Racism and injustice are still too prominent a feature in our own society

Brixton-born community activist/organiser and consultant Ros Griffiths on the local reaction to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Lambeth town hall in Brixton lit in purple to mark the death of George Floyd
Lambeth town hall in Brixton lit in purple to mark the death of George Floyd

I never thought I would see a modern-day lynching live on TV as I did after George Floyd was murdered. I found it extremely disturbing. It brought forward too many triggers for me.

As for our local response, symbolic gestures like Lambeth council’s lighting up of the town hall in purple are all well and good, but it would have been greatly appreciated locally if the council had also shown empathy and acknowledgement for those who lost their lives in the borough at hands of the police and honoured their names, including:


Black Cultural Archives posterCherry Groce 2011

Sean Rigg 2008

Ricky Bishop 2001

Wayne Douglas 1995

 


Black families are still shedding tears. The pain is further intensified by the lack of justice, compassion and acknowledgement for the victims and their families, and also, the wider society that prefers to remain silent.

My parents, the Windrush generation, experienced discrimination in every area of life including housing. It was standard to see signs saying “No Irish, no blacks, no dogs.”

The Windrush scandal is Britain’s own shame and a stark reminder that racism and injustice are still too prominent a feature in our society.

During the 80s, I, and thousands of other protesters, mostly young black people like myself, took to the streets of Brixton.

We voiced our frustration and anger about lack of opportunities, racism, injustice and police harassment.

As tensions grew between the Black community and police, things escalated to what is now dubbed as the Brixton riots.

I hope that the horrific death of George Floyd is the tipping point.

It is time to change the narrative on race. I believe change will come with the next generation.

This continuing pain and trauma in our community cannot go on. Even now, we are seeing the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 is having on BAME communities.

The UK has its challenges, as we in Lambeth know only too well.

It is imperative that our politicians and government start to address the structural racism that exist in the workplace and in wider society, in the form of attitudes, behaviours, actions and processes.

There should be a critical analysis on how they make the best use of knowledge, experience and expertise of black community leaders and activists.

The opportunity to change the future for the Black community, particularly young people, is now. Together, we must make this happen.

Black Lives Matter protest Brixton 1 June 2020
Black Lives Matter protest in Brixton

A lot of talk but not enough action

Ros Griffiths
Ros Griffiths

Ros Griffiths has been organising community listening events for years and believes that there has been a lot of talk but not enough action.

In 2015, for instance, she brought together, in Brixton, local young people and the then chief of the Metropolitan police  to discuss the issues.

Earlier this year she was one of the leading organisers of a Community Conversations event that was hosted by the council – Tackling Serious Youth Violence in Lambeth.

Over 150 residents and community groups gathered to discuss the issue, a third of whom were under the age of 24. The answers, analysis and findings were presented in a feedback report to Lambeth.

Download the reports here and here [PDF downloads]

4 COMMENTS

  1. As a daughter of Windrush parents what Ros has written resonates with me.
    I grew up in Haringey which witnessed many uprisings due to police brutality and injustice. The 2011 uprisings across many cities in Britain started in Tottenham following the shooting of Mark Duggan by a Trident officer.
    Not only am I tired, frustrated and angry about the injustice dealt against black people both here and in the States, I’ve also become slightly cynical about the grand narratives such as politics, the media and education that dominate our lives and often provides the fuel for racist behaviour and thought.
    So, whilst the sheer inhumanity of George Floyd’s murder haunts me, unfortunately I was not surprised. As the video camera, all too often lays bare the hate and egregious cruelty inflicted on black bodies – no one can forget the physical bodily harm inflicted on Rodney King in 1991.
    In King’s case like Floyd’s, the UK tends to point its finger at the States – The racism’s over there! But, when you point a finger, there’s always three of them pointing back at you.
    All the actions Ros calls for are needed and are long overdue. To add some detail there’s the urgent need to overhaul the teaching of history as part of the school curriculum. I simply do not understand why the role and impact of black communities on Britain’s wealth, industries and culture is not taught to children and young people. We must also keep pushing government to publish, in full, public health’s findings on the reasons for the disproportionate impact Covid-19 has had on BAME people. Many other changes are needed to eradicate the structural racism that disrupts, and sometimes destroys, black lives. However, the two points mentioned can be implemented easily and immediately.
    On the positive side of things, we’ve seen those with energy across many countries – black, brown, and white – join together, taking direct action against the injustice and racism, which frankly has left US and UK leadership looking pale in significance against the courage, determination and hope of our young people and future.
    1. What can we do today: Support the petition for government to implement a Covid-19 race equality strategy (It’s not too late to sign-up, visit: https://www.change.org/p/bame-leadership-a-demand-for-a-covid-19-race-equality-strategy)
    2. What can we do tomorrow: Vote!
    “Stay Alert” and “Remain Vigilant.”

  2. Love this! Well done Ros. Let’s keep the conversations going and support our young with what happens next. The fight has only just begun. One Love!

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