#BlackLivesMatter Birmingham, UK (2020)

 

We’re having a lot of conversations with friends and colleges, white and alike, reaching out over the latest white police murder of George Floyd.

This is a short film based on a conversation between my flatmate Rachel and I, sparked by the #BlackLivesMatter protests in Birmingham, UK (2020). Youtube version can be viewed here.

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#BlackLivesMatter in my corner of Britain

When I was still an undergrad my ex-boyfriend looked up from scrolling reddit to tell me how great Britain was because we ended the slave trade by using 40% of the nations GDP to buy them off. 

I was confused at first: buy who off? The slaves? 

Up until that point I had, naively, been living under the assumption that the slaves were freed because, y’know…basic ol’ human decency. The evolution of ethics and all that. 

But no – the very people that had profited from slavery in the first place were then reimbersed for losing their ‘property’.

I didn’t just cry, I sobbed. You know that ugly cry you can’t control? The sheer inhumanity and injustice of it all was mind-boggling.

I still feel the sting of it now, and on reflection, I wonder how much of the pain comes from the way he’d put it: “Britain ended slavery.”

Or the confusion he felt when I burst into tears, when he said: “I thought you’d be pleased?” 

The utter disconnect. 

It’s no secret that Britain has a lot to answer for in regards to systemic racism, both historically and even now, in regards to the 90% of NHS workers who have died from Covid-19 being from BAME communities. Afua Hirsh has written a great article on this, and her book on Empiralist Britain is a healthy remedy for the gaps in our knowledge on the history of British colonial rule. 

But in that conversation with my ex, I realised a few things in that exchange. Like just how depressingly white my education had been. How deluded English people are in regards to racism. 

And I felt, for the first time, a feeling of hopelessness. 

How do we escape this?

I surprised myself with the defeatist attitude I’ve had to this latest police on black killing.

We’ll be here again.

For those going to the protests: thank you.

You’re a physical representation of how we feel. You’re speaking to the world at a point in history when people have time to take it in, read up on it, think about it, feel it, and act on it. And the energy you’re generating from being on the streets is empowering. 

For the Black community that didn’t attend the protests:

This has been going on for so long, over and over. And it will keep coming up.

For the sake of your stamina, and conserving your energy, I say: stay in your lane. 

You alone know where you’ve come from, where you are right now and where you want to be. 

If you’ve switched off for self preservation: that’s self care. Pretty vital for a functioning person. 

In the words of Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” 

If you’re feeling restless about the protests you can’t attend, use the time you would otherwise be spent there and channel it into something productive. 

“There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.”

This quote in particular, for me, encapsulated what it means to be an Afrofuturist during this time: reimagining the future, redefining ourselves, by being aware of the present and the past, to construct the future.

And in the words of James Baldwin, “I must be an optimist, because I’m alive.”

What does that future for black people look like? What does our education, family structure, community, laws, technology, algorithm, company policies, bank loans, high streets, bookshops, food shops, advertisements, news and media industry…what does it all feel like for a black community that thrives on a legacy not of slavery, but of kings and queens of black decent?

Coping

I have no words to describe the overwhelming sense of helplessness I feel when black people are dehumanised to this extent. I switch from imputant anger to apathy in a minute.

I have a few things that get me through the feels: 

  • this Black Power mixtape playlist on Spotify
  • revisiting the words from the great Black writers and leaders of recent history
  • And channeling this pain into my craft. 

If you work in any industry, have power in any of these sectors, look around. Take stock. Look at where you’ve been, where you are. Where you need to be. And go get it. 

 


 

For the full conversation with Rachel go to my blog post here

Follow her instagram @theywalkedbeforeus

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