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Black Spatial Agency Matters: The Rise of Black Geographies By Malaika Laing-Grant

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-GrantBLAM’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

Source

McKittrick, K. (2006). Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of struggle. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press

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Why was the ‘Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent’ (OWAAD) important?

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.[1] 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.[2]OWAAD functioned as an umbrella organisation, bringing together various groups of women with divergent interests and focuses.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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’.[6] 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.


[1]British Library, ‘Sisterhood and After: The Women’s Liberation Oral History Project’, 3rd June 2011 <https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/stella-dadzie-owaad> last accessed 6/12/2019

[2] Ibid

[3] Bethany Warner, ‘The Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent: constructing a collective identity’, 2016 <http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/history/documents/dissertations/Bethany_Warner2016.pdf > last accessed 6/12/2019

[4] Tess Gayhart, ‘Beyond the SS Empire Windrush: London’s Black History in the Archives’, 9thMay 2016

<https://blogs.kcl.ac.uk/kingshistory/category/teaching/> last accessed 6/12/2019

[5] Sophia Siddiqui,’ Still at the Heart of the race, Thirty years on’, 6th September 2018 < http://www.irr.org.uk/news/still-the-heart-of-the-race-thirty-years-on/> last accessed 6/12/2019

[6] Ibid(1)

By Isabelle Ehiorobo

BLAM UK Press Release: BLAM UK Issues UN Body Communications over UK Government’s Race Report

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.”

Contact BLAM UK for further comment – hello@blamcharity.co.uk

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 Triggers UN CERD Committee intervention over UK Government Race Report

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.

Read the full communication below: 

BLAM UK Comment on UK Government’s “race report”

“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. 

Further, the race report is even an international human rights issue as the UK  is failing its international human rights obligations under  ICERD- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination  and international human right norms under UDHR- Universal Declaration on Human Rights

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 : 

  1. Periodically take a break from social media and the news and focus on self-care.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

BLAM UK TEAM

BLAM UK Comment on Schools Exclusions in the UK

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

By Ife Thompson – BLAM UK Founder

Navigating the UK’s Mental Health Services and Advocating for Ourselves

Blog Piece Summary:

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. 

BLAM UK Not-for-profit launches The Black Rights Project (TBRP) – Press Release

BLAM UK CIC Press Release, Not-for-profit launches The Black Rights Project (TBRP)

BLAM UK is proud to announce the launch of our new international human rights project called The Black Rights Project (TBRP).

BLAM UK is a civil society organisation that works with the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) to help defend the rights of people in the UK. We act as intervenors between the OHCHR and persons whose human rights have been breached.

We are able to support the Black-British Community as a whole and Black individuals in drafting direct complaints to UN Human Rights council and Office on issues to do with human rights violations in the UK in the areas of policing, education, health care, mental health, cultural rights, children rights, women rights, intersectional rights and discrimination.

We provide intervention and support via the use of UN instruments and mechanisms to help ensure your human rights are being upheld and protected. It is a basic human right for Black people to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards, in conditions of equality and without any discrimination.

Human right abuses and injustices are often committed by the Duty Bearers like the government, agents of the government (like the police or the council) and private organisations; alerting the United Nations to these violations will trigger an urgent special procedure process that can help to remedy the given injustice.

The Guardian reported that a study of official data shows that young Black males in London are 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched than the general population. To carry out a stop a police officer needs to have reasonable suspicion of an offence, with 95% of reasons given being drugs, weapons or stolen goods. The study also found that young black males were 28 times more likely to be stopped on suspicion of carrying weapons than the general population. Furthermore, Black men aged between 18 and 24 are four times as likely to be stopped and searched as white men of the same age. 

At BLAM UK we are helping to fight the stereotyping and racial profiling with our Stop and Search Accountability Project and our The Black Rights Project as several international human rights mechanisms have explicitly highlighted racial profiling as a violation of international human rights law.

Black people are over-represented at every stage of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) as these statistics testify:

 • In 2018/2019 Black people were 9.5 times more likely than White people to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales;

• In 2018/2019 Black people in England and Wales were more than five times as likely to have force used against them by police as White people and were subject to the use of Tasers at almost eight times the rate of White people;

Please fill out the form here if you need support in relation to an international human rights issue.

How Dr Joy DeGruy’s theory of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome can help us understand types of Black Trauma

By Vanessa Hutton-Mills

Black trauma is defined as psychological, physical and emotional injury from experiencing actual or perceived racism, including overt and covert racism (Carter, 2007). It has been a key feature of many African Diasporic communities, spanning several decades. This trauma has become an intergenerational part of the Black experience, as Black people continue to live under a system of white supremacy that penalises those furthest away from whiteness. A few of these penalties can be seen when we look at how Black men are stereotyped and the double marginalisation of being both Black and female. 

In 2001 The United Nations declared via the Durban Deceleration that the Transatlantic Slave Trade was a crime against humanity; and was the source of the ongoing racism and discrimination faced by People of African descent today. The American Chattel Slavery lasted from 1619 till 1865. During this time, Black people were bought and sold like commodities. Slaves in America and British owned islands, such as St Kitts and Nevis and Jamaica to name a few, were tortured and dehumanised. The narrative that is often portrayed and taught in UK schools focuses exclusively and extensively on the American slave trade however, as Black British people it is important to note that while our struggles are similar they are not identical. Even now in 2020 we still experience racism and discrimination, and while it may not be as overt as it has been previously, it is still devastating for our mental health.  Williams (2018)’s research found that experiencing racism can be very stressful and have a negative effect on our physical and mental health. Likewise, Bhui et al., (2018) those who experience racism are more likely to experience mental health issues such as psychosis and depression. 

Psychologists, sociologist and historical analysts have done much work into different types of trauma Black people experience. In furthering our understanding, we can ensure that these wounds are healed in our community.  An emerging contribution to this field is the theory of Post-traumatic slave syndrome coined by Dr Joy DeGruy. This theory explains the adaptive survival behaviours of African American communities across America but can also be used to understand Black oppressed groups globally. She describes this as a condition that exists because of the centuries of slavery, institutionalised racism and oppression that Black people have and continue to experience. This term encompasses the multigenerational trauma and injustices that Black people have experienced, not only from slavery but the recent and unjust deaths of Steven Lawrence, Mark Duggan, Rashan Charles, George Floyd, Belly Mujinga and Breonna Taylor. These reactive behaviours can be positive as they reflect our resilience and adaptability but some argue that they can also be harmful and destructive.

As many of us know Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an adverse mental illness which (NHS, 2018), where individuals relive traumatic events and experience isolation, guilt and insomnia. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. Similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome ( PTSS) include: avoiding certain places, people, or events and activities that remind you of your trauma, Difficulty concentrating, being easily angered, feeling emotionally numb, feeling hopeless, feelings of depression and having a self-destructive outlook. This can become increasingly heightened when Black trauma is being discussed and shared on social media. A specific aspect tailored to the Black experience, that is expanded upon through PTSS is the racial socialisation and internalised racism, which includes the direct and indirect messages children receive about racism and the meaning of race.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome is a major step in understanding forms of Black trauma. We now have a clear mechanism which explains how our experiences are damaging to our mental health. This is a phenomenal step in conceptualising Black experiences and could lead to many people recognising their symptoms and making the first steps to receive help.

Here at BLAM, we are currently providing free group workshops to support Black peoples racial wellness. If you are feeling any of the symptoms of PTSS it is important that you seek professional help immediately to break this cycle.

Please also feel sign up to our Racial wellness therapy, where we have trained therapists who are equipped to you give you the tools deal with starting your joinery to Racial wellness.

 References 

Carter, R. T. (2007). Racism and psychological and emotional injury: Recognizing and assessing race-based traumatic stress. The Counseling Psychologist, 35, 13–105. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011000006292033 

Williams D.R. (2018) Stress and the Mental Health of Populations of Color: Advancing Our Understanding of Race-related Stressors. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 59(4), 466-485.

Bhui K., Nazroo J., Francis J. et al. (2018) The impact of racism on mental health. Available at: https://synergicollaborativecentre.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/The-impact-of-racism-on-mental-health-briefing-paper-1.pdf [Accessed 18/06/19]

Lessons on Windrush: The Lesser-Known Stories Behind the Windrush Scandal

By Christina Vassell

On March 2019, Windrush Lessons Learned Review was published. It came almost a year after the highly controversial, almost heinous and yet government sanctioned offences against any group of persons within its borders in recent times. 

In short, the Windrush Scandal was and still is, a British political scandal concerning those of Afro-Caribbean descent who were either wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, or wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office – the latter occurred in at least 83 cases. 

Yet, while the Windrush Scandal occurred in 2018, the cases included in Williams’ report seemingly evidence that such discriminatory legislations and practices occurred long before the scandal entered the public sphere and garnered mass media coverage

Contrary to popular belief, it is a scandal that is longstanding in British history and its genesis can be found in Britian’s imperial and colonial past as well as the many policies that were sanctioned in the mid-60s following the influx of British subjects from across the Commonwealth. 

The first of the arrivals was a passenger ship, The Empire Windrush, carrying 802 people from the Caribbean – including 492 Jamaican immigrants – arrived in Tilbury. The first wave of post-war Caribbean immigrants to arrive in the U.K. were predominantly male, from 1948 to 1950 were mainly men but women soon followed. Between 1948 and 1973, approximately 50,000 people from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and other Caribbean countries, that were part of the British commonwealth, were invited to emigrate to the UK in the aftermaths of WWII. That is, however, not to say that they were treated like British citizens.

Throughout the 50s and 60s it was evident that there was a colour problem in Britain. In 1955, it was said during a BBC television programme that: “Not for the first time in our history we have a colonial problem on our hands. But it’s a colonial problem with a difference. Instead of being thousands of miles away and worrying other people, it’s right here, on the spot, worrying us.” 

For Williams, “The causes of the Windrush scandal can be traced back through successive rounds of policy and legislation about immigration and nationality from the 1960s onwards, the aim of which was to restrict the eligibility of certain groups to live in the UK.” Such legislations that Williams is alluding to is the Commonwealth Act of 1962 controlled and arguably restricted the immigration of all Commonwealth passport holders (except those who held UK passports). 

The Race Relations Act 1965 also did little to stamp out the existing racism towards Black persons from across the Commonwealth, as in 1968, Conservative MP Enoch Powell made an inflammatory, racist and anti-immigration speech. In a few years, legislations would only make it difficult for those coming into the U.K. under the guise of reform. While the Immigration Act confirmed that the Windrush generation had, and have, the right of abode in the UK, Wendy Williams writes that during this period “many were not given any documents to demonstrate this status. Nor were records kept.”

Such a historical legacy would culminate in the “hostile environment” from the late 2000s under Theresa May. It was during this time that Pauline, one of the people included in William’s review experienced immigration problems. 

Born in Jamaica, Pauline (70), was brought up by her grandmother and aunt after her mother left for the UK and started a family in Manchester with a new partner while she was a baby. Pauline was only twelve when she arrived in the U.K. after her mother and step-father invited her to join them in Manchester in 1961. 

After a tumultuous childhood, taking up caring responsibilities only to be abandoned again after her mother would relocated to Canada, Pauline went on to have children and qualified as a social worker. 

Pauline’s Windrush (scandal) story begins in 2005, when she went to Jamaica with her daughter on “a two-week holiday that turned into an eighteen-month nightmare” after being refused re-entry into the UK and subsequently being detained in Jamaica. For Pauline, who had often travelled on her Jamaican Passport, her case demonstrates the wider consensus that many descendants of the Windrush generation felt – that they regarded themselves as British already, thereby not thinking to get British citizenship. 

However, Pauline’s case soon began to take a toll on her mental and physical wellbeing. While she was detained in Jamaica, Pauline could not afford adequate medication for her existing diabetes and almost died after falling into a diabetic coma. During this time, she also lost her job and her house that she planned to buy but was ultimately unable to pay for. 

But the biggest effect was on her children, some of whom were in their teens and didn’t have any resources to help. Her youngest daughter ended up living in a hostel until Pauline’s return. Eventually, a solicitor who specialised in immigration issues was able to help Pauline to return to the UK in 2007. Pauline’s story is one that is the direct result of the “hostile environment” created by Thereas May, then Home Secretary, which began in the early 2000s. 

In 2007, amendments to the UK Borders Act meant automatic deportation for Foreign Nationals who receive a 12-month custodial sentence. Or notably in 2012 when Theresa May’s government issued new a policy that instructed the NHS, landlords, banks, employers and many others with enforcing immigration controls. It would go on to deny many including those from the Windrush generation who had not obtained documentations, proof of status or granted with British citizenship despite their long-term residency, thereby seeing the Windrush Generation and their descendants continually denied, outcasted and exiled by a country that had promised them socioeconomic opportunities for over six decades. 

Instead, changes brought about under the Immigration Act in 2014 introduced additional obstacles for those seeking to challenge [their] deportation on the basis of their family ties or [private] life in the UK.  In order to succeed in a deportation appeal on the basis of your parental relationship, “it is necessary to show that deportation would be ‘unduly harsh’ to the child, which has been interpreted by the Home Office to mean ‘excessively cruel’. But the irony of this amendment is that it glosses over the mishandling of the parents themselves. 

Such is the case for Veronica (59), who lives in Nottingham and came to the U.K. with her father Nathaniel in 1956. Upon arrival, Nathaniel decided not to go for British Citizenship because he already had his “black book” (Citizen of UK and Colonies passport); and like Pauline, he felt that he had been invited to the UK and was already a British Citizen. 

Nathaniel’s troubles began shortly after he and Veronica went to go to Jamaica in 2002. It was while there that he was prevented from returning to the U.K. there despite living in for over forty years, building his life with his wife and three daughters. 

Following the ordeal, Veronica came back to the UK alone and made arrangements to return and care for her father who was becoming increasingly unwell. After spending several years in Jamaica for a total of seven years, with her newfound husband, she decided to return to the UK to sort out her mounting debt and gaps in NI contributions. While in the U.K. Veronica left provision for her father to be looked after by a live-in helper once Joseph, her husband, successfully secured his visa.  

Veronica’s father would never return to the UK, ultimately dying from prostate cancer in 2010. He was not able to afford the cost of treatment in Jamaica, and Veronica believes he could have survived longer if he’d been in the UK with access to NHS treatment. These experiences proved to be debilitating and effected both Veronica’s mental health and career progression. But she feels that partaking in the Review allowed her come to terms with the fourteen-year struggle her father faced. But the price of the scandal is still being paid by Gloria.

Born in Saint Kitts, Gloria (59), travelled to the UK when she was 10 and was raised by her elder sister following their mother’s death. During this time social services were involved with the family because of their young ages. Gloria believes her passport was taken by them and not replaced. 

She eventually found work as a caseworker for people with learning difficulties and mental health issues, and became the main breadwinner in her family following an accident that affected her husband’s ability to work. 

Gloria’s immigration problems began in 2011 when she tried to get a CRB check renewal for the company she had worked at for several years. She failed the check as she did not have a passport, which resulted in her losing her job. Unable to prove her status, Gloria took the company to a tribunal but ultimately lost the case.

Following the trial, Gloria contacted her MP who wrote on her behalf and pleaded her cases to UK Visas and Immigration and Department for Work and Pensions, but to no avail. It would take her seven years to prove her status in the U.K.

As publicity related to the scandal increased, the Taskforce was able to resolve her case in one hour, which was bittersweet to Gloria, who, since losing her job and the tribunal case, had subsequently not been able to work.

In the review, Gloria touches on how the scandal has been detrimental to her mental health and finances. Since the ordeal, she has had to pawn rings to pay for items and visited her doctor on a number of occasions with stress-related problems and depression. Today Gloria claims unemployment benefits and stays at home though nearly lost her house a number of times. 

Gloria’s story is testament to the wider bureaucratic and systemic oppression that targeted the Windrush generation and still affects immigrants thereafter. Today, two years since the scandal, the recommendations of Wiliam’s Review are still under consideration. 

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has promised a systemic reform of the Home Office, citing in a Commons statement that the government is committed to introduce a new Home Office mission statement based on “fairness, humanity, openness, diversity and inclusion”. Her response was met with criticism. The Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, criticised the Government for only compensated “just 60 people in its first year of operation”. 

Such a revelation highlights the slow progress in compensating those affected by the Windrush scandal, which up until now exacerbated the lack of trust between the Windrush community and the government. Only 221 out of 1,392 claims have been processed according to Home Office statistics, not factoring the 35 claims that had been rejected since the government launching the scheme in April last year.  

In response to the criticism Patel said: “I agree: the payments and the way in which payments have been made have been far too slow. I’m not apologising for that at all. I have outlined in my statement that it is right that we treat each individual with the respect and dignity they deserve. These are complicated cases.” She said more than £1m had now been offered in compensation.

The Government also previously said that they would pay up to £200 million in total in compensation yet the total pay-outs received by the Windrush victims collectively amounts to a total of £1.2 million. Meanwhile, the deportations still continue.

In February 2020, despite public outcry against the Windrush Scandal of 2018, 17 “criminals” were deported to Jamaica on charter flights under the UK Borders Act. It came as a shock given that there was an Appeal Court order not to deport 25 of the 50 people scheduled to be deported and it is also apparent that such deportations only ended in further tragedy as David Lammy writes in The Guardian, “at least 11 of them died on the streets of foreign countries where they were deported.” 

Needless to say, it is clear that neither the Home Office nor the Home Secretary’s priorities are concerned with “righting the wrongs” of Windrush. But we owe it to the Paulines, Nathaniels and Glorias out there, to ensure that the same bureaucracies that solicited their afflictions does not succeed today.

BLAM UK’s Condemnation of the UK’s Equality Minister Stance on Critical Race Theory.

BLAM UK is one of the few organisations in the UK ensuring the United Nations International Decade of African Descent is being celebrated and championed in the UK. The UK in 2014 failed to ratify the decade. One such important activity and aim of the decade is that it Urges States to ensure that textbooks and other educational materials reflect historical facts accurately as they relate to past tragedies and atrocities, in particular slavery, the slave trade, the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism, so as to avoid stereotypes and the distortion or falsification of these historical facts, which may lead to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including the role of respective countries therein. 

On the 20th October 2020, The UK Equalities Minister made a statement to the effect of suggesting that racism is a debatable topic, not only is this a problematic stance, it suggests that racism and white supremacy are matters that do not exist in society. We refute any such claims from a Government that continues to produce and uphold policies that allow racial discrimination to thrive in all aspects of British society, including education. We know Black Caribbean students are 3x more likely to be excluded from school and Black students are routinely underpredicted in schools. Instead of the Minster to be creating and drafting potential policies to end these racist practices, she wants to censor the very notions that will help us in achieving a more fair, balanced and equitable society. 

The Minister’s stance is simply furthering the Government’s desire to effectively censor teachers ( a trend started by the Government’s recently drafted PSHE Guidance that is facing a legal challenge ).  By suggesting that it is illegal to present a fact as an actual fact, she is attempting to create a culture of politically motivated state-sanctioned censorship of anybody who is deemed to be “radical or left”.  It must be of note that a government minister (who is not a teacher and nor is she a judge) should not be allowed to state claims that are not in line with the UK’s international human rights obligations. The Minister’s stance is incompatible with the right to freedom of thought and also the UK’s obligation under the International Convention to End Racial Discrimination ( ICERD). Under ICERD Art.7- State Parties undertake to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in the fields of teaching, education, culture and information, with a view to combating prejudices which lead to racial discrimination and to promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and racial or ethnical groups, as well as to propagating the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and this Convention. The UK is obligated under international law to take immediate and effective measures in the field of teaching and one such effective measure is the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

If we look even closer to home at the UK’s Domestic laws on Equality and discrimination, we see the following under Equality Act 2010, s149 para 1 there is a  Public sector equality duty:

(1)A public authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to—

(a)eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under this Act;

(b)advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;

(c)foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it. 

The Minister’s stance again is not in line with the public sector equality duty that school must legally adhere too. It is important that Ministers, who do not have the function in society as Judges are not left to interpret the law and how it should be applied. We have a separation of powers in the UK and the minister must be reminded of this, as she takes the notion of asserting what is legal; even when this is not in line with UK’s international obligations and domestic law. 

In a year where we have revisited the historically and ongoing legacies of white supremacy, it is imperative that the UK government creates further guidance that supports its international human rights obligations.


We urge schools to resist this politically motivated sanction from the Government.  We ask them to further their pledge to eliminate racial discrimination and to adhere to the Equality Act 2010  Public Sector Duty–  and continue to rightfully teach narratives that assist in the fight to eliminate racial discrimination in all parts of society.

By Ife Thompson