I am tired of being tired. I am tired in a way that pervades all that I am. At a time when hundreds of thousands have died from Covid, a pandemic that is killing black people at a disproportionate rate, we are forced to watch as the pandemic of racism takes BLACK lives all around the world.
I was recently told by a white English man that England is not America and we should be ‘grateful for how far the country has come since the 50s’. I was not born in the 1950s, but as a child at school in the early 90s (40 years after the proclaimed long way that the country has come) I was called a baboon and a monkey by my peers. Was asked if I really lived in the jungle and faced physical violence simply because of the colour of my skin. Time has passed but we have not come a long way. Just this month, we saw a plane fly a ‘white lives matter’ banner over a football stadium mid-match.
So I will not listen to someone who has not experienced racism, tell me how great and fair England is and so much better than America. Racism cannot be quantified or excused by comparing countries. Racism is not a multiple choice question. I do not want to hear your excuses for why you think your racism is ok or justified, I am too tired of that.
I am tired of having to bare witness to the countless lives lost as a direct result of racism. On the 10th June 2020 the guardian asked Want to make the UK less racist? And provided their suggestions of twenty positive ways to bring about lasting change.
I am tired of seeing so many black people killed because their lives are not given the value and protection that they deserve.
Each one hurts just as much as the last. It’s endless. The wound deep and forever open. Our blood spilled and running is never enough for them, but for me one drop spilled is too much! The necessity of having to film each brutality just to prove this barbarity is happening because our words are not sufficient, leaves these tragic images etched on my mind.
I AM TIRED.…
For every day adds to the pain. Earlier this week I was asked how I manage to get up each day and keep fighting. This person wanted to know how I do it. I am just as tired as the next person. It is exhausting to have to fight a daily battle whether you choose to or not. It gets to me, and I don’t know how to stop that, or if I would, should I could. I am just as affected by all the news headlines and the negativity that has permeated much of 2020. If the news isn’t reporting another disproportionate death of another black or ethnic minority person due to Covid, then the headlines are encumbered with the heavy load of deaths related to police violence and brutality. The UK is not spared from these prejudices or headlines. I awoke to news that two Met officers were arrested over selfies they took and circulated with the corpses of two black female murder victims. I am not sure why these officers are being afforded the protection of anonymity when any other adult suspected criminal in the UK is not afforded the same.
I AM WEARY….
This all gets to me. I won’t ever pretend that it doesn’t. I am as human as anyone else.
I am weary from a life time of having to deal with this. To me, we have not come a long way. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Ignoring it will not make it go away. It is not beneficial to “sit back and watch, to see if the government makes changes”. We “watched” as institutional racism in the Metropolitan police force resulted in it taking 19 years for a conviction in the case of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. We have “watched” as the Windrush scandal occurred and still carries on. We “watched” as the Grenfell fire burned for 60 hours, claiming countless lives, and watch still as the government makes paltry excuses and gives empty promises. We have “watched” as the government transparently reports some of the equality or more accurately inequality statistics. We see that watching in history has done nothing for us. No one suggested watching World War 2 to see what happens, instead allies were sought to help end it. You are racist to suggest that Black people should “sit back and watch” as we are killed and disproportionately targeted in all areas of life. Maligned, racially abused, and KILLED because of the colour of our skin.
I am tired. I am weary. BUT I AM NOT GIVING UP. I ask that you do not either, let’s make a difference together. I do not have the solution for such a multifaceted problem. I believe that education is a necessary tool in helping to eradicate racism, and because of that I launched a petition. I hope that you will support me in clicking the link below and not only signing the petition but sharing it too!
Today is a celebratory day, and it should be recognised as that. Happy Windrush day! It isn’t something that has been celebrated or acknowledged in recent history. First introduced on the 22nd June 2018 after a successful campaign by Patrick Vernon, it is not a bank holiday but instead an observed day.
Today we celebrate the Caribbean community and the contribution that they made to post World War Two England. The Second World War left a void in many areas of the economy. A call was made to the commonwealth citizens to help rebuild the community and adverts placed around the Caribbean islands was answered by many.
As mentioned before. My mother was a Windrush child. My grandfather came over first, worked hard and eventually sent for my mother and my great-grandmother (his mother).
She came over with her grandmother and some of her cousins. She barely spoke English when she arrived, faced bullying, harassment and extreme racism, something I grew up hearing stories of.
My father came over after immigration adjustments were made to curb in the influx of commonwealth citizens to the UK, on a student visa. He studied at University to become a nurse. He was still training when he met my mother, who had not yet embarked on her own NHS career and was working as a clerk typist for a travel agency in London. They met at All Nations nightclub on the 16th April 1977. The rest, as they say, is history.
Post-War Britain found plenty of work within various industries, not just the National Health Service but also British Rail etc.
Like my mother, although encouraged to come to the UK with immigration campaigns by the government, many were subjected to great prejudice and extreme racism. The 1958 attacks in Notting Hill London, led to the first Caribbean Carnival on the 30th January 1959. A celebration of what is it to be Caribbean, and what would later become the Notting Hill Carnival that still carries on today.
So today I would like to show my own gratitude and appreciation for the Windrush generation, the sacrifices they made and the hardships they went through while assisting post-war Britain.
‘Why do I care?’ Is a question that I have been asked a lot in the last few weeks. It honestly isn’t one that I was expecting to get asked or have to answer.
First and foremost I care because I am HUMAN.
You will have heard me say Black is Black and no man is an island. Those are statements that I stand by and I hope that my actions speak just as loud if not louder than my words. To me, a part of being human means to feel and to care. But I wanted to see what others thought being human meant. I took to google and stumbled across a few different websites that let people state what being human means to them in under 140 characters.
Whilst some of these answers were great, it left me still with questions. History has show us that at times (and even now) we have viewed many humans as less than. Women were treated as second class citizens for much of history and still fight for equal rights, equal pay etc today. What does it mean to be human? Is a hard question to answer. I am not the first person and wont be the last, people have been asking this for over 300 years. Before I digress any further I will simply note that I always strive to be a contributing member of society and one of the ways I demonstrate this is with my care and concern for those around me.
I care because I have been on the receiving end of prejudice and racism my entire life. I hope that I can help make changes that will benefit this generation and future ones to ensure that they do not have to go through some of the same experiences that I have. This is the main motivation behind my parliament petition:
I hope that you will click the link and help make a difference and be part of the solution.
I am not new to this, nor do I seek to throw shade on those who are just now taking the time to educate themselves and show support. Divided we fall but united we stand! There is power in unity and unity is necessary to effect change. 10 years ago I asked my friends “If I told you I was in a Newspaper what would you think I was in it for?” And by the second answer you can see I have ALWAYS cared. I have been volunteering and mentoring since I was a teenager, as an adult I have continued with this, including volunteering at the 2012 Olympics. I know I can do more and do better, so I intend to make more time for that. This is just the start.
WHY DO I CARE?
I care because it’s my prerogative to do so. I care because I have been given a gift and I don’t want to lose it again by wasting it. I care because I love. You have heard me reflect on the tough love of a Black parent as I also proclaimed that my love is not tough. It isn’t, I am first to admit that I am soft hearted. I want better for everyone and I believe that starts with YOU and I. Be the change that you want to see. So next time you think to ask someone why they care, I ask that you reflect inwards instead and ask yourself, “Why don’t YOU?”
If you know me, you’ll know that I often give nicknames out to people I care for and about. It Is very rare that people give me one back in return, maybe hypocritical, but I’m not the biggest fan and always go by Kristina. More time ‘Kristina with a K’, is my introduction, one that I only got a reprieve from when working with Scandinavia.
I was given the nickname Casper, by a good friends now husband, during university. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that I was always ghost (aka not around) unless I was needed. The same still rings true today. I am not one for the limelight or to be centre of attention. One of the hardest things to acknowledge with speaking up and speaking out on Racism in the UK was that I had to be present and front and centre. Publishing a petition, and my daily article comes with an element of exposure that I would prefer to have avoided if I could.
But I am aware that this is not a situation for me to ghost and instead it is necessary to put a face to this, my face! I have mentioned previously that my petition was initially met with a lot of resistance union first release. From the black community, which was the biggest surprise and whilst this shocked me I understood that many did not understand me or the motivation behind the petition or what I hoped to achieve. This led to me writing and publishing my PSA – In the words of Jay-Z…..Allow me to reintroduce myself! A necessity that has proven helpful in assisting people to understand who I am, where I come from and why I care.
Resistance didn’t only come from my community. I was attacked on social media (both Twitter and Instagram) by racists. I expected this going and choose not to focus on the negative. For every 5-10 people that send me racial abuse, there is one who has read my work and thanked me in return for letting them “walk in my shoes”.
What I thought was my biggest challenge was my petition initially getting rejected by the House of Commons Petitions Committee on the grounds that they “can’t accept new petitions that make the same request as an existing petition”. I was pointed in the direction of some other petitions that they deemed the same as my own (all of which I have signed) but one closed door does not deter me and I published my OPEN LETTER TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS PETITION COMMITTEE in the hopes to help them better understand how my petition was unique and not a repetition of anything already out there. I was shocked to learn that they had read my words, understood my perspective and were reversing their decision to reject. Something I reflect on in The power of one voice…the courage of one person.
I am Casper the friendly ghost, and I am self aware enough to stand up and admit this. My preference would be to stay in the background, and I explored options that may have allowed for this to no avail. I am not doing this to become famous, the very idea of that being a consequence of all of this is rather abhorrent. To anyone thinking that is the purpose, I hope you will take some time to read some of the linked articles in this post. During correspondence with the House of Commons Petition Committee, they asked me to confirm I was happy to publish my own personal experience along with my name. I, like many of you saw the backlash and controversy sparked by Nickelodeon’s “I Can’t Breathe” Commercial. My very experience at the age of 5, shows that even when we don’t understand Racism, Black children are still victims of it. Many of these behaviours and words are learned and should be challenged and addressed as soon as they appear.
At the start of all of this I posted on my socials with a genuine question asking people “what did you do?” When they were at the receiving end of racism. It is a question I also asked myself, as I pondered the best ways for me to help. I acknowledge that my writing is a gift, and I will continue to use it as such. Ive taken it for granted in the past, and although I wrote my first ‘story book’ aged five and my first two full novels two years ago, I am aware I did not use it as I could and should. It is hard to ask yourself “what did you do?” And face the potential response that you have done nothing. I watched with great interest when Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the board and urged the seat to be filled by a Black person. He too had asked himself “What did you do?’ And wanted to have a concrete answer should his Black daughter one day ask him the same question.
I am not getting paid to campaign for better rights for Black people, I do it because I care. My hope is that if anyone ever asks me in the future “What did you do?” I can answer that I did everything I could, that I gave my best with the confidence that it was enough. My heart is clean and there are no stains on my soul.
You have heard me say “no man is an island”. It is a favourite saying of mine and one which I would like to recognise now. No man is an island. I may have started this journey alone, but I urge all of you to join me. I cannot do this alone, nor do I want to. If you have learnt anything about me thus far, it is that I will not give up. I would like for you all to not give up either. Please help me make a better society for this generation and the next. Racism is multi-faceted, and there is no right or wrong way to address it. It may be attacked from all angles but I believe a big part of that is education and re-education.
SIGN THE PETITION. SHARE THE PETITION. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION WITH ME AND NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM.
Being Black is not a contact sport! That statement, along with Black Lives Matter, isn’t one that I should still have to be saying in 2020. However, it is apparent from both past and recent incidents, news and comments that both statements still need to be not only said but shouted. You did not put that life on this Earth, and even if you did, it is not your right or place to take it. The idea that the colour of a person’s skin can determine how they are treated is an abhorrent but harsh reality of today’s society.
The recent increase in Black Lives Matter protests around the world has revealed more of the many racists amongst us. After the tragic murder of George Floyd, people were vocal from both ends of the spectrum. We had many people, rightly disgusted by the actions of the police that led to his murder, many more called out the names of others who had lost their lives as a direct result of racism and this loathsome idea that us being Black gives you permission to use undue violence and force against us. At the other end, we have the misguided who have an unshakeable talent of being able to justify all of the murders we have seen with blanket statements like “Has anyone mentioned that the police will leave you alone if you don’t do illegal stuff?”
It is from statements such as this that it is clear to see being Black makes normal everyday activities illegal. Lets take a look back at some of the “illegal stuff” that black people have been doing that caused the police or others to murder them:
“Unarmed. And dead.
TRAYVON MARTIN (Walking home with iced tea and Skittles. Shot by George Zinneman, who was found not guilty.)
KEITH SCOTT (Sitting in car, reading. Shot by police officer, who was not charged.)
ATATIANA JEFFERSON (Looking out her window, shot by police officer, who is still under indictment for murder.)
JONATHAN FERRELL (Asking for help after auto accident. Shot twelve times by police, case ended in mistrial.)
JORDAN EDWARDS (Riding in a car. Shot in the back of the head by police officer, who was found guilty of murder.)
STEPHON CLARK (Holdng a cel phone. Shot 8 times, 6 in the back. Officers not charged.)
AMADOU DIALLO (While taking out wallet, officers fired 41 shots by four officers, who were all acquitted.)
RENISHA MCBRIDE (Auto accident, knocked on door for help. Homeowner was found guilty of second-degree murder.)
TAMIR RICE (Playing with toy gun, shot by police officer arriving on scene. Officer was not charged.
SEAN BELL (Hosting a bachelor party, 50 rounds fired by police officers, who were found not guilty of charges.)
WALTER SCOTT (Pulled over for brake light, shot in the back by police officer, who pleaded guilty to civil rights violations.)
PHILANDO CASTILE (Pulled over in car, told officer he had a legally registered weapon in car. Officer acquitted of all charges.)
AIYANA JONES (Sleeping, accidentally shot by officer in a raid on wrong apartment. Officer cleared of all charges.)
TERRENCE CRUTCHER (Disabled vehicle, shot by police officer, who was found not guilty of manslaughter.)
ALTON STERLING (Selling CDs, shot at close range while being arrested. No charges filed.)
FREDDIE GRAY (Beaten to death by officers while being transported in police van. All officers involved were acquitted.)
JOHN CRAWFORD (Shopping at WalMart, holding a BB gun on sale, police officer was not charged.)
MICHAEL BROWN (Shot by twelve times by officer, including in the back. No charges filed.)
JORDAN DAVIS (Killed because he was playing loud music. Shooter found guilty of first-degree murder.)
SANDRA BLAND (Pulled over for traffic ticket, tasered and arrested. Suspicious “suicide” while in jail. No charges.)
BOTHAM JEAN (Shot at home, which police officer mistook for her own. Officer found guilty of murder.)
OSCAR GRANT (Handcuffed and face-down, officer shot him in the back. Officer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.)
COREY JONES (Waiting by his disabled vehicle, was shot three times by police officer, who was found guilty of murder.)
AHMAUD AUBREY (Jogging, shot by two men who claimed they suspected him of burglaries. Both men charged with murder and aggravated assault- Chyna Smith #unarmedanddead #BLM
Sadly this is only a small sample of some of the lives lost. Many of the murderers are still free and have never been charged. The seems to be a gross insensitivity to these cases, cases that are coming through at a greater frequency by the day. The police, its systemic and institutional racisms, are a part of the problem but not the sum of it. Until everyone is held accountable for their actions, and lack of action nothing will change. Black people are being targeted and killed by a racist cross platform of society. We should be equally outraged by every case that we see and not allow the amount of incidents to weigh us down and push us towards becoming desensitised (easier said then done in many a case).
In another display of the lack of value placed on Black lives we have seen the rise in a spate of lynchings across America, with police forces and medical examiners in the states where they have happened classifying them as suspected suicides.
The Cambridge dictionary defines lynching as ‘the act of killing someone without a legaltrial, usually by hanging (= killing using a rope around the neck)’. Lynchings were prevalent in pre and post American civil war, with the first recorded lynching being that of McIntosh, a black man in St. Louis in 1835, who was hung by a deputy sheriff in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people. It is not a coincidence that we are seeing this happen now and we must speak up, refuse the verdicts of suicide and demand answers and justice.
Closer to home, we are dealing with similar issues. The argument that our police don’t have guns like in America (some do) has not stopped Black British people from being killed by the police. The Guardian published an article earlier this month called A black man’s life is not valued’: attack on year-long delay of UK police death inquiry which took a look into the deaths of black people in police custody. In the UK black people account for 3% of the population but 8% of deaths in custody. We are being disproportionately targeted. I have seen many comments on social media where black people are being told to stop with our “victim mentalities”, I myself have been the target of such comments. This gross ignorance that it is only our ancestors that dealt with racism, prejudice and discrimination is what will allow the same system to continue.
As we look at those accountable in the actions that led to the riots, we must also hold the UK press accountable too. As reported but the society pages, “A Google search for [Mark’s] name offers a glimpse into the many faces of Duggan, as uploaded by the media.” We saw first hand the bias of the press and the effects that the choice of image they picked to print had.
The cropping of pictures of him paying respects at a gravesite commemorating his deceased daughter was not without intention and often accompanied articles that vilified him.
The killing of black people at the hands of police or in police custody is not new. Smiley Culture died on the 15th March 2011, during a police raid at his home. His murder, was ruled as a suicide following an inquest. The investigation of his death by the IPCC was not made public nor made available to his family, something that smacks of cover up and needs to change. This was nearly 5 months before the killing of Mark Duggan and the riots we saw as a consequence. But the black community has a history of discontent with the UK police. The 1981 Brixton riots, was the result of a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Brixton, South London, England, from the 10th – 12th April 1981. The peak of which, the 11th April, saw 279 injuries to the police and 45 injuries to members of public and was later dubbed “Bloody Saturday” by Time magazine and labelling it as “The country’s worst race riot”.
The BBC took a look back at the riots and asked Brixton riots 30 years on: What has changed? Noting ‘Three decades, one inquiry and the Stephen Lawrence scandal separate us from the Brixton riots and asking “Where are we now?”’ During a Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) meeting, there was calls for more engagement with IPCC investigations. Peter Bleksley, a young Met officer at the times of the riots recalled in a BBC Radio 4 interview that “Young black men in Brixton were routinely fitted up, beaten up, tortured” and worse “I was turned from a pretty decent 18-year-old into a violent, racist thug.”
Mr. Butts who was 9 years old at the time of the riots notes “I was already aware of the way police treated the black community. I was brought up to know it was my responsibility to watch interaction between police and a black person – so I could be a pair of eyes and recount what happened as a witness.” Recent years have seen Brixton become a victim of gentrification, much like many other minority ethnic areas of London so I am skeptical as I read that. “much has changed” merely because data and statistics still show that between April 2018 and March 2019, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black people. And that the Black African, Black Caribbean and Other Black groups consistently had the highest rates. We are also still seeing cases of Black people being killed while in police custody, with Simeon Francis, 35, ‘found’ unresponsive in his cell at Torquay police station and later pronounced dead on the 20th May 2020, 17 hours and 15 minutes after police had arrested him in Exeter. He died in police custody and this is not something that can be swept under the rug, we demand answers and justice for Simeon!
I don’t have the answers of how to solve this multi-faceted issue, nor do I claim to. I simply ask that you do not treat us being black as an excuse to use undue violence against us. BLACK IS NOT A CONTACT SPORT. We are not here for you to treat this way. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
There is much damage in the assumption that a black woman cannot be passionate about anything without being labelled as ‘angry’. We are repeatedly labelled as this in the media, and by our peers for purely speaking up and having conviction with it. We are seen as aggressive if God forbid we oppose any of the negative actions directed towards us. This is a toxic stereotype and one that has been discussed plenty in the press, journals and literature; yet it is still allowed to reign free today.
The Cambridge dictionary describes a stereotype as “a set idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong” This can be racial or sexual amongst others. In this case I maintain that, it is only black women and not women of other races that get labelled as angry when they are passionate or over zealous about anything.
Black female celebrities are constantly having to overcome this unnecessary label. An article published by forbes.com last year called ‘Overcoming The Angry Black Woman Stereotype’ examined the crux of the problem. The writer, Janice Gassam, provides what she believes to have been the origin of the angry black woman stereotype – ‘the 1950s radio showAmos ‘n’ Andy, which depicted black women as sassy and domineering’. But if that is where this stereotype stems from, it is even more disheartening to see that nothing since has been able to dispute or change this. In 2020, I am still being called angry by peers for having care for a cause.
The Forbes article goes on to expound on this theory and provide readers with a three point action list on how they may overcome and stop this stereotype. But as I read through the action plan of to 1.Educate yourself, 2. Express yourself and 3. Check yourself, I cannot help but think that while this is a starting point it is not enough.
As mentioned, Black female celebrities don’t escape the ‘Angry Black Female’ tag simply because they are famous. In 2014, time.com published an article called ‘Where Are All the Angry Black Women?’. The article opens with the rather flagrant words ‘We’ve been hearing a lot of about angry black women this week’. A phrase it notes that New York Times television critic had used to describe Shonda Rhimes, a famous black woman noted for gifting us shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM). Robin Givens, the writer, remarks on the various reasons for a black woman to be validly angry. Pay inequality, injustices to our ‘fathers, brothers, sons and husbands’ are amongst the reasons shared. Givens proceeds to let the New York Times television critic know exactly where all the angry black women are, with the statement ‘Mostly we’re working. Anger might just be a luxury we don’t have.’ The article touches on the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown both of whom lost their Black sons to overt racism in America. However, while this is a well rounded piece examining the intricacies of the ‘Angry Black Woman’ stereotype we are no closer to a solution on eradicating this stereotype.
There have been many journals, written and published on this matter. M Mgadmi (2009) Black Women’s Identity: Stereotypes, Respectability and Passionlessness (1890-1930), L Green, Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans, and L Rosenthal (2016) Stereotypes of Black American Women Related to Sexuality and Motherhood, are just a few of many. Despite all of these published journals and others out there we are no closer to a universal solution to this issue with scholars such as Dionne Bennett and Marcyliena Morgan quoted in Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America as suggesting that the reason behind this is that researchers tend to accept this archetype as being true.
It is not just in the press and in journals where this stereotype is seen or addressed.
There has also been books, films and shows which look to this matter. It may be argued that much of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies perpetuate the caricature of the angry black woman. In addition to the character Sapphire in Amos ’n’ Andy, there is also Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son, Bernadine in Waiting to Exhale, Madea Simmons in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty, Rochelle in Everybody Hates Chris and Cookie from Empire. With all of these and more it is no wonder that we still struggle with the weight of this depiction today.
I contend that the crux of the problem is RACISM. Until racism is dealt with properly, levels and variations of this stereotype will still exist. We must first battle the root of the problem before we look to the leaves and branches. Cutting off the top of the tree is not enough either, this will just encourage new offshoots to grow.
So with all of this reflection and energy being put into looking at stereotypes of black woman, why is the misnomer that black women with passion or interest still being perpetuated? I always say if one thing doesn’t change then nothing will. In todays climate it is even more important that this stereotype is defunct. With the current momentum that we have seen for the Black Lives Matter movement, statements and derogatory inflammatory stereotypes are a distraction not needed. I ask that next time you think to call someone ‘angry’, pause and consider why. If I was male, or white would you have been so quick to label me as angry? I may be Angry but only with reason, and I am Black and I am a woman but the three are not synonymous. Think before you use this stereotype. Be part of the solution and not the problem.
Thank you for getting back to me and I appreciate your sympathy in what I went through as a child. I would like for you to note that my petition does not make the same request as previous ones and I checked this before first launching it. It is disheartening that you would think this and is again another major reason why my petition is needed and a discussion on the matter take place at the highest level. Lets look at the options that you have suggested were alternatives to me.
This topic does not fall into History lessons. Whilst I believe that it is important that diversity and Racism is addressed in schools, it can happen with social studies or even P.S.H.E. lessons. So it isn’t a repetition of what I am asking for but merely another avenue from which Racism can be addressed and tackled in the education system.
This topic is definitely closer to the mark but it still misses it by a lot. It is a generalisation on the education system being more inclusive of BAME history. That can fall into a plethora of subjects such as including BAME authors in English Lit classes to looking at inventions by Black people in science classes. It also makes the sweeping generalisation that all ethnic minorities have the same history and should be treated the same. We are not and should not be, but that is a topic for another day and a feature of a different petition that I have launched – Ban the use of BAME as a collective term for minority ethnic groups (I avidly await feedback from standards on it)
It is insulting to imply that Britains colonial past is the sum of Black history. To quote the words of Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum –
“We have existed in Britain and been pioneers, inventors, icons. And then colonialism happened, and that has shaped the experiences of black people – but that is not all we are.”
A discussion needs to be had at a higher level so that what Black history means is fully addressed. It is abhorrent and not going to help with stigmas and racism to insinuate that Britains colonial past is the sum of all we are as Black people. Whilst I think it is important to teach the entirety of Black history and as such include this, it is dangerous and damaging to box Black History as solely being about the British Empire and Colonialism. We are taught a white washed version of the history of the World Wars in school and it is never mentioned that many Black soldiers helped fight for freedom while not fully experiencing it for themselves. A comprehensive look at Black history needs to be had by Black historians and scholars to ensure we are not pigeon holing what is means to teach Black history. I am not asking for a rose tinted glasses look at Black History, it is unfortunate that Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade is a massive part of that. It saddens me further to look at the active role the UK held within that and the history of the British Colonialism, the British Empire and the Commonwealth. Instead I am asking that while you teach that, you also teach about Mary Seacole alongside teaching about Florence Nightingale. That when you teach about the Romans, you also take the time to mention the Black people that were also on British shores at that time like the The Ivory Bangle Lady, whose remains were discovered in York in 1901. That when we look at Henry VIII and about the fate of all his wives and his tumultuous reign that time is taken to learn about John Blanke, an African trumpeter who is documented as having asked Henry VIII for a pay rise. Or any of the other hundreds of Black migrants living in Britain during 1500s Tudor England.
I hope that you read my words and understand all that I hoped to achieve with my petition and why it is not a repetition of anything that is out there. Should you still feel that it is, I welcome feedback on how the title can be adjusted to better reflect my intentions.
So on Sunday 16th May during @this_is_Jilo (Instagram tag) #SpotlightSundays (if you haven’t been joining in, what have you been doing? Don’t miss this Sundays one. Click her @ and follow her to get involved.)
I shared out loud for the first time one of the stories from my upbringing that would probably cause a gasp and did bring outrage. As a little girl (and even as an adult I guess) I had the most over active imagination. This meant that many a night I would wake with a nightmare and run down the hallway to my parents room so scared that I would hold my breath in case any monsters might hear me (we’ve all done it)
My mother, the Catholic that she is, would always point me in the direction of the Lord by telling me that it was ‘God punishing me because he had seen I was bad that day’. She would then make me get my bible and or rosary and pray. I would often fall back to sleep with my head buried in the bible so the written word must have given me some measure of comfort. However, on the nights that would have me sprinting back down the hallway a few hours later, my dad would just lift the bedcovers and let me sleep with them. I think this was from the age of 4-7ish (Yes I could read when I started playgroup but thats another story). This memory flashed up in my head before Sunday and I took the opportunity presented by lockdown to call my mum out on it. Her response, she laughed and said ‘Well, you probably had been bad that day”.
As you read the words on the pictures above you should know that I often gave as good as I got. I don’t hate God, nor has this made me wary of being Catholic. When it was no longer a forced requirement for me to go to Church, I still took myself along.
In hindsight can look back age these memories and think maybe a Black mothers love is tough but she knows what the world has coming for us.
One of the most positive things to come out of the tragic murder of George Floyd is the mobilisation and unification of black people internationally across the world. It is encouraging to see others join us as we stand, march, kneel and lie down in peaceful protest against racism and the mistreatment of black people everywhere.
Only good can come from people speaking up, speaking out and effecting change so that we can break the cycle and see a different world for future generations. I too have been using my gift and voice in an attempt to assist with this. But there is a darker side to everything that is happening.
Firstly, I would like to touch upon the frequent volleying of the phrase “All lives matter’, whenever anyone says ‘Black Lives Matter. To be frank, it is equal measures of ignorance and arrogance that has people spouting that phrase. They know full well that there is no correlation between the two phrases because that would require you to say that we are all equal. In reality, given the choice to spend just one day of your life having to live how a black person lives, you wouldn’t take it. This is not a competition, this is our lives. We do not get the choice in not spending a second of any day being black. I am black, black before I am anything else. It is the first thing that someone notices upon meeting me. So please, kindly shut up, if when you hear someone say Black Lives Matter, your tongue itches for you to say All lives matter. DON’T.
Secondly, this is not a fad or a phase for us. When a couple years have passed and this is no longer a little pet project for you; It is still going to be the reality for us. This is neither a nightmare or dream that any black person on earth can wake up from. Do not trivialise how any black person feels about any of this. We do not need you speaking over us, ridiculing, sidelining or excusing away anything that we have experienced as a direct result of racism.
Thirdly, do not use our agenda for your own gain. Hijacking a cause which is trying to prevent the future murders of a historically oppressed and disproportionately prosecuted group of people is extremely repugnant. I am seeing industries, corporations and people who are known to have been anti black, anti black lives matter or covertly/overtly racist in the past try to ride the PR wave of what is happening. We are not blind. We see you and we also see what you are trying to do. So to the NFL that blacklisted and actively pushed Colin Kaepernick from the league for merely taking a knee in peaceful protest we do swallow your lies anymore then you do. You fool no one when you say you are ‘committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs, and partners’. I would in fact go one step further, and call for the immediate resignation of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. If we were talking loss of funds and not active systemic racism, the board and shareholders would have already made you step down. Poor management should have the same consequence. And to Ryan Michaels, the paper that your apology is written on isn’t even worth using to wipe my arse. Please read the room and take a seat. We do not need your disingenuous platitudes and excuses as to why you treated ‘Kaep’ the way that you did. Familiarity with his name does not make you more endearing to us, in fact it disgusts me further that you could treat someone like you did. Especially when you know them well enough to give and use a nickname like that. You are tone-deaf! I should say tone death, as your claim that you were defending those that died for the flag is bullshit. Black people died for your flag, your country was built on the backs of slavery, and oppression.This country that you claim to be so proud of isn’t even yours and its always seemed very cheeky for me to hear white Americans label everyone else when they themselves are the intruders in this story. So as I call for the NFL to assist in permanently shutting you up by removing your platform I say this. You have the blood of #GeorgeFloyd and countless others on your hands. If not for YOU and others like you we may have seen changes and a movement into the right direction. You are part of the PROBLEM and consciously chose to be so! You want to apologise now? It is up to ‘Kaep’ as you affectionately call him whether he accepts this poor excuse of an apology, but for me? I say 4 years too late!
Do not think they are the only brand that has tried to pull the PR stunt. L’Oreal, talk to us because something is not quite adding up. You might have the memory of Dory from Finding Nemo, but I can tell you now that we don’t. For you to post onto your socials that ‘Speaking out is worth it’ when you are the very same company that fired trans-model Munroe Bergdorf as a direct consequence to her speaking out about racism, is audacious to the nth degree. So to all the brands trying to spin PR out of this, we see you. YOU fool no one but yourselves, and when I get a bit more time I am coming to call out each and every one of you.
Fourthly, you may have noticed my posting yesterday where I asked black people now speaking up about racist treatment that they had in the workforce what is different for them now. I didn’t get a response from anyone, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to. I think that it is fantastic that people are speaking up now, that they feel comfortable enough to speak up now. However, I would like to know if anything has changed for them now. For me, I have always been quite vocal on things that displease me. Suffering with both social anxiety/ general anxiety and panic attacks, I am the first to admit that speaking up and speaking out is not easy. Despite that, the experiences of my youth and childhood have left me unable to accept being a victim or allowing someone else to treat me as such. If one thing doesn’t change, nothing will. Speaking out was never a bed of roses for me, it was never without repercussions. Every action has a reaction, mine non withstanding. So as I commend each and everyone of you who has bravely chosen to speak out now, I also query what you did. We are seeing you list how you were treated and I want to know what, if any action you took after.
Lastly, I would like to touch upon a group of issues that fall within this.
To the people that look to black people for entertainment, we are not your entertainment. If we choose to enter those fields that is our choice, do not look to us during this time to put a smile on your face.
To the people that are using some of the confusion right now to cause chaos. Stop it. I am happy to see so many of you get the recognition you deserve as social media and the internet leads to consequences and the law catching up with you.
To the propagators behind the racist hashtag #WhiteOutWednesday, we choose not to see you and I will acknowledge you no further.
To those that have reached out to me asking for my take on this, or wanting me to check their work or help them write something. I have no answers and can only tell my point of view. I will end by saying that some people should be interviewed to tell their stories and others should tell them themselves. So as I watch this unfold with the rest if the world, know that we see it all and we wait for the real slim shady’s to stand up!
I honestly didn’t want to come into a new day dealing with the arguments of yesterday, but it seems that many have missed the motivation behind my parliament petition. So here we go.
At no point have I said that I am relying on my ‘oppressor’ to teach me what it is to be black, or to love myself and my blackness in its entirety.
So in the words of Jay Z, allow me to reintroduce myself…..
I am a first generation Black British citizen, one of five children, fourth born to skilled migrant and wind rush parents.
I was born, raised and educated in Hertfordshire on a council estate where I was a member of the ONLY Black family in the area and in the minority. A bicycle ride through town as a child was often met with by at least one member of the public giving me the finger across the throat signal.
The only times in my childhood and youth that I got to experience not being in the minority was when I was solely with my immediate family, greater family, spending summers in Dominica/ Grenada, or once a year at Notting Hill Carnival before it lost its essence and became what it is today.
I grew up the darkest member of my family, something that outsiders loved to remind me of on a daily basis. Questioning if all my siblings were 100% related to me and suggesting that perhaps I had a different mum or dad and I just wasn’t yet aware.
I went to a primary school where on the first day I was called a liar and told that I couldn’t read, write my name or tie my own shoelaces etc. Resulting in my refusal to go back.
I was one Black child in a classroom with 27 other students, all white. My first few years of education left me with a stab wound to the face for for the colour of my skin and the knowledge that my peers saw me as no better then an animal, akin to a baboon. My roots and confidence in myself are so strong that no wind can sway or pull me down.
The strength, pride and love that my parents instilled in me did not change the ignorance of the majority that I was surrounded by. Even the strongest armour returns from battle with chinks. I want black history to be taught in schools to educate those who may not get the education at home, but to also ensure that we are nipping racism at the bud. Those 27 children have grown up to be adults in society, some may very well still be holding onto the prejudices that saw me bullied by them as a child. Becoming the very adults that govern this country.
It is very easy to think solely of yourselves, but this selfish nature will not see any changes come. If my petition sees just ONE child not have to go through what I did in the education system then I can be happy with the changes I have inspired.
I moved to London aged 18 and was met with a new host of prejudice. I became aware of the tensions and aggravations amongst the black population and diaspora happening elsewhere in the UK. I was suddenly teased for being ‘too white’, not something I ever imagined I would encounter in life. I got labelled a bounty and a coconut, and had questions thrown at me like ‘How was afternoon tea with the Queen?’ This was a whole new barrier that I was forced to break without knowing what were the best tools to do so. I have been to Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean that are not my own. I have seen the slave plantations with my own eyes and walked through them with my own feet. I have travelled to Ghana and bore witness to the slave castles and passed through the door of no return. A journey that many of my ancestors must also have taken. I ask questions whenever I do not know the answer to something and try to read up and learn whenever and wherever possible. This is for me. There is no pleasing some people and ultimately I have long realised that nothing I do will ever be enough.
Despite all of the above, one of the biggest lessons instilled in me as child, to treat everyone as equal, still stands. The experiences of my childhood and youth didn’t magically disappear once I became an adult. Remember those children grow up. They become the very adults who are your bosses, managers, supervisors and colleagues in the workplace. Mid 20s I was told by a white middle-classed manager, who disliked that I treated him no different to the gardener and the cleaning staff etc that life is not fair. He couldn’t understand why everyone from receptionists to SVPs would stop and talk to me at my desk or why I wouldn’t give him deference for his position. My response to him? “I am Black, Young (they originally dismissed me for the position because of my youth) and Female I don’t need anyone in this life to tell me that its not fair, least of all you.”
We always hear how strong black women are. And I agree, there is a strength within us that nothing can break. I look to Doreen Lawrence and Sybrina Fulton et al for not breaking when the world took their sons. But that is a further strength born by a pain that I don’t want to experience before I take action. Let me speak NOW!
So to the black people who came at me full force, this is for you. And to the people that told me I am not black enough, there are no levels to this. Your words do not make you a winner or give you a prize.
I have a voice and I have a gift, so nothing you say to me will stop me from using it. I won’t argue with any of you on this matter again. I said what I said and i’ll say it again! I don’t want to send a child of mine into the same education system that I experienced and it saddens me that some of you do.
Now I am going to go enjoy this beautiful morning, as I promised my mother she wasn’t going to wake up to any more surprises from me.