There is an unequivocal push to shed light on the deepening racial divides that continue to underpin the Black experience in the 21st Century. Black liberation movements around the world, from the bustling streets of London to the southeastern coasts of Jamaica, have brought the importance of blackness to the fore. Not only as a tool for understanding the Black identity, but also as a theoretical framework from which to view our emancipatory commitment to social justice, liberation and reconstruction.
From analyses of diaspora to the entangled processes of the transatlantic slavery, colonialism and modernity- Black thought has long been concerned with questions of race, place, and power. Yet, it’s plausible to suggest that these developments, which span centuries and continents, have been systematically excluded from more traditional notions of geography.
Within the past five years, however, Black Geographies as a discipline and epistemology has gained increasing institutional clout, with thanks to the tenacity and ingenuity of Black scholars to carve out institutional spaces for Black intellectual production. But, what exactly is meant by Black Geographies?
“Black Geographies’ is diasporic in its foundation through centuries of race projects of displacement, concealment, and marginalization that seek to render the Black body as “ungeographic” (McKittrick, 2006)
As a critical nascent body of scholarship, Black Geographies pinpoints Black spatial agency and the intersections between race, the state, and the dynamic distributions of power present in society. From the transatlantic slave trade to the lack of racial integration of Black and white families with similar class affiliations, to the mass incarceration of Black people, Black Geographies examines Black spatial experiences, including how Black life is reproduced in the wake of gentrification and redevelopment. In doing so, Black Geographies exposes the rich processes of Black socio-cultural and spatial reproduction to resist the confines of slavery, underdevelopment, and traditional human geographies.
Importantly, Black Geographies is not just for geographers. Amongst other schools of thought Black Geographies can also provide a foundation of understanding for the various means of organising political movements to both undermine systems of oppression, and efforts to positively contribute to the communal well-being of Black communities; as opposed to the individuality and exclusivity of our current Western world. Indeed, the scholarship of Black Geographies transcends boundaries outside of formal geography.
As the Black Lives Matter movement sweeps the globe, renewed efforts to address the ongoing injustices of racism and inequality further challenges the formal canon of disciplinary geography that we seem to value so much. We have reached a critical moment, and it is now time to re-examine our complicity in racial processes, evaluate the processes and frameworks that address issues of racial inequality, and reengage the scholarship of Black Geographies as a body of scholarship. This new body of thought must add to our understanding of the ways that race and place are inextricably linked.
Written by Malaika Laing-Grant– BLAM’s Volunteer Blog editor
Malaika is a professional with over five years’ practical experience in the international development space, providing comprehensive programmatic support to drive programme success in areas such as youth and politics, social and economic development, education and capacity building. She is a strong believer in the power of the Black community, Malaika is also committed to education as a form of Black empowerment to dismantle cycles of oppression and systems of social injustice
McKittrick, K. (2006). Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of struggle. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press
The distinction between Black feminism and white feminism has long been established, due to the triple burden facing many Black women of race, class and gender. Black feminists have and continue to, highlight the differences in their experiences and issues they are confronted with. On the key issues of family, patriarchy and reproduction,
Black women have distinctly different realities to that of their white middle class counter parts, that often centre the feminist movement. Black women are consistently confronted with racism, resistance and further oppression which white feminism has undermined and silenced. It was in acknowledgment of this that OWAAD was formed in 1978.OWAAD functioned as an umbrella organisation, bringing together various groups of women with divergent interests and focuses. OWAAD had a prominent impact on the women’s liberation movements in Britain, by placing the experiences of Black and Asian women on the liberation agenda. Attracting over 300 women to its first national conference, OWAAD successfully prompted the establishment of Black women’s groups across London.
The ‘Brixton’s Black Women’s Group’ opened in London as the first Black Women’s Centre and Asian and African – Caribbean women founded the ‘Southall Black Sisters’ in North West London. As well as its undeniable influence, OWAAD contributed to several campaigns for the progression of the black experience in the United Kingdom. OWAAD joined the campaign to scrap the SUS laws, which gave the police the powers of stop and search without any cause and was disproportionately used against young Black men. The impact of OWAAD and its initiatives are undeniably powerful and revolutionary. As Stella Dadzie (co-founder of OWAAD) emphasised, OWAAD worked to ‘show people sisterhood in operation’. Not only did OWAAD take on the responsibility of upholding the Black-british community, they also established a legacy of justice and perseverance that remains a fundamental pillar of Black British History.
‘For the first time since the Slave Trade, for the first time in 500 years, the black family was together again, was whole again, was one again.’ – May 1977 Edition of Ebony Magazine
This article highlights the cultural importance of the Second World Black Festival of Arts and Culture whilst underlining the effects it had on the unity of Black people all over the world. The festival itself took place in Lagos, Nigeria from January 15th – February 12th in the year 1977, as the name suggests. The festival was a celebration of African art, African music and Afro-inspired theatrical performances. The festivities consisted of about 50 plays, 150 concerts, 80 film screenings, 40 art exhibitions and around 200 poetry performances. It was a celebration to be remembered not just for its appreciation of Black people but also for the ramifications faced by Afrobeat’s legend and founder, Fela Kuti, for boycotting FESTAC ’77 – which this article also touches on briefly.
‘Ethnocide’ was coined and defined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944 as the destruction of the culture and identity of a people, though Lemkin was talking about the atrocities happening to Jewish people in Nazi Germany, this was an effect of colonialism and the transatlantic enslavement trade on the global Black community. The First World Black Festival of Arts set out to repair the damage that was already done. The festival was largely influenced by the political context of post-independence Africa and through this served as a symbol for the decolonisation of the mind that needed to occur alongside the political decolonisation taking place on the continent. Though the First World Black Festival of Arts and Culture was a success this article will focus on the Second Festival [a.k.a. FESTAC ‘77] as it was the largest congregation of Black people from every continent in one place in the entire history of the Black man at the time. The timing was said to have a major role in its extravagance, as 50 of the once colonised African countries had gained their independence by 1977 and the celebration was amplifying Black pride in the face of adversity.
Outside of Africa, Black people in Europe and the Americas were also making breakthroughs in their fight against racist oppression and segregation, so they too were keen on visiting Nigeria to partake in this celebration of Black talent and identity. Lidge Daily, an American attendee wrote, ‘I shared a feeling with my people. I looked into their faces and saw mine. Our smiles and laughter needed not a common language to be understood. To be appreciated. Welcome brother, they said to me. Welcome Home!’
The streets of Lagos, Nigeria were crowded with around 17000 natives, fellow Nigerians, visiting Africans, members of the diaspora and all appreciators of Black art and culture for about a month. The crowd was so huge that the Lagos State Government constructed a new housing estate for festival participants. The campus was once filled with the sounds of laughter and feet stomping on the ground as groups were dancing together in the one language understood by all the global participants – music. The estate still stands today, but the government has failed at maintaining its initial glory.
The displays of unity, cultural enrichment and captivating entertainment that occurred over the 5 weeks, earned Nigeria the title of ‘a crucial nexus for Pan-African alliance building.’ The Guardian claims that Stevie Wonder’s headlining performance was what consolidated his ‘affinity with the continent.’ Communities within the continent also amplified their voice through the festival – with the logo being the Benin mask of Queen Idia it put the question of whether the Western world would return the artefacts they stole to their rightful owners and homes. Some say this was a bold move from Nigeria but it was necessary to show that Black people will not let the West get away with their crimes.
The first President of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor aka ‘the prime poet of Négritude’, declared that ‘Nigeria is to Africa what Greece was and still is to the history of Europe.’ The many Black people that were struggling with identity crises and feelings of belonging were said to have felt at home on the various stages when singing, dancing, acting or citing their poetry to the masses. The response from the crowd was a reassurance of the unity that existed between Black people and the festival was applauded for being the place where this reassurance was received. Though there was so much international praise for Nigeria’s contribution to the ‘revival, resurgence, propagation, and protection of Black and African cultural values and civilization’ there was some condemnation coming from within the nation – namely by renowned musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Many Africanists and jazz enthusiasts know that Fela’s music was a form of activism against the military government in Nigeria. When FESTAC ’77 went live, Fela boycotted it by hosting shows at Kalakuta Republic at the same time for the whole month. His shows enticed some of the major artistes that were to perform at the festivals and led them to boycott their own performances as well. Ikonne notes that Chyke Madu of ‘The Funkees’ said ‘What Fela was doing at the Shrine was more exciting and more raw than any other programs at the festival. So, everybody started to go there instead. And of course, the government didn’t like that.’
The festival served as a sanctuary for the unification of Black people all over the world, that inspired many to go back to their countries of residence and preach the message of bravery and freedom in the second verse of the Festival anthem – ‘Let a second generation // Full of courage issue forth // Let a people loving freedom //Come to growth’ – the residents of Nigeria themselves were still being silenced and oppressed by military rule to a degree. The first and third celebrations of Black creativity were held in Senegal, in 1966 and 2010, but couldn’t compare to the extravagance of FESTAC’77. The pressure to deliver another festival like FESTAC’77 shouldn’t mean the 2010 Festival should be the last. The Pan-African ideology is not dying anytime soon, and neither is the appreciation of Black art on a global scale, so who knows, maybe the 50-year anniversary of FESTAC ’77 will be acknowledged and celebrated once again in Nigeria. The rising need for havens, that are specifically for Black people, is expected to go on for many years and it is important that these safe spaces are made as they allow the Black community to not only find a sense of family in their identity but also be comfortable enough to just live freely. The Afronation Music Festival, by SMADE Entertainment and others, was said to have this impact as a review by Sosa Sharon said ‘Afro Nation felt like something for us, by us.’ The freedom that comes from being surrounded by ‘your people’ is said to be relieving and the Black community is due for that relief and has been for centuries. Hopefully, more events by Black people for Black people will take place for many generations to come.
Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health UK CIC (BLAM UK) is now an Approved AQA Unit Award Centre. We are currently providing AQA award Units on Black British history and in the process of creating our own AQA BLAM Black History Module. We provide this service for All Key stages 1-5.
AQA provides the Unit award scheme as a record of achievement. The AQA Unit Award Scheme is invaluable as it is an important pathway for our students to receive accreditation for their achievements.
BLAMUK’s history module utilises oral and written history to build up the young people’s understanding of Black narratives both from continental Africa and in the diaspora. Participants are encouraged to complete independent research and make personal observations outside of the weekly sessions.
The AQA award scheme is completed in conjunction with The Grounded project which aims to improve the racial esteem of young people by asserting truthful narratives about their history. To find out more about how your schools can take part in the Grounded project please email@example.com
Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health (“BLAM”) &
Black Protest Legal Support’s (“BPLS”)
“Hair for people of African descent has always been a human rights issue.”
Hair Equality Report 2019
BLAM and BPLS are delighted to announce that Pimlico Academy has now agreed that no students will be excluded for exercising their right to protest against institutionalised racism. The students’ demands also challenged poverty, transphobia, the Eurocentric curriculum and sexual assault.
After interventions from both of our organisations, we were able to provide legal support to the students threatened with exclusion. Coupled with the immense tenacity of the students themselves, the support of their families, as well as political, public and legal pressure, we were collectively able to achieve this outcome. However, we maintain that it was shameful these students were ever threatened with exclusion in the first place.
BLAM and BPLS continue to stand with Black, Brown and Racialised pupils at Pimlico Academy, who made it their duty to fight for our rights and condemn the school’s racist uniform policy. The policy is plainly discriminatory against pupils with afro hairstyles, given it banned hairstyles that “block the view of others”. Additionally, the school had imposed measures regulating hijabs – measures which are clearly Islamophobic.
Black hair represents more than just a hairstyle: it represents personal history interlocked with generational stories, customs, and legacies. BLAM and BPLS condemn any attempt to suppress afro hair in order to appeal to the white gaze. As Maria DeLongoria stated, in defining the desired beauty aesthetic, the white majority viewed Black hair as the ‘loser’ in the game of respectability politics. Pimlico Academy’s uniform policy only sought to uphold this.
The hijab is a deeply personal expression of faith for Muslim women and girls. It is a wholly illegitimate interference with the practise of their faith to impose limits on the way hijabs should be worn or the colour of hijabs allowed (where there is no school uniform policy). This is another form of controlling Muslim students who wear the hijab and stifling their agency and independence.
Since the student-led protests, Pimlico Academy has revised the uniform policy to accommodate Black students and students wearing hijabs. We continue to stand by their actions and will continue to support them to defend their right to protest against racism.
BLAM UK is a Black-led educational, advocacy and wellbeing Non-Profit. Through our advocacy arm we work with the United Nations to support and protect the human rights of people of African Descent in the UK.
On the 6th April 2021, BLAM UK in response to the dubious, ill-written and dangerous Race Report sent communications to a UN Body requesting that they condemn the UK Government and remind them of their international human rights obligations, particularly those under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ICERD. We also requested that they inform the UN Human Rights Council and other Human Rights Mechanism about this report.
We can now confirm that the UN has responded to our communications and we welcome this timely and sound intervention on this. UN Experts from the UN Working Group of People of African Descent note the following, “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent. The Report attacks the credibility of those working to mitigate and lessen institutional racism while denying the role of institutions, including educators and educational institutions, in the data on the expectations and aspirations of boys and girls of African descent. The Report cites dubious evidence to make claims that rationalize white supremacy by using the familiar arguments that have always justified racial hierarchy. This attempt to normalize white supremacy despite considerable research and evidence of institutional racism is an unfortunate sidestepping of the opportunity to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the contributions of all in order to move forward. That this report comes only six years after the British taxpayer finished paying reparations to nineteenth-century enslavers, without any talk of reparations to those enslaved and exploited, is particularly telling.”
The UN Experts also call for “ The UK Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities should be disbanded or reconstituted to prioritize an authentic and rigorous examination of race, rather than a politicized erasure of the racialized realities Black Britons navigate”
We welcome the UN Experts sound scholarship, findings and recommendations on the report and the next steps for the UK Government.
Race Today was a collective focused on uplifting Black communities, showcasing our narratives and pushing back against racist institutions and interpersonal racism in the UK . The collective produced a journal of the same name, where they platformed art, culture, and gave a voice to Black communities in the UK and the rest of the world. In this piece, I explore the importance of community solidarity through the work of the race today collective
The beauty of history is its duality. It may serve as a sobering warning for some, and a gentle guide for others. In the case of Black communities in the United Kingdom, it is not only an inspiring guide showcasing their strength and persistence, but a testament of the power of union and campaigning. The Race Today Collective is an example of this testament. It was bi-monthly (and at a time, monthly) journal and political collective that was centred around the plight of Black people and Black liberation. Race Today was an example of just how radical anti-racist press can help to bring long-lasting social change. In this, I will explore what we can learn from Race Today, for I believe that history holds impactful lessons hidden between dynamic timelines and striking dates.
The Origins of Race Today
Created in 1969, it was originally a publication produced by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in Britain. At the time of its debut until 1972, the journal was considerably more academic and neutral in terms of its attitude to racism in Britain. It was far from the radical, anti-racist journal and collective we know it as today. The switch from neutral to definitive and radical was no accident. In 1972, an internal coup in the institute was led by Ambalavaner Sivanandan, a British Sri-Lankan novelist and activist. It was a radical signal of the direction the publication was going to turn and was followed by a snowball of change. First, was a new editor. The appointment of Darcus Howe on 6th November 1973, a prominent Black radical activist and former British Black Panther Party member, allowed the journal to go in this new radical direction. Although editorship would later go to his wife Leila Hassan, Howe’s impact will always be remembered.
Darcus Howe, activist and editor of Race Today journal from 1972-1985. Photo from Shades of Noir.
With Howe’s extensive knowledge on global Black Liberation, in addition to his experience in media, political organisation, and mobilisation he was able to drive the journal to centre and uplift the voice of Black working class communities. Gone was the neutral stance on racism, and removed was alienating diction. Instead, we saw greater accessibility and definitive stances – Race Today was now staunchly anti-racist, and in solidarity with all those who were fighting to be liberated from exploitation, colonialism, and racism. It was a group, and a publication dedicated to this. It included Darcus Howe, activist Linton Kwesi Johnston, poet Farukh Dondy, amongst others. Darcus Howe even moved the office of the journal from its institutional office in Kings Cross, London, to Brixton during the years of his tenure. The act of moving the place of operation for the journal from an institutional building to a place which was very much, at the time, seen as the hub of the Black community in London was a powerful act on its own. The presence of the Collective in Brixton symbolised a dedication to the Black community. It is for this reason why one of the first lessons we can take away from the Collective is the importance of community.
The Power of Community
To be in community, we speak of the sentiment of togetherness because we share identities, similar or identical experiences, and more. Race Today was devoted to community and celebrated it in many forms, one being culture. Culture unifies the people and is one of the first instances that we, as humans, are able to feel a sense of belonging. The Collective understood that culture was a vital element of liberation movements. It’s for this reason that the journal used its platform to celebrate Black art, literature, music and sports during its operation. It displayed works from major Black icons, such as Toni Morrison, Grace Nihcols, and James Baldwin on expression and Black identity, and incorporated the ideals of Marxist historian and Pan-Africanist C.L.R. James. The Collective also organised cultural events such as book fairs, and with support from local musicians in Ladbroke Grove they also formed a masquerade band known as the Race Today Mangrove Renegade Band which performed at the Notting Hill Carnival. The Collective continuously campaigned for the Notting Hill Carnival and defended its cultural significance. To be in community is also to support one another in endeavours that benefit the community as a whole, and offer solace. For Black communities, community was one of the only forms of support many people had due to the racism and xenophobia they faced from those in their places of work, schools, and neighbourhoods. For Black people, community ranged from financial support, childcare, and other types of mutual aid. In community, we uplift each other and amplify our voices – this was an aim evident in the Race Today journal. Press and media devoted to the fight against racism capturing the essence of community and doing the aforementioned is what we should mirror today.
The Race Today team. Photo from Novara Media.
The Importance of Solidarity
The Collective understood that liberation and equity were global needs. The international coverage in the journal helped to paint this picture. Topics touched upon transcended borders and showed the extent of solidarity the Collective extended to the exploitation and dehumanisation of Black communities and the effects of colonialism. It’s for this reason that, alongside accounts of Black people in the UK being harrassed by the state, there were extensive discussions about the struggles of workers and citizens in the Global South. Race Today analysed the links between anti-colonial liberation movements, class struggles, and the need to rally behind organisations such as theirs at that time. Race Today was committed to challenging racist institutions and exposing the very real horrors of racism, police brutality and xenophobia, amongst others. It is important to note that though centred on Black people, the Collective was committed to anti-racism in general and often showed support for issues in Asian communities within the UK.
By utilising aspects of intersectional politics, the Collective were able to relate the experiences of Black people in Britain with other socio-economic categories which contributed to the mistreatment of black people by the state. For example, the Marxist ideals of class as well as racism, created unique experiences for Black working class individuals, who frequently had their voices amplified by the journal, with accounts detailing their experiences. A famous example of this was their 1974 interview with Black nurses and healthcare workers following the first nursing strike in the UK. The Journal displayed how the intersection of race, class and gender increased discrimination for Black nurses. The Collective had effectively created a medium for individuals to be heard and relay their realities. Race Today was also committed to uplifting grassroots campaigns that aligned with them, such as campaigning for the Brockwell Park Three – three Black men who were victims of violence at a fireworks display. Although based in London, Race Today maintained links with groups similar to theirs around the UK, such as the Bradford Black Collective and created networks in Ireland. Solidarity is necessary in the fight for racial equity.
Some covers of Race Today journal. Photo from: Commune journal.
Race Today was a publication centred on the plight of Black communities that was birthed during a period of global anti-colonial liberation movements, persistent calls for change, and the emergence of strength in racial identity. As mentioned earlier, history holds lessons in its chapters. It sometimes is a graceful and generous teacher. I believe Race Today is one of history’s more gracious lessons. The Race Today Collective is a clear example of just how vital the role of community-led and community-focused media is in the long fight for racial justice and equity. From their operation, we were able to glean several lessons; the power of community, and the importance of solidarity. This can be seen in their dedication to uplifting voices in Black communities through platforming Black art and forms of expression, their platforming the accounts of Black workers, their campaigns against institutions and their racist actions, and more. Once we commit to holding the values of community and solidarity, they will be reflected in our media, and will allow us to take further steps to racial equity.
Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health UK CIC (BLAM UK) has triggered the Urgent Action Communication procedure of a UN Body, over No10 Report that denies Institutional Racism exists in the UK, arguing that this report violates a number of the UK’s legal obligations under International Law.
The Racial Justice civil society organisation warns that such a report will be used to justify and further racially discriminatory outcomes against Black, Brown and racialised groups in the UK.
On Tuesday 6 April, BLAM UK a Civil Society organisation sent an Urgent Procedures Correspondence to the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in response to the UK Government’s recently published race report. The Racial Justice non-profit believe that the report requires immediate attention from the UN Committee in order to prevent or limit the scale of serious violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, of which the UK has legal obligations under.
Immediately after the publication of the race report on 31 March, BLAM made an official comment on their website: ‘We do not need a report from a government rooted and built on anti-blackness to confirm our realities as directly impacted persons.’
The Non-Profit have now taken their concerns to the United Nations’, highlighting issues such as Black generational trauma, the dismissal of the atrocities of the Transatlantic slave trade by the Government, and the controversial Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to illustrate the UK’s perpetual and consistent institutional and systemic racism.
The Correspondence to the UN states that ‘this report will be used to validate the Government’s current strategy which can only be understood as a colourblind approach to race’, noting the potential impact this will have on recently resurged far-right groups such as Neo-Nazis or ‘All Lives Matter’ groups, who may ‘use the outcomes of this report to justify and further their own racially motivated agenda’.
BLAM UK Founder, Ife Thompson, states:
“In the words of James Baldwin – “It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have”.
The UK Government through this report, has shown us it remains a ferocious enemy to racial justice in the global north. At BLAM, we do all we can to ensure we can create a more racially equitable, just and decolonised society. We know this report, if unchallenged, will be used by those in power to dismiss our lived realities and further our oppression. This is why we are doing all we can to hold the Government to account and to that affect defend the human rights of the Black community in the UK.”
BLAM UK Volunteer Lucy Parkhouse, states:
“The Government’s race report makes a mockery of the lived experience of all Black persons and people of colour in the United Kingdom. Cherry-picking contributors based on their willingness to ignore the realities of discrimination is, in and of itself, a perfect encapsulation of institutionalised racism.
This report had the potential to provide a genuine opportunity for the Government to address its shortcomings in response to the Black Lives Matter protests last year, in response to the continuously appalling stop and search statistics, in response to the disproportionate numbers of people of colour that we have lost to COVID-19. Instead, it now represents a wasted opportunity and a tool to be used to the detriment of Black people – their hurt is discredited and ‘disproved’.
It is totally unacceptable to attempt to sanitise the traumatic and inhumane transatlantic slave trade, in order to appease and serve only the white gaze. Moreover, this is being put forward by a political party in Government which has its own Wikipedia page dedicated to accounts of racism. At times such as this, we must work not only to amplify, but to truly listen and act on the voices of Black and Brown people in the United Kingdom.”
BLAM (Black Learning Achievement and Mental Health) UK is an award-winning educational, advocacy and mental health not-for-profit that champions Black British cultural capital and creativity, improves the mental health and wellbeing of peoples of African descent, provides a comprehensive and decolonised education system, and supports social inclusion of the Black British community. Among other programmes, BLAM work with schools to ensure the curriculum is reflective of African-Caribbean culture, history and heritage. The organisation delivers after school clubs and workshops and provides teacher training on developing an anti-racist pedagogy and creating a Black inclusion curriculum. Through our advocacy work, we also promote and protect the human rights of Black people in the UK. This includes challenging racially discriminatory school exclusions against Black pupils in the UK.
BLAM UK has sent an Urgent Action Procedure communication over the recent publication of the Race Report by the UK Government. An Urgent Procedures Correspondence is issued by the UN CERD Committee to respond to problems within a State parties jurisdiction requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention.
“Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it’s against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it’s against the oppressor. You don’t need anything else.” – Malcolm X
Today’s recent race report by the UK Government can only be described as historical negationism, and an outright denialism of the experiences of People of African Descent in the country.
The UK Government via this report has invented ingenious and implausible reasons to misinterpret genuine documents, whilst manipulating statistical series to support the given point of view, that deliberately absolves the UK Government of any responsibility in its role in maintaining a racially oppressive state lauded in historical and ongoing institutionalised racism.
We do not need a report from a government rooted and built on anti-blackness to confirm our realities as directly impacted persons.
In our comment we are reaffirming Black people’s autonomy within the Pan-African principle of doing for self. An embodiment of this principle can be seen in 1967, when Stokely Carmichael/ Kwame Ture (honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party) coined the term institutional racism to describe institutional discriminatory practices. He defined the term in Carmichael and Hamilton (1967) as the collective failure of institutions to provide appropriate and professional services to people because of their color, culture, or ethnicity, and gives the following example to explicate the definition, “when white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism … But when … five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutional racism”
Institutional racism was a term created by the people and for the people. We must be ever vigilant of the government’s aim to co-opt our words and white wash our realities.
We must also remember that Neo-colonialism, representation politics and tokenism will never serve the masses of Black people. We as a people continue to be oppressed collectively and our liberation can never be individualised. Audre Lorde reminds us that ‘without community, there is no liberation’.
We must also be mindful of the ready presence of Black people that are not kinfolk, that remain comfortable in working against the masses of Black people in order to receive a seat at the table at the expense of all of us.
The UK’s inability to recognise and adequately deal with racially discriminatory outcomes in public institutions is a direct failing of Article 2 of ICERD:
1. States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races, and, to this end:
(a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation;
(b) Each State Party undertakes not to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination by any persons or organizations;
(c) Each State Party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists.
d) Each State Party shall prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization;
The UK government’s inability to even recognise institutionalised racism means that it will not be able to rescind any policies and laws that allow racially discriminatory outcomes to thrive. The UK is failing to protect the international human rights of Persons of African descent in this country and is championing a culture of impunity within public institutions.
We would like to end this comment, reminding Black people to take time out and ensure they engage in radical self care today. This can look like :
Periodically take a break from social media and the news and focus on self-care.
Further reading about the concept of racial trauma and how it continues to affect us as persons of African Descent can be a great place to begin empowering yourself.
We would also encourage reconnecting with oneself. Creativity is a great way to connect with yourself and begin healing. Creatively expressing yourself, whether it’s writing, dance or music etc can allow you to gain clarity and autonomy over your feelings or trauma. Zuri Therapy provides both a safe and supportive space for people to share but also our final week includes a poetry workshop, allowing participants to use creativity as a form of healing.
Surrounding yourself with Black joy and texts that reaffirm our realities.
We live in a world which often disregards the effects that systemic, institutionalised and interpersonal racism can have on someone’s well being and so we often disregard the existence of our own racial trauma. But acknowledging and sharing these experiences (in a safe and supportive environment) can be the first step towards healing. Radical self-care is a part of this healing.
The report in and of itself embodies the notion by Toni Morrison that Racism serves as a serious distraction. We must maintain our stance and champion our truth without fear.
A recent Guardian Report has further revealed the insidious and anti-Black nature of School Exclusions in the UK. The report found that ‘exclusion rates for Black Caribbean students in English schools are up to six times higher than those of their white peers in some local authorities’. These figures for organisations like BLAM UK sit as a reminder of the scale of the work that is required. As directly impacted persons, we have created projects and campaigns around this in the hope to bring about accountability and change. At BLAM UK we currently provide free school exclusions advocates for the Black community in the UK, to help redress the discriminatory exclusion practice we see rampant in UK schools.
The UK’s continued failure in ensuring a fair and non-discriminatory school exclusions policy exists in this country, is both a discrimination law issue and an international human rights issue.
The UK is continuing to fail its International legal obligations under ICERD ( International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ) by allowing for this racist school exclusion policy to continue.
There is an ongoing culture from the State, that can only be seen as a complete disregard to the racialised outcomes of the School Exclusion policy in the UK.
ICERD’s General Recommendation 34, an instrument focuses on discrimination of People of African Descent, the UN has made it clear that States must : Review and enact or amend legislation, as appropriate, in order to eliminate, in line with the Convention, all forms of racial discrimination against people of African descent. It is our view at BLAM UK that rights holders under this convention are being neglected, as the UK Government has not put enough safeguards in place to protect persons of African Descent.
In September 2020 BLAM UK alongside Hackney Quest and Islington Law centre launched a campaign to abolish school exclusions in this country. We believe as stated by Martin Luther King Jr. ‘the time Is always right to do what is right’. Join our campaign here
This piece is an analytical review of the problems that Black people face with regards to the accessibility and provision of mental health care in the UK. Our Intercultural Therapist, Beverley J Weston also provides a therapist’s insight into Navigating the UK’s mental health services and how we can advocate for ourselves.