Naomi Smith, Aba Amoah, Khristen Craft and Venus Oghweh set up the Justice For Black Lives demonstration as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. Here, Venus explains why they're protesting in London tomorrow.
“Racism is a daily companion for me. It’s a thought I have whenever I leave my house. I’ve been stopped by the police on my way home from work. I’ve been followed around the supermarket by the security guard. I’ve been targeted when I’ve been out with white friends. For a lot of people who look like me, it feels like the justice system continuously fails us.
And yet, there seems to be an idea in the UK that Black people do not suffer the same scope of racism here compared to the US. Following George Floyd’s murder, I saw people tweeting things like ‘Thank goodness things like that don’t happen in the UK’, and ‘The American police force are brutal’. But you only have to look at Belly Mujinga’s case most recently to know racism is just as prevalent here, too. [The Black Tfl worker died after being spat at by a man who claimed to have coronavirus, but police concluded the attack didn’t lead to her death.]
I need to speak up about the injustice, which is why I decided to help organise the Justice For Black Lives protest. Up to 500 of us will meet in Hyde Park tomorrow (3 June) in a peaceful demonstration, which we hope will act as a foundation for change and help to get the Black Lives Matter message out further within the UK.
It’s difficult timing because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the bottom line is, racism is not going to stop because of lockdown. Racism hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic. It’s still happening – George Floyd’s death has shown us that. So now is the time to act. As people finally wise up to the inequality Black people face, we must use the opportunity to change.s
Of course we’re taking coronavirus precautions and adhering to guidelines the best we can. We’ve fundraised to ensure we can supply everyone with masks and gloves, and will have signs up asking people to go home if they’re experiencing symptoms or if they’re in the shielded category. We’re also implementing a system to help people adhere to social distancing guidelines - you’re only allowed to be in groups of six, two metres apart – and have asked all attendees to self-isolate for two weeks afterwards. We can do our best to stay safe like this, while still taking the opportunity to bring racism to the forefront of people’s minds. We don’t just want to talk, we want to act.
We intend for our demonstration to be peaceful. When you’re very passionate about something and you’re surrounded by people who feel the same energy as you, you can feel triggered - which is when things get violent. Sometimes protestors can understandably feel intimidated by the police, or see them doing something they don’t like, and that can bring on feelings of injustice. But we are encouraging a peaceful atmosphere.
Although there have been some negatives to social media during this time, such as people spreading racial abuse, it’s been overwhelmingly positive for the Black Lives Matter movement. A lot of people who were not aware of the struggles Black people face are finally wising up to cases like George’s, and Belly’s, and it’s also making people check their privilege. A lot of people will say they’re not racist, but they’re not aware of what BLM is about – they won’t acknowledge the step up they’ve had just because of the colour of their skin. Beforehand, they would have never spoken up about Black people having lesser opportunities than them. I hope that changes from here on in, because silence is deadly.
This is why people need to speak out now, and educate themselves on other people’s experiences. We have to teach the next generation about equality, re-evaluate the school system, and change what we consume through the media. The Black man shouldn’t always be the criminal. The white man shouldn’t always be in a position of power. And when people see an injustice, they should speak up about it. We should educate each other about our different cultures, and flag things that we don’t think are right.
I hope this demonstration is the catalyst for change within the UK. This is the beginning of how we are going to gain equality. Protests are made up of people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, races, all with one goal in mind: equality. We bleed the same, we have the same emotions, we should all be treated the same. It’s not Black people against white people: it’s all of us against racism.”
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