. If you do not see my colour, you will not see my struggle. Saying you do not see colour is a cop out. You need to understand that racism is not just an individual thing, it is embedded in the very fabric of our society. We need to do more than sing Kumbaya to disintegrate racism.

It is not enough to be quietly non racist; this is the time to be vocally anti-racist. This is not the time to be silent, this is the time to reach out to your black colleagues and inquire about their wellbeing. Show that you care. Show that they matter.

When we say Black lives matter, pls, do not counter this with All lives matter. Understand that we wouldn’t be saying black lives matter if all lives already matter. White lives have always mattered; we are calling for black lives to matter just as much. As we have been trying to explain to the All Lives matter brigade, if one house was on fire, you wouldn’t insist that the fire fighters spray all the houses on the street, because all houses matter. Your house is not on fire, let’s spray the one on fire. Also, when we raise funds for cancer research, we do not scream All diseases matter. Why do some people think Black Lives matter is a dirty word? If you are one of these who immediately say All Lives matter, you need to take a very deep look at yourself and ask yourself why you are unable to just say Black lives matter. Check your white privilege.

We need to have honest conversations. We should be part of dismantling racism. Let’s do our part. Racism is not going to go away overnight. However, we can chip away at it by doing our part. This can be our legacy when finally, our grandchildren and great grandchildren are truly free from the evils of racism. A better world is possible, it starts with you and me.

Evils of Colonialism, Slavery, Racism and Colourism continue to fuel Poverty and Hate

This video of the strained relationship between Haiti and The Dominican Republic broke my heart, and the comments on the video further tore it apart…and I thought I was over human’s inhumanity to human.

The evils of colonialism, slavery, genocide, racism, xenophobia, colourism and capitalism continue to fuel bile, hatred and unhealthy competition for basic human needs such as food, shelter and freedom to human dignity, which no human should have to compete for in this day and age.

The world has enough to provide basic human needs for everyone, however, sadly we live in a world where 1% of the population own such stupendous wealth that could help eradicate poverty if redistributed to build a better world for all, while the remaining 99% scramble for what is left in a bid to make ends meet.

Unrepentant, non-remorseful former colonial powers would rather put their former colonies in debts than pay repatriation for all the economic, political and human rights abuses they committed against these people they terrorised for decades.

The people who are left to pick up the pieces of their lives are expected to somehow have miraculous super powers to fight their way out of poverty caused by centuries of colonialism, slavery, economic and environmental exploitation, which today are still fuelled by racists policies, xenophobia, colourism, corrupt politicians and contempt for anyone they thought of as below them. it is indeed a sad world we live in.

Treating fellow humans like animals, using sticks on them, denying them basic human rights just because you view them as different than you, denying them employment or treating them unfairly because you are in a position of power speaks volumes about the kind of person you are.

What makes us decent human beings is not measured by how well-spoken or how well dressed we are, it is how we treat people who are less privileged than us, especially when no one is watching. It is not just how we treat them but what we truly think of people we consider different from us because of their race, colour, class, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.

As a black woman who live and work in mostly white dominated areas, it is shocking how different one is treated even by those who would never consider themselves racists but whose conscious or subconscious actions towards me reek of pure discrimination and racism.

Humans, we’ve got a long way to go to be truly an equal society, however every step toward that goal matters. Take a step and several more today towards creating a better world for all and that include your neighbours, colleagues and these immigrants you consciously or subconsciously view as beneath you.

Examine and check your White privilege.

Examine and check your class privilege.

Examine and check your gender privilege.

Examine and check your sexual orientation privilege.

Treat people different than you the way you would want aliens to treat you if they ever came and colonised this planet we call home.