FIGHTING RACISM AND SOMETIMES SAYING THE WRONG THING

When something hits your emotions you feel there is a call to action. So what’s yours?

In 2013 I co-launched BelEve UK, a girl-focused charity working with 8 to 18 year olds. Our intention is to empower, coach and motivate girls to maximise their potential via self-esteem workshops, career insight days and mentoring programmes.

From day one we have winged it. We have had many successes, but also frustrations and disappointments, but right now it feels imperative for me to focus on getting enough funding to keep doing this great work. It feels like a societal shift is happening and for the girls in the BelEve UK community who come from diverse ethnic community, it’s imperative that we take action. Since the murder of George Floyd the wider society is starting to listen about racial inequalities and it feels like things are at last going to change.

To see and to hear are two different things. To see that man’s knee on that man’s neck for that amount of time and for the perpetrator to have no emotion… For two other men to hold him down so there’s no chance of getting a breath into his lungs… For him to see he’s lost consciousness and still keep that knee there… If you’re human you can’t watch that and have no emotional response. It was a barbaric, modern-day lynching by someone who was supposed to protect and serve the community.

With that narrative playing out in front of people’s eyes, they understand it when protesters say black lives matter.

When something hits your emotions you feel there is a call to action. So what’s yours? A lot of people feel helpless, but even if they’re just protesting and saying this is so wrong, that’s something. And this is just a small element of the wider context, because what we’re talking about is racism. These events have empowered people to share stories and to challenge governments and companies to do better.

As the events since the death of George Floyd have unfolded, two girls in our Beleve community said ‘We need to say something about this”. And they wrote a powerful blog on racism and inequality, including a list of solutions. When I shared it on Instagram it got the most engagement we ever had. These girls are 16.

Through BelEve UK we are giving a voice to girls and galvanising them to speak up and challenge people. I don’t want any of them feeling they can’t speak up because they’re not white or not black. It’s a black issue but for the change to happen we all have to do something different. This is why our new campaign is Sisterhood Has No Colour, because together we can find a solution. We are all in this together, it’s not a black or white thing, it’s a human thing. We are all human and it’s only the melanin in my skin that makes me different.

If you’re a white woman reading this thinking “Yes, but what can I do?” first read and listen and learn about black people’s experiences. Raise your awareness to the issues that affect minorities and then think about what your role could be in bringing about change.

Everything has to start locally. Do what you can. Use your platform to share stories and experiences of ethnic minorities. Talk to your children. If you have power use it to bring about change within your community and challenge people there. When you see or hear racist behaviour or views, call it out.

And if you’re talking to black people and trying to think of the right thing to say, don’t be afraid to get it wrong. I know that white friends sometimes feel awkward and don’t want to say anything about race issues in case they say the wrong thing and offend. But I’d rather they try and then get it wrong than not say anything at all. It all comes back to intention. There’s a big difference between bad intentions and just getting it wrong through lack of knowledge. The first step is to ask your black and ethnic minority friends and colleagues how they are feeling right now and how you can help.

To donate to BelEve UK and help change the narrative for girls and young women and help them fulfil their potential, go to Beleve UK.