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.

 

Time to get uncomfortable; Let’s talk about Racism

It is no news that white colleagues often feel uncomfortable when Black/Brown colleagues talk about racism. They fidget, try to change the subject, subtlety excuse themselves and some see it as a cue to tell us that their best friend is black. What is it about discussing racism that makes white people uncomfortable? Whatever it is, it is time to address this discomfort.

The conversation is a difficult one to have but it must be had. It is a privilege to be able to ignore racism, as a black person, I do not have this luxury. Racism has its ugly knee on my neck, even when I scream “I can’t breathe”, I am told to be silent. The people who benefits from the system which emboldens the perpetrators are the ones quick to say they are uncomfortable, you’d think they are the oppressed with the knee on their necks!

Denial of racism is itself a racist act.  When as a white person, you become annoyed whenever we speak about racism, you are being dismissive of our reality. When you say to us, “but we are nice to you, why do you keep talking about racism”, you need to understand that trying to silence us is an act of microaggression. You might be ‘nice’ to us, you can try to convince us how much you don’t see colour (which itself is problematic), however, we live in a world where we are exposed to some treatments and realities you are protected from because of your race.

Please, understand that this is not about making you feel guilty for being white. It is not necessarily about you; we are not after your guilt. We are opening your eyes to our experiences which you might not be aware of because it does not affect you. It is about creating awareness and demanding change. Look at it as an opportunity to learn and to take an active stance against racism by committing yourself to being a white ally. We want to build a better society and we want you to do your part to make this happen. So, no, we don’t need or want your guilt, we want you to be anti-racist.

Silence is compliance. We live in a society where the voice of a white person is deemed more important and more valued than the voice of someone from a BAME community. White people listen better to other white people on racism than they would black people who actually experience racism every day. This is sad but it is our reality. Therefore, it is important for our white allies to keep educating themselves so they can educate other white people.

Racism hurts and the micro aggression directed towards us in the workplace because of our skin colour, accent, hair and everything that makes us different is extremely sad and painful. As Black/Brown children we are told we are not good enough, as adults we face same discrimination at work, our accent is not good enough, our faces do not fit leadership positions, we are systematically denied promotions etc.

I always say microaggression is one of the worst type of racism out there as it is so easy for the perpetrators to flippantly dismiss it as “it was just a joke” or “You are too sensitive”. As women, society expects us to take small space, as black women, we are even expected to take less space and be “less loud” and “less aggressive”. It is a challenge to be our true self in the workplace especially when our true self is not valued. As a black/Brown person, when we enter a room or try to contribute at a meeting, people assume because of our skin colour and accent, we are less educated and just there as the token BAME to fill the inclusion seat.

I listened to a talk given by a colleague on micro-aggressions where he shared some of the heart-breaking racist experiences he had been subjected to in the workplace.  As a black man with an ‘African’ accent, he was not believed when he mentioned on the phone that he worked for the department. He was advised by his manager to go with a white colleague to verify his identity. He needed a white colleague to verify to another white person that he is legit. This started me thinking about ‘borrowed whiteness’ (for lack of a better term).

Are you aware that as Blacks, we sometimes attempt to ‘borrow’ white privilege from our white friends, spouses, partners? A white colleague mentioned that his Asian partner would hold his hand at airports to borrow his whiteness for protection. It is a scenario I understand very well.

One of my earliest experiences of borrowing whiteness was when I travelled the world as a trade union organiser. When travelling with white colleagues, I was always the only black person in the group. I made sure to stay close to my white comrades, to be associated with them, so I would be looked at less suspiciously. This gave me some sort of protection from being immediately classified as a criminal. I borrowed/hid under their whiteness to be protected from racist gaze and scrutiny, a white privilege they did not even know they possessed because they had never had to consider it.

It is heart-breaking that we need to be associated with the skin of another to afford us protection/validation because our skin colour is considered not good enough. Even at a crime scene, our words are not good enough unless a white person corroborates us. The witness evidence of a single white guy in a crime scene carries more weight than the witness evidence of three black guys at the same crime scene. Ask mothers who have been at the brink of losing their black sons to crimes they did not commit only to be saved at the last minute when a white witness turns up and corroborates what the black witnesses have been saying all along.  This is degrading and dehumanising, this is how systemic racism works.

There are reasons black people do not trust the police, every black person knows a family member or BAME friend who has been a victim of police brutality. There is undisputable evidence that Police use their Stop and Search powers to disproportionately target Blacks. During Covid19 lockdown, 22,000 young black men were stopped and searched in London. We are stereotyped as prone to committing criminal activities, we are deemed guilty before proven innocent, our skin colour used as the damning evidence of our guilt. Even the healthcare system is not immune to this racism. Blacks were used as guinea pigs in medical trials, most times in inhumane conditions, and are still used as guinea pigs to this day. Just a few months ago two French doctors made racists remarks on TV that Coronavirus vaccines should first be tested in Africa. My very first encounter with a GP in UK was steeped in racism and it almost proved fatal. However, that is a story for another day.

Discrimination really hurts. It is painful to be looked at differently with suspicion in a park, supermarkets or departmental store when all you want to do is buy a bottle of perfume. Remember what happened to Leona Lewis and her father? Even as an international superstar, she still experienced racism in a store. Her black skin did not fit the clientele. Her black skin was viewed as criminal, as suspicious, as inferior. I can tell you that Blacks have same experience every day as Leona Lewis and her father.

My sister who recently started an event planning company has become weary when speaking to white customers on the phone. She told me about a recent case where she had been communicating with a white woman via emails and had almost sealed the deal. However, when it was time to complete the transactions on the phone and exchange bank details, the woman was surprised that my sister was Black and asked where she was from. The woman then said she will get back in touch and that was the last she heard from her. Unfortunately, that was just one of such cases since she started her business. She has now put up a beautiful picture of herself on her website dressed in resplendent Nigerian attire. This way, she avoids the hurt that comes with being rejected to your face or deemed not good enough because of your race.

White colleagues, you should take time to reflect on why you are uncomfortable when we bring up racism. Listen, learn and empathise because if you do not put yourself in our shoes you might not understand the pains of Black people whose ancestors were subjected to the worst kind of man’s inhumanity to man and whose descendants are still being treated as less than human by individuals, police and the system.

Some of the things we read on social media make us wonder where our colleagues stand on Racism Some of us, both black and white, lost friends when we voiced our support for Black Lives Matter. Don’t be afraid to take a stance against racism even if you lose childhood friends. Take solace in the fact that your friends’ group is now less racist. Who wants to be friends with racists anyway. You wouldn’t want to be friends with paedophiles even if they were childhood friends, so why make excuses for racists friends who refuse to learn and are easily offended when we challenge racism?

It is sad that we work and live in a society where speaking out about oppression in our workplace is considered a brave thing to do. The fear of repercussion is real, the ostracism that comes with challenging our oppression is a price too high for some of us to pay.  How did we come to this?  Not today; it is centuries of oppressing and silencing black people. I understand just how tempting it is for us as BAME to hide away and not challenge perpetrators. However, in doing so, we gradually lose our voice and wither away.

It is time to have honest conversations no matter how uncomfortable some might find it. White colleagues need to remember that their discomfort is nothing compared to the daily experiences of their black colleagues who live with racism every day. We must hold racists accountable for their actions. We need more than placating words, we demand action.

A society where racism is still rife has no business referring to itself as a modern society. No one is born hating another for the colour of their skin, society taught this hate, society promotes this hate, it is time for us to collectively act to break the chain of this injustice. It is time to be vocally anti-racist. Time to stand up for true change and help build a better, fair and just society where no one is treated as inferior to the other or denied opportunities because of their race or accent.

Finally, pls, understand that Black Lives Matter is not about White vs Black, it is Racism Vs Anti-racist. Where do you stand?

 

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

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    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.

BiNet USA, Bisexual Pride Flag and the questionable Petition

I woke up a few days ago to tweets and feeds on social media that BiNet USA has declared it owns Bisexual Pride Flag and has sent out desist warnings to people and organisations not to use the colours without its approval. I thought, whoa, surely this must be a satirical joke but alas, it wasn’t. BiNet USA dug its grave; what a shameful thing to even think of! BiNet USA should have known the Bisexual flag is bigger than its greed and ego. Well they say Pride comes before a fall. BiNet cowardly deleted their twitter account after going on about owning and trademarking the Bisexual Flag and even threatening people and organisations with lawsuit. It’s a shame that someone with an ill thought out greedy idea has caused pain to many bisexuals who find comfort in the Bisexual flag identity. As a bisexual who is very much proud of the Bisexual pride flag, I say shame on you BiNet USA.

That said, I have seen a petition making the rounds demanding that the President of BiNet USA, Faith Cheltenham, be removed by its board. I certainly do not support going after an individual in this case and I don’t support this petition.

I loathe what BiNet USA did in regards to its appalling claims to Bisexual Pride flag, however, I hold BiNet USA as an Organisation responsible for the claim, the tweets and its fallout actions including targeting bi activists who used the flag on their websites.

This atrocity was carried out in the name of BiNet USA and I fail to see how this was just an individual action. Even its statement was issued as BiNet USA Board’s decision not an individual’s decision. Yet, many just want the black woman President of BiNet USA kicked out.

It’s all well and good when some board members find it convenient to tender their resignation now but where were they when the decision was made? Did they first read about it on twitter? Would they have resigned if there was no public outcry?

This mess was created by BiNet USA and BiNet USA as an organisation should be held responsible. This issue should not be used as a means of settling personal grudges with the president of BiNet USA or any other board members. A more appropriate petition would have been a demand for BiNet USA to apologise for its action.

The President of BiNet USA on her Facebook page identifies as trans-femme Black Bisexual. and I cannot ignore the fact that racism could be a motivating factor in some of the comments I have been reading regarding this issue. There is so much hate and harassment towards Faith Cheltenham, most of it coming from the white bisexual community that it is truly concerning and the race aspect cannot be ignored.

The comments on some threads i have engaged in or stumbled on have been pure vile. Before you send another tweet, post another comment or go on her Facebook page to leave abusive, bullying and harassing comment or reviews, pause and ask yourself, is this really worth it. Remember, no one is taking away your bisexual Bi pride flag, neither Faith Cheltenham nor BiNet USA has the capacity to do it. So, pause, is it worth contributing to the distress of a black trans femme disabled bisexual when she is down? Why pile it on? Two wrongs do not make a right. Show care, show empathy, be angry but don’t be out to physically and emotionally crush someone who has contributed a lot to the visibility of Bisexuals. People can stumble, it is not an opportunity to trample on them. Think carefully about your motive before you send another abusive tweet, review or comment. Is your indignant self-righteousness really worth the physical, mental health of a member of our community, especially one who has dedicated their life to promoting our cause even if they have messed up now? Let’s correct people with care not with hate. Remember, there is a human being behind that screen, be considerate.

I certainly support that bad leadership should be called out. Some people are coming out with some unpleasant, abusive encounters they had with the BiNet USA president in their personal or official capacity many years ago, which is understandable, however, let’s not conflate issues or use this particular opportunity to exert a personal vendetta against an individual.

If the petition was about asking BiNet USA to explain itself and apologise, I’m more than happy to sign and share but I refuse to be party to what appears to be people using this opportunity to settle scores with a black woman they have, rightly or wrongly, issues with.

Toxic leadership should be addressed but again let’s not conflate issues. BiNet USA as an Organisation did something appalling and BiNet as an Organisation has some explaining to do and a sincere apology to give regardless of whether they remove their president or not. It’s not just about Faith Cheltenham, it is about BiNet USA as an Organisation.

Some of these calling for her head have also speculated on her mental health with some saying it so derogatorily, which in and of itself is ableism. I don’t think we are in a position to speculate on the mental health of an individual. If this was even a possibility that is crossing peoples’ mind regarding Faith Cheltenham, is targeting her as an individual a responsible, decent action to take at this point?

If people have been abused by faith (and for the record, I do not know her, and I don’t ever recollect having any interaction with her), they should separate that issue from this particular Bi pride flag issue, otherwise it is just what it is, a personal vendetta.

Some claimed the reason they support the petition to remove Faith as BiNet USA President is because nothing can be done until she is gone. Really? Why must it be until after she is gone? A statement was issued in the name of BiNet USA Board of directors recently yet you insist it’s all about Faith Cheltenham. Sounds very much like personal targeting of an individual to me.

The only interest I have in BiNet USA is for the organisation to apologise for what happened. BiNet USA has a lot of explaining to do as to what led to that awful claim in the first place. It is not just enough for them to wake up tomorrow and say “Yes, we have removed Faith Cheltenham, can we now go back to being in your good books?”. Nope, they need to explain and apologise. It is totally their decision if they wish to remove their President, I will definitely not be signing or sharing a petition to that effect, that is the responsibility of the board of directors.

Also, for people who have reasons to bring complaints against BiNet USA President in her official capacity, they should very well do so, I simply maintain that this should not be conflated with the Bisexual Pride flag issue except in cases where it is specifically related to the flag issue. For example, demanding that a Bi activist who organised a Bi Virtual event remove the bi pride flag from their website, now this is related to this issue, not something done by Faith 3, 4, 5, 10 years ago.

Yes, BiNet USA has doubled down on its claim but it has not apologised, instead it came out with a statement by its Board of Directors that does little to clarify the situation. This is the more reason I think BiNet USA as a whole should be held responsible for this and not just its president, Faith Cheltenham, as this petition seeks to do.

Regardless of other people’s narration of their experiences with the President of BiNet USA in their personal capacity or official capacity, this particular issue is about what BiNet USA said about owning the copyright to Bi Pride Flag and these tweets and statements were made in the name of BiNet USA. If people have grudges with the BiNet USA President aside this particular BiNet USA ridiculous claim to Bi Pride Flag, this is a separate issue and should not be logged in with BiNet USA claim to the Bisexual Pride Flag. BiNet USA made an appalling claim, BiNet USA should not only speak out but apologise for the claim.

BiNet USA action is what I am appalled by, it is what I am reacting to. It is not left for me to tell BiNet USA to kick its President off its board but I can definitely ask BiNet to address the harm it did. Asking BiNet to specifically remove its President is more of personal targeting of an individual than holding BiNet USA to account for its action as an Organisation.

The world is not a great place for many right now, let’s spread love, not hate.

The Deafening Silence of White Privilege

What happened at this conference in the name of entertainment is outrageous, demeaning and reeks of blind white privilege. Unfortunately, some white people never seem to understand that racism is not entertainment. Racism is not Art. Racism is not something you intellectualised or play devil’s advocate with. Re-enacting a slave auction is certainly not something you entertain your mostly white audience with. The oppression of my ancestors is not your entertainment. When I read what happened at this conference in this article, I could not help but fume with anger, and to think there were people defending such appalling behaviour on twitter. You need to read the article to understand why the anger.

A quote from the article that resonates with me –

Slavery is considered an egregious human rights violation, alongside torture. The prohibition of both constitute the only two absolute, fundamental human rights which can never be justified or derogated from. Both can amount to crimes against humanity. This is for a reason. The gravity, horror and the harm of slavery, and its continued legacy, is important to understand–not intellectualised, minimised, sanitised, denied or dismissed as ‘that was in the past’ or ‘nothing to do with us’. The oppressive weight of Whiteness lives on, and its manifestations in individual, institutional, overt and covert, indirect racism are all around us, in us and in our practices. Racism and complicity in racism are always wrong. Racism is brutal. Racism is always an assault. Never entertainment.

It is also sad that most white people who consider themselves as not racist or ‘woke’ just sometimes get it so wrong. Also, it is important to bear in mind that fighting racism is not the sole responsibility of people of colour.

This reaction below was the response of a rather well-meaning white friend when I posted this article on my Facebook page

This is not the time for decorum anymore. Instead of walking out and issuing a statement the next day, why on earth didn’t those who object not stop the auction, physically, and denounce the audience for its passive acceptance of such an outrage? I’m fed up with objecting from the side-lines. If necessary, trash the place by throwing the chairs around. Get in their faces and dominate. It works.

While I was finding the right words to respond to such short-sighted statement from an online friend, another friend chimed in with her well thought out response.

I imagine that people walked out because they felt vulnerable and traumatised. I imagine that a direct response such as the one you describe did not feel available precisely because of the power dynamics and context described in the article. It would have been an option for the members of the majority white audience to take that action. Apparently they chose not to, or didn’t see the need. As white people, it’s on us to challenge racism because we have the privilege to do that. To leave it to those being oppressed to challenge that oppression by themselves is profoundly unfair because they are already vulnerable and traumatised. That’s my understanding anyway.

His response-

I see it in a somewhat different way. Sure some people will feel vulnerable and just want to get out of there. That’s understandable. However if you want to change things then you have to have the courage to challenge other people there and then, that reaction gives leadership so that other people will join you. This particular event is typical of what happens daily in many different forms. It must be met with immediate response and a readiness to escalate. It is not easy to do and often the moment is missed, but is has to be done.

Though to tell the truth, more often than not in the past, to my shame I haven’t reacted quickly enough in the moment. Sometimes it somebody totally unexpected who speaks up and demands solidarity from us all. Thank goodness for them. I suppose we have all experienced that.

When I finally found the words to respond, I wrote-

This is a white privileged view of the situation and very similar to blaming the victim rather than addressing the behaviour of the oppressor,.

You have focused on the reaction of the victim. Very tantamount to asking a rape victim…”but why didn’t you fight back or attack your rapist?”

What you have done here is blame the oppressed for the continued action of the oppressor and for not reacting the way you as a privileged white man would have preferred them to react to their oppression.

What’s wrong with this was actually highlighted in the article. You have failed to take into consideration factors such as shock, power dynamics, class and race privilege and the minority factor amongst other things.

Black people at that conference were in the minority as mentioned in the article, and the article mentioned that in that particular profession, that is the norm, which also translates to, the black people at that conference could probably only attend because they got a sponsorship or part sponsorship so as to not make the conference appear all white. I have seen this in action, I have been a beneficiary of such superficial equality action for conference organisers to look good and to tick the equality monitoring form.
Most probably the black participants were junior colleagues hoping to use such conference to network and climb up the ladder. They do not have the power luxury to start throwing a tantrum and chairs around or grab the microphone to disrupt the event to protest a play that offended them.

Walking out itself was a protest tool they felt comfortable using and I applaud them for taking a stand. They also forfeited their rest hour to come together to draft a response and insisted it was read at the conference the next day.

However, did they get support for the statement from the white audience? Nope. They were met with silence. A loud silence of white privilege who wondered why the black people could be offended by something so entertaining. To them the black people there had no sense of humour, no wonder their ancestors were enslaved.

Look , there was a time when if I was at such a conference I would have jumped on stage and disrupted that event, but that was a younger me. Would this me that is a civil servant do such a thing now? I doubt so. I would walk out, I would silently protest outside if possible, I would draft a statement and insist it be read, same thing they already did. However, I know I wouldn’t jumped on stage to stop the play. Power dynamics, civil service code of conduct, immigrant status, race factor which definitely has and would affect my getting another job or a promotion and the need to pay my Bills are factors that would deter me from reacting in the way you as a white man suggested.

Instead of being angry that the black people did not react aggressively to stop this racism that continue to happen, why not direct that anger to the people that keep doing this act of racism and the white audience who enjoy such and the white audience who maintain a grave silence in the face of such outrageous racism.

In other words, don’t tell people to fight their rapist, tell rapists to stop raping. Tell racists to stop being racists and don’t blame black people for not fighting back the way you as a white man would want them to. Finally, remember fighting and stopping racism is definitely not just the responsibility of the oppressed, it is a collective responsibility and white people needs to take a huge part of the responsibility.

From his response below, it is good to know that he has at least had a rethink

Thanks Yemisi Ilesanmi and****** for your your well considered replies. Yes I am speaking from white privelege. It is a different power dynamic. It means that I can fire back at those who offend me and if necessary go down with all guns blazing. That is a freedom I assume, wrongly as you point out, that every citizen has – no matter their race, gender or sexuality. At any rate that is the ideal, even if doesn’t exist in practice. The accusation of blaming the victims for their non-aggressive reaction rather than focusing on the oppressors – stings – and I shall remember my mistake; though I suspect I shall probably repeat it when I next try to wave the flag for more militant, break-the-limits-of-convention type of action that I am in favour of. In the last few years I have increasingly lost patience for a safe/tolerant/polite approach with my opponents. The Amazon burns, Brexit disaster looms, Trump is doing his stuff, the Tories are about to be re-elected, Racism is so much more overt, Religion is even more unbearable, Fascism manoeuvres into the mainstream and we have only a handful of years left to stop runaway climate change. We are losing, not winning. Whether I have a privileged position or not, my attitude is to slap back. The only real question is how best to carry the majority of the people with us. And in that respect my non-too-subtle approach may be counter-productive. I suspect you both have your own ideas on how, but how does it chime with the times?

It’s good to know that at least they got part of what I was getting at. However, it reiterates the saying-He who wears the shoes knows where it pinches most.

No matter how much white people think they get racism they cannot really feel the tragic impact as Black people who know and understand their history do. Even when I organise equality events , now neatly and ‘conveniently called inclusion events, with white people, I am so conscious of how they only want to speak about the ‘feel good’ part of inclusion which comes with phrases such as “We are all one”, “We all bleed same blood”, “let’s all just get over things and just get along”. However, they get very uncomfortable when words such as white privilege, class differences, race power dynamics are mentioned. Surface equality is not enough to dismantle the power structure of racism. People with the power must learn to speak out against racism and call it out, Afterall their white voices still hold more power that the people affected by racism.

All I ask is that, beware of your white privilege and use your voice when most needed to condemn racism.

Liam Neeson: The face of white privilege and the advert for “Power-walking” as a cure for racism

The confidence of Liam Neeson casually confessing without any prompt that he went out with a weapon for a week looking to kill any black man, without even thinking there might be repercussions, reeks of white privilege. Just imagine if this was a black man confessing to going out every day for a week looking for a random white person to kill, just imagine.

In the interview with UK independent, Liam Neeson said

I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody- I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him.

On Good Morning America, he explained:

I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence, and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had.

The fact that Liam Neeson could confess to this is not really about the bravery, it’s about his cluelessness, about him not even realising a black man, a Muslim, an Asian man cannot just casually confess to this without serious repercussion , and not just from an angry populace on social media, but from the legal arm of government, starting with a knock, if not a kick , at his door from police officers ready to haul his black ass in for questioning for planning terrorist attacks. Liam Neeson is blissfully oblivious to this, Afterall it is normal primordial urge to want to murder black bastards, he really deserves a cookie for overcoming this very normal urge through power-walking 2 hours a day for a few weeks. Talk about white privilege!

Well, the power-walking worked, until he suddenly felt the need to refer to black people as “black bastard” during an interview, a case of repressed racism bursting out to show his inner racist, perhaps? Why on earth did he use that racist term and tone in that interview? Maybe we have the power-walking to thank for his not adding to the long list of black men who were killed and lynched by white men just because they can, think Emmett Louis Till, and all the black men that were lynched under the guise of protecting white women’s honour.

To all white people defending Liam Neeson, keep doing so, you are showing your low-key racism. Hand Liam a medal for his ‘bravery’, give him a cookie because we live in a society where it is such a heroic thing to no longer feel the primal urge to murder any member of a whole race for the alleged crime of a member of that race, and when that race is black people, damn, give that man an extra cookie…what restraint he showed!

It is one thing for Liam Neeson to acknowledge that it was wrong for him to try to seek revenge on behalf of a friend, but he never acknowledged it was racist of him to want to machete, in his own word. a “black bastard” to death. What Liam portrayed in that interview and what he continued to miss in the nonpoplogy, ‘I am the Victim here’ interview he later granted on Good Morning America, was that while he acknowledged that wanting to take Revenge is not the solution, he failed to acknowledge that his rage for revenge was further fuelled by the skin colour of his friend’s alleged rapist. Why was he concerned about the colour of the rapist anyway? Why did he not ask for the age or height of this alleged rapist and why didn’t he feel the urge to hunt down any man of same age and height? If she had said the rapist was white, would he really have gone out every week to look for a white man to kill?

His rage to want to lynch any black man to protect or avenge the honour of a white woman is one that is unfortunately very much entrenched in black history as one of the horrors committed by white people against black people. This horror is not a distant, past memory, this white man’s fantasy for black lynching still lives with us today. Remember Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman’s confession of seeing a young black boy walking on a white populated street, and immediately thinking he was a demon. Zimmerman admitted he saw a demon, not a human being, not a young boy, but because of the boy’s skin colour, what he saw was a demon and that cost Trayvon Martin his young life. Liam Neeson’s casual confession while promoting his revenge themed movie, is tasteless and even more so was his attempt to convince us he is not racist on a day that would have been the 24th birthday of Trayvon Martin who was murdered by a white man with same urge as Liam Neeson, to kill a black man, any black person. Only George Zimmerman did murder, he got away with it, and till date, has no remorse.

Liam Neeson has obviously not identified the Hate crime element in his confession. It is impossible to acknowledge and deal with something when you have not even realised it is a problem. After one week of going out 4 to 5 days to hunt down any “Black bastard”, he finally realised his primal urge was wrong, but did he realise it was a hate crime? Didn’t sound like it.

Did he realised just how much hurt based on real lived experiences his confession brought black people, myself included? It is a confirmation of what we as black people already know, we are not fully seen as humans of same status by many white people. We still have every reason to have that doubt, even if it’s the tiniest doubt, about how a white person truly sees us, no matter how open minded or progressive the white person claims to be. Liam Neeson’s confession confirms what we as black people have always known, we are not safe, hence why we march with the placards ‘BlackLivesMatter’, why we bend a knee during national anthems, why we use the hashtags BlackLivesMatter.

In this Black history month, Liam Neeson has unintentionally reminded us that we are not safe, that we can be the target of hate crime just because of our skin colour, that we are easily demonised because white people painted the devil and all that is evil in black colour. If Black is the face of evil, it is perfectly understandable when white men see evil when they see a black man.

Liam Neeson claimed-

I was trying to show honour, to stand up for my dear friend in this terribly medieval fashion.

If every black person went out to take revenge for what white people did to us, our families and dearest black friends, there wouldn’t be any white person alive today. Yet they tell us it was all in the past, that we should move on, if only they would let us truly move on and not have to live with their everyday racism.

London Pride 2018: Pride Matters

London Pride 2018 took place on July 7 in central London with the theme ‘Pride Matters’. Even though I now live in Essex, London Pride is one Pride I always look forward to.

Hello from London Pride. Flying the rainbow flag and the bisexual flag with Pride. Love Not Hate

Unfortunately, this year’s London Pride Parade was hijacked by a small group of Anti-Trans women who forced their way to the front of the parade, and force-led the parade. The transphobic group of about 10 lay down in front of the parade, shouting anti-trans slogans, and wouldn’t let the parade move. I wouldn’t bother to relate their transphobic messages here because I won’t be an indirect vessel to spread their hate messages. The transphobes disrupted and held up the start of the parade. The organisers finally gave in and allowed them to lead the parade. They marched right in front of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who was supposed to lead the parade. They held their Anti-Trans banners and distributed their transphobic leaflets. The organisers cited the hot weather for their decision to give in to the Anti-Trans group. I wished they had not given in and instead found a way to get the small group out of the parade. Big shame to the Anti-Trans group, they are a disgrace to the entire LGBT community.

Also, Britain’s largest LGBT organisation, Stonewall, stayed away from London Pride this year to protest the racism problem within the LGBT community.

A Stonewall spokesperson said:

We know this is an event that’s important to many in our communities and very much hope to attend in future years.

However last year, Pride in London’s community advisory board again raised concerns about the lack of diversity and inclusion at Pride in London – particularly of black and minority ethnic communities.

Pride in London rejected those concerns from the community in the strongest terms and, as yet, have failed to make any public acknowledgement that they may need to make significant changes if Pride in London is to be an event for everyone.

Racism is still very rife within the LGBT community in Britain. This did not come as a shock to LGBT PoC as we have been saying this for so long. It is really sad that those who are members of an oppressed group are sometimes themselves perpetrators of oppression against other vulnerable groups, when they are in position of power and have the privilege.

Aside from the unfortunate transphobic disruption at the parade, and the noticeable absence of Stonewall, London Pride was a spectacular event to behold. The parade was fun and colourful, and the entertainment at the London Pride stage at Trafalgar square was good. However, we do need more diverse entertainers to be featured to better represent the diversity in London and its LGBT community.

I did not march in the parade this year, but I did move around, cheered the parade on and mingled with the beautiful crowd.

Enjoy my pics, narratives, videos, dancing and awful singing!

I met some really lovely people from all corners of the globe at London Pride, however, this beautiful lady I met on the tube on my way to Pride. She was sitting opposite me and gave me a lovely smile. We looked up and smiled at each other at intervals. We got off at the same stop, outside Charing Cross station, she walked up to me and said ” I wanted to tell you on the train but couldn’t. You look beautiful, I love your make up. It is amazing”. I’ve been paid compliments before but from her it just kind of felt so sincere and heartfelt, and I am not really great at doing my makeup. I thanked her, told her she looked fabulous and asked if she was going to Pride, she said unfortunately not as she has to be somewhere else now. I asked if I could take her pic and share and she obliged. I love the diversity in London. This is why I miss London. This lovely lady with her beautiful smile kick-start a beautiful Pride for me. Thank you, my beautiful stranger on the tube for your lovely words.

This lovely gentleman offered me a seat when I was looking for somewhere to relax my tired feet during Pride. We ended up exchanging mints, sweets, wristbands and we shared our experiences of London Pride, and we gossiped. He sure was great company. Making friends across borders at Pride because Love knows no borders. Love Not Hate.

Ah, he photobombed my pic with his Usain Bolt move. Can’t really be angry at a bro for that now, can I? Made the pic all the more interesting.

He is so adorable! He joined me for a pic, when I did the back to back pose he said “Ah, we are doing the back to back now” and he proceeded to strike a pose, several poses. Surely, this bro couldn’t be outdone in the ‘strike a pose’ department!

Oh yes, Bisexuals are not confused, we just have the amazing capacity to love and be emotionally and sexually attracted to same and other genders. Hurray, for Genderless Love! Bisexuals are simply Bifabulous, we rock at Pride!

Flying high amongst the beautiful colours of the Rainbow in my Superpower bisexual cape. Bisexuals are not greedy, we are just Superheroes with the ability to love, be sexually or emotionally attracted to same and other genders. Our Love is genderless. Wrapped in the genderless love of the Bisexual flag. Love Not Hate.

These beautiful, lovely ladies gave me their beautiful rainbow adornment to wear and took my pics at London Pride. Then I asked them for a selfie together. This is the spirit of London Pride that I love so much. Let’s foster Love and friendship cos Love knows no borders, we are one.

Queens make Prides rock.

Jesus came to party at London Pride. It’s his Pride too, after all he was Bisexual…what with all that playing the field with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, while always hanging out with 12 hot men. Jesus was seriously ahead of the game. No discrimination was his motto. So, we hung out at Pride and took a pic.

Funny how this pic and my caption caused such upheaval in my home country Nigeria and ended up trending in Nigeria. I woke up to messages next day from family members, friends and enemies alike, telling me I was trending on the social/gossip blogs in Nigeria. Turned out enraged Nigerian Christians and anti LGBTs were cursing me out and calling for my head on a spike, for daring to associate their beloved white, blue-eyed Jesus with my ‘gay’ (or is it Bisexual?) agenda! Good thing I don’t read these blogs, and I do pity these who do. To think some of them had the guts to harass my family members with calls and messages! Ah, well, curses and threats for daring to live openly as an atheist and bisexual Nigerian? What else is new! If anything, I was concerned about how unbothered I was by these nasty blog sites and the nasty comments directed at me. The level of ignorance, religious fuelled hate, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and open threats of causing harm to another based on religion and sexual orientation just left me numb. It is sadly the norm. My people are living proof that ignorance fuels hate, and hate leads to violence.

Love goes the distance. Love knows no borders. Love does not discriminate. Love is the wheel we need to move towards a better world for all. Love is Love. Spread Love Not Hate.

There is enough room in the sky for all colours of the rainbow and more to shine and thrive. Diversity is the spice of life, fly and support the rainbow with Pride.

 

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