UN Women Kent society interview BLM activists

By: Sabrina Court and ‘Sikemi Okunrinboye

Image courtesy of @unwomenukkent on Instagram

Overall, we can all agree that 2020 has been a rollercoaster, but a common factor despite all the terrible news is how collective power can cause change. After seeing the powerful BLM movement being swept across the world, UN Women UK Kent decided to interview Aima and Natasha, who have been organising protests that have been going on in London. We did this with the aim of bringing more awareness to the issue of the prominent systemic racism found within our system and society.

Sabrina (social secretary) and Sikemi (secretary) represented UNWomen Kent in this interview, and here’s a summary of their experience:

We were so privileged to interview these two exceptionally inspirational young women: Aima and Natasha. As we said before, they have been organising protests in London and in fact,the very first protest was attended by 15,000 people. Knowing that this movement has to go on for as long as the problem persisted, they created allblacklives uk. Between you and us, Aima and Natasha loved our conversation and thought it was different from the ones they’ve had in the past, and in fact said it was their “favourite interview so far”. We hope it’s the first of many that we do, but for now please head on to our page to watch the interview. To improve our accessibility, we also have a transcribed version, or should you just even prefer to read rather than watch.

We discussed so much, but one thing the girls constantly highlighted was that the many problems racism birthed are so systemic, that it would take a while for things to change. Nonetheless, the important thing is that change must happen, and the time to start bringing about change is right now!

We discussed racism in different aspects such as media, representation, and so on.

Summarily, due to the fact that many racist employees and students were being recorded and posted on social media, Natasha strongly held the view that companies, organisations, institutions, universities, et cetera, all need to do more in background checking of their employees and students, as these incidents should not occur in the first place. We agree strongly with her because there is a lot of micro-aggressive racism that impacts the lives of others. Incidents should not have to occur before steps are taken to try and deter others (and sometimes steps are only taken due to public pressure and to protect their brand). We are for preventive measures rather than corrective because once these incidents happen, they might most likely traumatise the individual involved. She also highlighted that the excuse of bringing in the pasts of black people which might be negative, as a justification for how they were treated and/or by police is completely wrong, and in fact double standards. She holds this view because no one should be dying in police custody anyways, and particularly not because of their past or their race. Natasha also strongly highlighted that education was a great way to change a lot and thus, people needed be enlightened and know the past of black people was not limited to slavery. We strongly agree that the UK needs to confront its past, take responsibility and teach students about ALL of its history because this is not a political game, it’s about humanity, black lives, systemic racism and so much more.

With regards to black feminism, the girls highlight that they both think the names and voices of black women are seriously overlooked. Natasha spoke about people thinking that they were so accessible and were to black women and their bodies, particularly their hair and passionately stated that this needed to change. Aima, on the other hand, spoke about the need for feminism to be more intersectional and how we needed to seriously include black feminism into feminism and change the notion of feminism being just ‘white’.

Image Courtesy of @unwomenukkent on Instagram

We were also sure to ask them about their experience as young black women and their interaction with black feminism, particularly, with regards to organising the protests and pushing the movement. They both shared lessons they had learnt so far from this and how they had dealt with it, as well as the power and faith they believe our generation has. Aima told us how one of the biggest things she had learnt was controlling her usual responses to people, as now more eyes are on her and what she represents. She highlighted that she knew things shouldn’t be this way and black women had every right to be angry with what is going on, but she also had to do what she could to prevent the ‘angry black woman’ narrative from being pushed on her. Being 18, she also told us about how many people had underestimated her or even told her that she should not be doing this because of her age. But of course, this strong and diligent young woman continued regardless and did not let all these voices drown hers out. If anything, it’s assuring ALL young people that their voices in social and political conversations matter and despite what is being said around them, they shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and use their voices.

All in all, here are our personal views from the interview:

Sabrina: I can certainly say that this was a very fruitful discussion. I have personally learnt a lot more about the movement and even further educated myself about racism in the UK. Some of the personal stories the girls shared were heartbreaking- and they were so brave to share their experiences and wisdom. Sikemi and I are both very grateful to have had this opportunity and hope that many individuals, especially young people, will be inspired by this interview to be brave and put themselves out there (like Aima and Natasha have done), in order to drive change and make a difference to the world we are living in!

Sikemi: I think what the girls are doing is extremely important, and the fact that they are shedding light on ALL black lives and not just some including trans lives, because all black lives are at risk of dying from police brutality, or being on the receiving end of racism. The UK is good at covering up and controlling what goes on here with regards to racism or even has a way of gaslighting black people by saying we are pushing a ‘victimhood’ agenda. Please do not be complacent in this, from MLK we have learnt that being good and not doing anything is the only thing necessary for the perpetration of evil to continue. I could go on and on, but I’ll have to stop and say the interview was spectacular, and I do encourage that we remember that this is not just a trend but it’s a whole movement, it’s people’s lives. So please continue the conversation wherever you are and continue to act wherever and whenever you can. Push for equality for all in the spaces you’re in and please use whatever voice you have to ensure justice for all.

All in all, they said so much more that we’re unable to cover everything on here, so be sure to head over to our social media pages on Instagram (@unwomenukkent) and Facebook (@UNWomenUKKentSociety) to watch or read the interview. The girls brought different responses to this interview and that made it super interesting as we realised that there was not just one view in viewing and tackling racism. They both had a lot to say and we learnt a lot from them, and they were two heads, imagine what we could learn from each other if we could come together in multitudes?

For us, the conversation doesn’t stop here. We will be continuing our TL Talks both virtually and at the university in the new academic term, where we discuss issues directly from our timeline. Be sure to follow our socials (mentioned above) to stay tuned.

Find the transcript of the interview (which can also be found on Instagram at @unwomenukkent) hyperlinked here

Do be kind to one another x

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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