On the 10th of July 2016, hundreds of black men and women courageously took to the streets of Oxford Circus, London, in what became a monumental display of resistance against white supremacy and the systematic murder and mutilation of the global black community. Aisha, writer for The Black Muslim Times UK, shares with Halimat Shode some of her own reflections and experiences of the #BlackLivesMatter London solidarity protest.
Unlike our tenacious and resourceful foremothers and forefathers, we – the current generation of young, gifted and black freedom fighters – live in an era where it only takes one simple phone call, text message, email or social media post to communicate, organise and mobilise an entire community beyond geographical borders and lines. Indeed, social media can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how the individual chooses to use it, but in this particular instance, social media has played a pivotal role in my personal connection to, and understanding of, #BlackLivesMatter as it positions itself as a grassroots civil rights movement.
Like many others, my participation in the London solidarity protest was borne out of the frustration of knowing that more and more black brothers – Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and most recently Mzee Mohammed – and sisters – Sarah Reed, Sandra Bland, and Rekia Boyd, are being systematically targeted and exterminated with no foreseeable end or reparatory guarantee. I include within this not only the extermination of human life, but also the psychological death of the people: the traumas, so to speak, that are left behind for those black brothers and sisters who ‘remain’, and for those who have yet to come.
As a young, relatively-conscious black woman, it is virtually impossible not to take the global injustices enacted against black people personally. Even though I have grown up relatively sheltered from the brutally violent aspects of white supremacy (police killings, the prison-industrial complex, poverty etc.) there are people close to me, within my own community, who cannot say the same thing.
I have family who are related to the late Stephen Lawrence: a pain and an anguish that still reverberates to this day.
I have younger cousins who feel that their only means of surviving and protecting themselves is to carry a knife, or to join a gang.
I know people who have served time in prison simply because they were poor and felt that they had no other option but to commit a crime in order to provide for themselves and their family.
I have grandparents who had to carry pocket knives on them when they first migrated to England, simply because they were black in a white world.
The very same day that the world woke up to the news of Alton Sterling’s death, a teenage cousin of mine called me in a flood of tears: she was frustrated, angry, disillusioned and fearful; not only for her own safety, but that of her younger brothers too.
The London solidarity protest was, above all else, an opportunity for me, and many others, to make a strong political statement: to be unapologetically loud; to commemorate the names of those lives who have been lost; to march and chant in unison with my own people; to disrupt capitalist consumption; to make the white world temporarily uncomfortable; and to vent a lot of frustration in a way that felt somewhat constructive – if not practically, then symbolically.
Now that is not to say that I think far too idealistically or naively as some commentators or critics might suggest. In fact, I’m very much of the belief that protesting alone cannot, and will not, bring about effective structural change. If that were the case, then the iconic slogan “I can’t believe that I’m protesting for this shit in 2016” seen at the London protest wouldn’t ring so true.
Nonetheless, I do believe that people underestimate the educational and psychological importance of protests or community gatherings. First and foremost, #BlackLivesMatter reminds us that, despite our regional or cultural differences, we are black people: we are a global community, and we are at our strongest when we stand in solidarity together. Secondly, #BlackLivesMatter forces other people to listen to an uncomfortable truth or reality that disrupts the easiness and comfortability of their own personal lives.
Protests and demonstrations have, and will always continue to be, movements that strive to educate, inform and raise the consciousness of those seriously and genuinely in attendance. It is, of course, important to make sure that there is a clearly defined goal or direction within the movement; without this human participation, however, – this desire to uncover and seek the truth behind this carefully constructed web of lies – no other revolutionary steps of action will be taken.
See the #BlackLivesMatter protest – and indeed all other liberation protests – as an opportunity to network with other conscious, proactive individuals. Who knows what relationships and affiliations can be formed simply by choosing not to stay at home, and to be out on the streets engaging with the wider political issues at hand?
Finally, support black owned businesses and organisations. Go to the next #BlackLivesMatter demonstration, or liberation event with the intention to financially contribute to a black owned business or organisation. We must begin to build and strengthen the ties within our communities before we can expect to face the wider system without being put asunder.
(Picture – Taken by Halimat Shode)