BSE4BL member Afrika Green reflects on the year since the death of George Floyd
Just over a year ago I stood on Angel Hill next to my brother and sister and spoke in front of 200 strangers about the racism I had faced growing up.
On reflection, it was the realisation that I wasn’t alone in my experiences that compelled me to speak out.
We were running late to the protest, struggling to find somewhere to park nearby – that should have been when my doubts about the protest’s success disappeared. We rushed up around the corner of Angel Hill from Northgate Street expecting to see a handful of people with poster board signs, instead, we saw hundreds of people gathered around listening to guest speakers who wanted to share their story and reflect.
We inched our way closer and closer to the stage until we were offered the mic. It was a pivotal moment. I’d always accepted being jeered in the street and having my hair pulled just to see if it was ‘real’ a hazard of being a person of colour. I’d cross the street and pull my hood up just to avoid people. But listening to others at the protest made me realise that wasn’t my responsibility and that people need to be accountable for their actions.
I wasn’t going to hide away anymore, and feel isolated just because people didn’t know how to act with humanity. I also knew the answer wasn’t posting a black square on Instagram which became a social media trend that started following George Floyd’s death.
Once everything settled down and news resumed to focusing on Covid and the death toll, that’s when the real work began. A few of us from the protest met over the internet and that’s how BSE4BL formed. I quickly learned the necessity of having a grassroots organisation in rural Suffolk. Bury St Edmunds doesn’t have those points of connection that cities might have such as hairdressers, clubs, prominent Black-owned businesses and the communities that might form around these establishments, so we created our own community and have worked hard to grow it.
Arisha, one of our contributors said: “BSE4BL is a place of safety where I can bring experiences and be heard and supported.”
We collectively work on ways to combat systemic racism, microaggression, and white fragility. Over the past year, we’ve continued to form stronger working relationships with organisations such as the cathedral, NHS, Suffolk County Council, Children and young people services, Greene King, and schools.
George Floyd’s death brought a lot of discomfort to the nation, in the words of American activist and Playwright Pearl Cleage: “Discomfort is always a necessary part of enlightenment.”
A year on, people have more of a willingness to look at ways they can be more inclusive, and ethnic minorities are being more open and honest about their experiences, which I am personally both very proud of and thankful for but we are far from eradicating racism from society. We still need reminding that black mothers are four times more likely to die during childbirth, young black men are still disproportionately victims of knife crime, online racial abuse continues unabated, and although black representation in public life has improved, there’s still a long way to go particularly in the higher echelons of business entertainment and retail.
For the longest time, I believed the title ‘activist’ was reserved for outspoken individuals such as Dr King or Greta Thunberg. I never considered educating the community and creating a safe space for people of colour a form of activism. A year on, I now have the confidence to campaign for change and have the strength to see it through however difficult the road ahead may be.
BSE4BL Social Media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – @BSE4BL
Afrika: Instagram – @affygreen, Facebook – @afrikagreen