Black Lives Matter: ‘Enough is enough, and we must finally act’
PUBLISHED: 17:04 09 June 2020
Hornsey, and Haringey, has always been my home. I grew up and went to school here and am so proud to represent my community as their local councillor.
Our part of London is a window to a world of different communities, cultures, languages and people, and we should celebrate our diversity at every opportunity.
Those celebrations, however, will justifiably and appropriately be influenced by the events of recent weeks in the United States and right across this country too.
The merciless and brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has shone a light on the fight for equality, justice and peace for Black people the world over.
Protesters and campaigners are rightly calling for the basic human rights of Black people to be respected. For them to be able go about their daily lives without the threat of police violence, intimidation or victimisation, and for all of us to act to dismantle the structural and institutional practices that entrench racism in our societies.
As a Black British man, and as a member of society, I am determined to play my part in doing exactly that.
It has been bittersweet to walk through the streets of my community and see homemade #BlackLivesMatter signs in windows because the solidarity is welcome – but those signs are a stark reminder of the entrenched racial bigotry and prejudice that I have personally experienced in my own political journey, and in the lives of my family and friends.
I think of the numerous times I have been told that I am “not really Black” or that I “don’t sound Black”.
Or when I was told I was “lowering the tone” for pointing out that no Black people had been elected to a particular committee.
And this is just the PG-rated stuff – comments about the size of certain body parts are often made, in a “jokey” way, which is actually very weird.
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And people frequently comment on how I dress – one particular person, whenever they saw me, commented on “how smart I look”.
Wearing a suit for me is like my girlfriend wearing her nurse’s uniform or a doctor’s white coat – but this person kept saying this, until one day, I turned to him and said: “What do you expect me to wear? We stopped wearing loincloths generations ago.” He hasn’t said a word since.
Language is so important. I am always amazed by how frequently adult Black men – who would be arrested and charged if they ever committed a crime – are infantilised as “boy”.
I have been referred to as “that boy” by people who should know better and also been at the receiving end of something about organ grinders and monkeys.
I hope that the months and years ahead will see conscious effort to use better language, and to recognise words have the power to inspire but also to tear people down.
Last week, at Hornsey Town Hall I kneeled with people of all ages and all colours for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
It was a tribute to George Floyd but it was also a call to action – a recognition that enough is enough and that we must now, finally, act.
The world of 2020 is so very much better than the England of 1940 – when my Grandfather came here from Jamaica to help the war effort, and I am particularly pleased that since 2002, the people of Hornsey have elected at least one Black man – from different political parties – in every election. But there is more to do.
The fight against racism continues but we must now, finally, win it.
We must tackle the racial injustices that continue to scar our world and we must address structural inequalities wherever we find them.
We must stand together to build a better society and tear down those walls of bigotry, ignorance and indifference.
I will play my part, and as Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica’s first woman Prime Minister said, “time come” for all of us.
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